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EXCURSION INTO ISAIAH 59-66
Something of Freedom!
It comes to look rather like this print colour: somewhat yellow, brown and golden.
However, it passes.
While it is there, what a marvellous time for excursions. It is too late down, in Australia for Summer excursions, but one could rather enjoy an Autumn one, with just a glint and hint of the Summer past, as if in nostalgia, yet without in any way reducing the glory that Autumn has itself.
We have, in News 47, and other places, made some excursions in Isaiah, and in that place specifically into 59-66 (cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 1, End-Note 3). You may care to flit to the former via the hyperlink, or to both the above, which consider this area. (Indeed, in Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Chs. 4, 5 , 6 and 7 you have a compilation on Isaiah excursions, including the present, in chapter order.)
Now it would seem good to revisit these chapters of the prophet's writings. When you do this, perhaps in excursion time, with changed meteorological conditions, it can be surprising. In Port Lincoln region, we found that what had been seen in the raging storms, with panache and grandeur (which is entirely glorious), as the oceans surged with little restraint, and appeared to enjoy themselves immensely (though an aerial penetrated my eye, leading perhaps to an enormously increased pressure and threat of glaucoma, but in what the specialist called 'the miracle eye', the Lord mercifully and suddenly reduced it to normal, making an operation unnecessary, for which praise His name!), was now quite different (like the eye).
Its serenity even in our May, became the new feature. Sun drenched the willing sands, and Summer seemed back in later than mid-Autumn. The crystalline blues, the little ripples, the birds in their multitudinous ways, the 'storm boy' look of the beach denizen, the quietness and peace, it was such a transformation. Things not seen before were now there in pseudo-Summer splendour.
in Isaiah. Let us revisit a little, to find some more marvels of this inspired
prophet, from whom the word of the Lord came, which still takes hold, and
directs events, for when the Lord speaks, it is not problematic, but assertorial:
even when His mercy is gently proffered, it is not as if He takes His time
for some kind of fillip. It is for those who, unsaved hear it, the most
important thing they could hear. It can transform storms into peace, and
confusion departing, lead to truth.
First, as we have looked here in a sequential fashion, let us this time notice some features, as a supplement.
In Isaiah 60, that marvel of beauty, we see a pseudo-city transformed into the kingdom of heaven, with its walls the certitude more than the confinement (60:18). Accordingly, "Also your people shall all be righteous" - a delicious prospect.
Churches, Non-Churches, and the Kingdom of Heaven
Just imagine a church in which ALL were converted, NONE were crusty, none lusted for control or power or position, none were seedy substitutes for spirituality, none wandered from godliness as if their path and position were to vary from the source, using it as a guidepost for further wanderings, but never as a home. To be sure, some churches are fine edifices of godly stones; and equally sure, none are perfect. But some bodies seem unable to crystallise their purpose, grasp their function, and their doctrine wanders like a drunken dog, while tail up (rather than dragging as might relate to such a canine), they march briskly, who knows where. For the fact is, that some churches have had their 'candlesticks' taken away, to use the terminology, the imagery of Revelation 2:5.
Call it 'lampstand', but the point is this: it is the COMMISSION to SHOW FORTH THE LIGHT OF CHRIST. It is that which a particular church or denomination can well lose!
It can be lost BY A CHURCH. The Christian shall never die (John 11:25-26), for Christ declared that anyone living and believing in Him shall omit this feature: death. The body may change, but the spirit is eternally blessed, and guaranteed in the buoyancy of redemption, the celestial body to meet eternity (II Cor. 5, I Cor. 15). If anyone who DID believe in Christ, and hence qualified for this boon, were (though impossible) to cease to be in this position, then the promise would cease to be true of the one who at some time DID believe. It is not IF you continue to be a believer that He says, but this: HE WHO LIVES AND BELIEVES. If that EVER applies, therefore it ALWAYS applies, for if it ceased to apply, the categorical affirmation would simply cease to be true. Christ being truth, this is far more impossible than this, that the moon should turn into a car, and go into reverse.
Fantastic ? Of course, but this is far more so, for it would deny not alone the constancy for the time, of the light-bearers appointed, but the express word of the One who IS the truth! Notice in John 11, "who lives and believes". If you LIVE, being born again, and are not "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2), then of course I John 3:9 applies, the seed of God remains in you, relaying this, that you stay HIS, because you ARE His now by nature and generation, once so, always so; and again, he who hears Christ's word and believes in Him who sent Him, does not come into condemnation, has eternal life, and has PASSED from a state of death to one of life (John 5:24), so that that person will NEVER THIRST AGAIN (John 4:14).
The Christian in that sense, is more certain, being entirely assured, than is a church, which can fall, and be taken over by spiritual bandits, or even mafia, as with Judas and the priest co-operative combine (cf. John 12:9-10, Mark 14:10-11, John 11:49ff., 18:3ff.). Incidentally, isn't it interesting that Judas, on the night of his inglorious betrayal, one which to him AT THAT TIME might have seemed a night of destiny and decision (you CAN make that sort of decision! if a devil), LED a DETACHMENT OF SOLDIERS. Judas the temporary military figure!
Militancy of similar sorts is often and increasingly found in pseudo-churches which, in terms of the predicted decline in the externalia of ecclesiasticism (II Thessalonians 2, II Peter 2), and the false preoccupations of many (Matthew 24:24) who do not hesitate to use the name of "church", also betray Christ, frequently oppress believing members, and persecute the saints. On the other hand, it is often found that many who should know better, linger in the loitering premises of betrayal, the very premises sulking and skulking in the spiritual shadows, and stay where they should not (see Romans 16:17 and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 7). "The spirit of envy" (op.cit. Ch. 8) can express itself in fallen churches, which are no more churches, having lost their lamp-stand commission, and wrong indeed is it to linger there. On the path of challenge, however, before the issues are crystallised, the saints of the Lord may there be oppressed (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 11).
In that case, so be it: the people of God must be willing to "fill up what remains of the sufferings of Christ" (Colossians 1:24). As you can see from the Pauline context, this means that in exercising yourself in the Christian life for Christ, you may surely find that the servant "is not greater than the Master", that delicious irony, so that for His sake, you suffer as you project, or rather reflect His light into the darkness of the world, seeking the lost.
There is then another irony. It is this. The 'church' in its whitewashed impurity, the institution which as in Christ's day was hideously astray, though believers still were to be found in great numbers, and Christ set about building at once the New Testament Church, this bogus substitute for the living body of Christ: it is a spiritual decrepitude which is NOT going to last; but the individual believer will do so.
How deftly therefore must new arrangements be sought when old buildings of people, now possessed by a very different vision and departing from His word, fall into decay, even if on the surface, their finances prosper and people crowd to them, like Nazi youth of yore, to their instructors. There is far more than ONE WAY to go astray. You can do it in lassitude and laxity of morals, as well as in blood. You can achieve this folly in new doctrines - because "dogma does not matter", which really means a new 'faith', simply a man-made fiasco, masquerading as truth in the name of the One whose word is then rejected; you can secure it in this way, as easily as in injecting people with drugs for their welfare!
But WHY are we digressing ? one might ask.
Not really is this a digression, but rather is it an expression of the point for Isaiah 60. We have here, then, not the official structure of imposing masonry, not the formal dimensions of 'accepted' Christendom, where the world pats its back and accepts it. It is on the contrary, a place where "ALL ARE RIGHTEOUS". NOT ONE Judas is to be found. NO betrayer is anywhere about. Now it is true that there are, as we have seen above, many false churches, and this is not merely a matter of observation, and comparison of the Bible with their beliefs, but of prediction for the period now come to pass, our own (as shown in Answers to Questions Ch. 5). Here however it is something out of that domain. We are not in the realm of variability AT ALL.
There is to be found not even one member of Judas orientation, and not one spiritual stone is amiss! Not really is this a digression, but rather is it an expression of the point for Isaiah 60. We have here, then, not the official structure of imposing masonry, not the formal dimensions of 'accepted' Christendom, where the world pats its back and accepts it. It is a place where ALL ARE RIGHTEOUS. NOT ONE Judas is to be found. NO betrayer is anywhere about. Now it is true that there are, as we have seen above, many false churches, and this is not merely a matter of observation, and comparison of the Bible with their beliefs, but of prediction for the period now come to pass, our own (as shown in Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
It is really the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN which the prophet depicts: that magnificence which is where it is, and proceeds from the power, presence and grace of God. Do not misunderstand: it is NOT, emphatically not the case that there are no sound churches. They are not always, however, where the popular mind imagines.
It IS the case that many are false, and that some of the most potent illustrations of Protestant faith in terms of Church denominational names, as we have often traced, are now turning to alliance with Rome, or frenzies impermissible in the Bible, or 'faiths' indistinguishable from some medley of cultural paganism and spiritual promiscuity worked in the alleged domains of the Bible, long relegated from rule to tool. (Cf. Stepping Out for Christ Chs. 1, 5, Tender Times for Timely Truths Chs. 7 and 8, Acme, Alpha and Omega Ch. 9, Wake Up World! Your Creator is Coming ... Ch. 3, The Frantic Millenium and the Peace of Faith Ch. 1.) Here however in Isaiah 60, we are faced with a body of statuesque purity, uninhabited by one single spiritual miscreant, or unbeliever!
You could call it "the invisible church", but this is a sort of residual concept, a culling in mind (though only the Lord can do it in fact, for the Lord alone knows the heart) leaving only the people who in fact know the Lord, who OUGHT to be in sound churches, or engaged in vigorous work to bring things to an issue, for or against the written word of God. It is not without value, but in Isaiah we see something more arresting. It is a positive construction which we see, a Jerusalem which is built, and in that marvellous fluidity and flight of concept which Isaiah is given to present, we see now Jerusalem with riches being sent into it, in what resembles the straight and simple recrudescence of Israel, and then its spiritual movement to Christ (as in Romans 11, cf. News 47, The Biblical Workman Ch.3).
the vision moves to a people ALL righteous, so that it is clearly a work
of inspired depiction of the actual people of the Lord, on the one hand,
and the construction which they have in living bodies of believers, while
at the very same time it is an account of the work in ISRAEL, which gives
it the base, but not this as if alone, for the very parameters are praise,
glory and faith. It is the Israel component of the Christian church, seen
in the marvels of restoration in the two-fold motion of Ezekiel 37, to
the land and then to the LORD; yet it is so seen that its nationality,
which it has as a remnant, is irrelevant at this point. It is its faith
which is the criterion of the vision, the focus of the overflight, for
the spiritual photography of what was when this was penned by the prophet,
a far distant scene (cf. I Peter 1:11-12).
The Whereabouts of the Land
It would seem a kind of multiply captioned overview.
1) Israel is to have an enormous recrudescence of faithIn Isaiah 61, we go to the heart of things: the Messiah Himself, on whom the vision dwells, liberating captives from the prisons of sin and bringing beauty for ashes; and here we see what appears to be the construction of the CHURCH, Christian as it is (for the gates of hell do not prevail against it, merely against the substitutes!), with the desolatory depredations replaced by vigorous building work (61:4ff.). "Strangers" shall indeed "feed your flocks" since it is now an international family in its broadest scope, and when you consider all its components together.
2) it will of course have to be back in its land, after the crucifixion (as in Zech. 12:10), to have it.
3) This is seen in architectural terms, in a Jerusalem of glory.
4) It is likewise observed in luminous terms, as a people of faith, a remnant of righteousness, an exclusively conceived body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, here received with acclaim.
"Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles" (Isaiah 61:9), however makes it clear that there is a Jewish flavour still, yet it is one detached from the actual rebellion of that nation when it rejected its Messiah, formally, nationally and officially. Then there comes that beauty that is hallowed, the incandescent delight of the believer in the Lord (very much as in I Peter 1:8), found in Isaiah 61:10:
"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God:
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels..."
"SO," it continues, "the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." In other words, this is a phenomenon to replace what Israel failed in doing, for it was to be as shown in Isaiah 43:21:
"This people have I formed for Myself,By this time, we are becoming accustomed to the movement to the perfection of Christian purity, as seen in the encompassing grace of Christ, by whom the Christians are all made "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6), with reference now more literal, now spiritually allegorical, to "Jerusalem". Sometimes it is a city of spirituality, Jerusalem which is free which is above (as in Galatians 4:26); and indeed, at times we see the industry of the construction of the Christian believing 'buildings' in the world, yet so that it is from a JEWISH perspective, a BELIEVING Jewish perspective, in that the Gentiles are a distinctive exterior, people to be impressed.
They shall show forth My praise."
Now you could reason that this too is allegorical, and that the Gentiles are merely here the 'rest', or the 'non-believers', and that this is so because 'Jerusalem' in some contexts here, is clearly a spiritual construction only. However, this does not accord with those emphases on the rebuilding of Jerusalem as a city to be literally defended (as in Isaiah 63:1-6, 66:14ff., as in Micah 7:15ff.), where there is indeed to be a REDEEMER WHO WILL COME (Isaiah 59:20) and deliver it from the oppression from evil and vehement violence which was its lot. This, in Ch. 59 was in a setting of such unqualified condemnation of the actual people, that it would represent a farce to try to make it nevertheless something entirely different which is suddenly the focus at the end of this highly realistic and anything but visionary Ch. 59.
would it be wise, but rather a fantastic translation, to turn physical
vehemence into spiritual peace (Isaiah 59:18-21, 63:1-6, 66:14-16, Micah
7:15ff., Zechariah 12-14, Deuteronomy 32:41-43). This would be interpretation
so illicit, that it would not merely be eisegesis. It would be flat contradiction,
burlesque of atrocious taste and oblivious disregard. We must instead take
things as they come, and not try to crush exegetically, a jumbo jet into
the hangar for a small monoplane. If you do, you damage not only the aircraft
in its beauty and facility, but the hangar in its structural integrity.
The DEMANDS of Spiritual Mobility and Avoidable Mires
Many are the facets of Isaiah. Doubtless this is one reason why so much discussion is engendered by these chapters; but it is not in vain. There are points for many here, and the vision is so mobile, that any tendency to arthritic fixity, if you will, is not going to cover the case. It is like a bird flying, its very movement almost the essence of its beauty, for it is not limited as we are, to a slower movement in our bodies on the ground, but it is here, there, almost as if time did not elapse and space were compressed! So with Isaiah in these places. It is necessary to see each flitting, and to see the overview of the whole flight, if one is to find the peace of its profusion.
Further, to revert to this Gentiles = non-believer concept for this passage, when you realise that the term merely means "nations", it becomes a little awkward to seek to make it simply mean JEWS and others who disbelieve; for if there is one thing that a Jew is not, and which is conceptually contrary to the point, it is Gentile.
But at once we realise that the apostles were Jews, the enormous thrust was from the Jewish nation, NOT as a body, but by virtue of what God did to some thousands of its people, including ALL the APOSTLES. Believers assuredly include some Jewish people; but Gentiles do not include Jews, be they believers or otherwise! (cf. Isaiah 61:9, 60:11).
Yet what is the building on which the watchmen stand in Isaiah 62:6 ? Is it not upon a literal Jerusalem, such as existed in Isaiah's time, and is he not foretelling that this is yet to be a place, despite all the evils to come, which can see the visionary spirit of the prophet, like some seer who foresaw Hiroshima's disaster and who in spirit was walking among their ruins before it happened - a procedure frequent in the Bible because of the certainty of faith and calling for the prophet . For here he is not merely seeing a future scene and pondering it as if it were present to the eye; he is in fact seeing the current scene with all its evils (as in that pivot of condemnation, Isaiah 59, and that other, 65:13-15), and placing visionary watchmen on its walls, crying for the spiritual realities to come to this very place, so that its loss and spiritual liabilities will yet become the gain and the building of a beauty not to pass away.
Far from a merely Jewish thing is it to be (65:13-15). The thought is utterly absurd. Yet while it is a New Covenant place (as in 52-53, 54-55), and it is going to transpire with reference to Israel not a little, a literal one, it is massively detached from any cover-up for crime, any acceptance of the national status quo. It is a spiritual envisagement of four things simultaneously:
It was always a huge mistake to try to compress the history of Israel into the church, where the contexts are definitively Israel which was out as first of all pagan, and then in as a servant of God, then out as a rebel, and then in, as one brought back from this stipulated double declivity, something unique to themselves. This simply defiled the context (cf. SMR Appendix A).
However it is equally a mistake to ignore any other context for any other specifications, like a mathematics student, who, having learned the calculus, forgets his times tables, or the work of other domains of the discipline.
So here, our task is not to foist some view or other; it is to find what is written as it comes, and to seek to do full justice to it, trusting in the Lord for the overall result, being faithful simply to the text!
Ch. 62, likewise, the "city not forsaken"*1
is a reference to what was once a city, then forsaken, and then not forsaken,
that is, uniquely in kind, Jerusalem; and not to some simple phenomenon
of being out and then in, as can apply to the Gentile case. THAT sort of
a Jerusalem is one only, the actual city. It is to be restored from pagan
control, yes, but with humility (Isaiah 19, Zephaniah 3), not outrageous
self-glorying; for it was after all there that Christ was crucified by
a nation in revolt.
It is precisely there that His Majesty will launch once again His terrestrial career, this time with a regality that is apparent, in a righteousness not to be denied, but applied (Habakkuk 2:14, Psalm 73).
Jerusalem in this context, then, is principally a site for part of the phenomena of the kingdom of heaven, that all-embracive scene for the Christian living, in which the power, presence and apportionments of God Himself work, day in and out, and His beauties rule in reality and in spirit. It is however to be visible there, and a spotlight will display this remarkable restoration. It is certainly not for a race, as such, but for a place given to such a race as once so betrayed the Lord; and yet again, not a matter of a merely concrete place, but one in which the containments are spiritually discerned, nor is it for all of this race, but for a significant proportion (Zechariah 12:10ff.).
THIS restoration is to be no mere geographical splendour: though it is geographically distinctive, and making a point in doing so, that the Lord fulfils all His purposes in the end (as in Ezekiel 36:22).
As to the envisagement, it is much the same when you talk of a sound church, and speak of its spiritual qualities and operations, with no actual reference to or thought of those dissidents or failures who, like dead wood, still cling on, or like etiolated plants, need quick revival (in the grace of the patient Christ as in Isaiah 42:1-4).
Then in Isaiah 63 we move to the military and physical deliverance, which we have already noted above. It is a thing powerful, peremptory, irresistible, the result of much patience now having fulfilled its day, leading on to an issuance to cleanse and complete. The nation is protected as He said He would do, whether in Deuteronomy 32:39ff., or in Zechariah 12-14, or in Micah 7:15ff.; or indeed, in Isaiah 66:14ff..
At the end of this phase (63:1-6), we have one of the most beautifully poignant reviews in spiritual kindness, of the Lord's benignant dealings with Israel of old, and an impassioned plea concludes this chapter, seeking for the Lord to "return for Your servants' sake" (64:17).
Such however is not then the divine intention; but this does give some of the fragrances of the prayers of the saints (as in Revelation 5:8). This implies that the requests of the saints are not ignored, even when the spiritual strategies demand a longer trial (cf. Revelation 6:11).
Meanwhile in Isaiah 64, there is the correlative exposure of the faithfulness and power of the Lord for His believers (64:4-5), contrasting with the other exhibit, the spiritually desolate city and the allegorical exhibition of this, or if you will, the prophetic depiction of the geographical facts of desolation, to follow the spiritual failures which the Lord rejects as spurious, and had long so rejected (cf. Jeremiah 2:35-36).
In Isaiah 65, there is what seems at first a total abandonment of the people of Israel. The Gentiles without even seeking the Lord (or as in Israel so often - Isaiah 1 - doing so spuriously, cf. Hosea 7:14-16*2), are to find Him. The divine initiative will move with certainty to find His own (cf. the parable of the Christ, Matthew 22:9-10). No miscarriage of truth, on the part of those who falsely profess it, will deter Him. The chapter proceeds to the most explicit contrast of the faithless libel of false lives which point wrongly by hypocrisy or gross infidelity to the Lord (65:11-12), with the delights the Lord has in store for spiritual beings, His own children. As to the latter, these are going to be found not least in the Gentiles (cf. Deuteronomy 32:31).
Following this portrayal of 65:13-16, including its point, that "he who blesses himself in the earth will bless himself in the God of truth" not in fraud and fiction, but in realism and power, we come to the depiction of the earth where such is the case, where indeed "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14), a clear enough statement even for the obsessively allegorical.
This is the millenium, not possibly heaven since it has sinners within it (65:20), not possibly an visionary and selective allegory of the church, since this does not contain sinners either. It is a time when sin has its visible outcome, and the beauty of holiness nevertheless is dominant, the total force which prevails and pervades the whole scene. It is as in Psalm 73, the visible rule of the righteous Lord. Its parameters have the scope of the sovereign God who, having first made things good, and then responded to sin with the due curse, indeed without significant delay, and having then endured that curse Himself in the interests of justice, to enable free course to mercy and due allegiance to love, now removes the clasp of curse, and restores the beauty of peace. It is quite beautiful, as He is. It is a preliminary, an excursion on earth towards the heavenly parameters.
Then in Isaiah 66, we find first the necessities of lowliness*3 and faith , just as in Zephaniah 3's emphasis for Israel as a specific item, so here for all. The ludicrous character of animal sacrifice when Christ is already crucified (as prophetically is the conception in view of 52-53), in any ultimate scene after His first coming, is denoted (66:3). Continuance in that sort of thing is blindness amounting to delusion (66:4 and cf. Hebrews). Yet there is to be a selective spirituality. There is a remnant of believers, even in the land. Those who debased their fellows in Israel, now see the shame which sovereignty after so long a waiting in patience (II Peter 3:9) enables (Isaiah 66:5ff.).
In this we find two features. First there is the institution of the State, once more, by divine fiat, so that the Lord has NOT forsaken His people of old (Micah 7:19ff., Ezekiel 36), but this ONLY because of His name, because of His faithfulness: THEY have no merit whatsoever to induce Him to conceive of such a thing! This is emphatic in Ezekiel's account (SMR Appendix A). This institution is found in Isaiah 66:8-11. Then there are reflections on this amazing event. In 66:12ff. we find the peace and the joy in which the delivered body is embraced, as it were, a relief from having no land, while power is built up. But this power (as in Ezekiel 39ff. precisely, where desire to grab is seen, on the part of nations viewing the return of the people to their land with ambition for rapacity): it is to be challenged. Hence the Lord acts quite emphatically (as in Micah 7:15ff., Deuteronomy 32) and seeing "that their power is gone", as Moses foretold from the first, provides His own. This is the ultimate rescue, not from the US, but from God Himself.
This is seen in Isaiah 66:14-17, and this or a parallel about this time, in Ezekiel 39ff..
Thus the whole ignoble world, persecuting Christ, persecuting Israel, defiling spiritual reality, is brought to the book. God KNOWS their works (Isaiah 66:18ff.). He has plans to send out even Jewish people (as happened wonderfully in the first few centuries A.D. in particular, as in Paul just as one example) to the Gentiles, to those who had not seen His glory (as in I and II Peter 1); and these will bring back others. Indeed the very Gentiles, so far from the specialised nature of the Old Covenant, will become 'priests' (66:20), and so the gospel will spread as Christ indicated must happen (Matthew 24:12). The glory of the Lord will eventually leave out no witness, but this patient procedure fulfils it before the final and climateric provisions.
we see the visionary expression of hell in 66:24, for the utterly recalcitrant,
and finally unbelieving, Jew or Gentile alike, just as in the new heavens
and new earth (66:22), you find the continuity of the spiritual, the kingdom
of heaven universality and perfection, which moves to its consummation
THE WONDER OF IT IS A GLORY
In all these things, now as always, we find that cumulative cohesion*4, that liberty allied to precision, that glorious unconstraint in imagination and coverage with the fearless triumph which always has things in order for all that, which is so characteristic of the word of God. It is one of the criteria of truth that it not only does not err, but has a liberty which relates to understanding, and a richness which depends on wisdom, with a capacity to move, now here, now there, for there is not only nothing to hide, but what is revealed is coherent by its own nature.
is what could be called the sovereign majesty of scripture. It is a perpetual
verification of its origin, as men wrote not what they conceived, but as
they were MOVED by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:20-21 cf. SMR pp. 1167ff.).
Like the incarnation, it is without error; and like that again, it is exposed
to all! As such, again like the incarnation, it is a splendid tour de
force for the seekers, and a rebuke to the incredulously lost.
The prophecy proceeds to show with what certainty the literal Jerusalem will be brought back to its place (as in Zech. 12:6 where the irony is intense), for"I have set watchmen upon your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night,
You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes,
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" - Isaiah 62:6.
This, Hosea 7:14-16, is so delightful in edification, and enlightening that it needs to be quoted in full:
"They did not cry to Me with their heart
When they wailed upon their beds.
They assemble together for grain and new wine,
They rebel against Me:
Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms,
Yet they devise evil against Me;
They return, but not to the Most High;
They are like a treacherous bow."
As in Micah 3:5, there is here war against God. It was conspicuously apparent when He came, like a perfected experimental test; and will be so again (Rev. 19:19).
Isaiah 66:2 is a benediction. Listen to this:
" 'For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,'
Says the LORD.
" 'But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.' "
What things are those on which He has looked ?
It is heaven and earth:
"Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me ?
And where is the place of My rest ?"
GOD IS NOT A GETTER BUT A GIVER. HE IS THE FATHER of all who believe, and creator of all men (Isaiah 45:11-13). The things done are not to feed Him! (cf. Psalm 50:10), or to sustain Him. His satisfaction is not for His sake, but relates to us for our sakes. His actions have fed us (John 6:47ff.), both literally (Matthew 14:13ff.), and spiritually (John 6:51ff., 6:60ff.).
The need is on our part; the requirement is faith and repentance, acceptance and commission, reliance on His strength and partaking of His peace, cover by His blood and not a whit by our own works or contributions (Romans 3:23ff.), with inspiration in the power of His holiness, demonstrated to and for man in His bodily resurrection, since He being God, left nothing out of what He put in (cf. I Cor. 15:1-4). This power is applied also in understanding and spiritual purity in His presence (Ephesians 1:17ff.), whom to know, God and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ whom He sent from eternal glory (John 17, Micah 5) - is life everlasting.
THE VARIETY AND VARIEGATIONS, VIRTUE AND LOVELINESS IN LOWLINESS OF THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH -
ITS RELATIONSHIP TO SUNSETS AND ISLANDS
Isaiah has a special emphasis on fluidity which is precisely balanced by his attention to fine detail. The word given him at once provides survey and situation, inspection in detail and pursuit of paths to more wonders.
By now we have seen so many features and facets,
and in conjunction with the compilation of expositions of passages in Isaiah, to be found in Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength, Chs. 4-8,so many vignettes, tableaux, features, foci, as the telescopic lens now features
an overview, or the high-power microscope provides intensive detail,
that it is rather like moving from a garden bed of petunias, marigolds and violets,
to the floral horizons of some botanic gardens,
the aim of which is NOT to be circumscribed,
but rather to exhibit BY the variety and ingenuity of differences,
the sense of floral magnitude of the whole,
so that whether it be the precise inspection of a flower, the appearance of some focal bed, or even the aura of florality which permeates:
it is a multiple message, though all in flowers.
Alas many seem to have been so fascinated by this or that feature of the multiple foci given to the prophet, that perhaps less than justice is often done to the rest, or indeed, even to their inter-relationship, which itself can be composite.
This then, the message and messages of Isaiah, is another island, like the 6 at Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 2 and the 7th at News 124, Part II and the 8th seen above in Ch. 7. It is an area where many vistas can in blessed unity be seen more together in one composition of comprehensiveness.
We have here accordingly, ISLAND 9, and the ferry to the mainland is at hand!
Here in Isaiah you see the millenial vision, the restoration of Israel, its salvation, even at so late a stage in the history of nations, as envisaged, as in Deuteronomy 32 and Leviticus 26, which jointly show, as does Romans 11:25ff., which show just how late would be the awakening to come to that nation, Israel of old, and now of new fashion, found in these latter days, since 1948. This is one feature itself indeed ushered into our contemporary world of visible and verifiable events, with the division of the city of Jerusalem into two parts, with violence, as in Zechariah 14:1-2. (Cf. SMR Ch. 9.)
This, however is far from all.
In this prophecy, we have at the central and crucial level, the replacement of Israel as a people, but "MY servant" both in the transition from Isaiah 41 to 42, and in that from 51 (vv.19-20) to 52:13. We have the corresponding spiritual repudiation of a people who not only rebelled against the Lord before He came, but would do so WHEN He came (as in 1,30 with 49:7, 52-53): a divine disciplinary action in the highest drama and decisiveness (65:12ff., cf. 30:8ff.), mixed with the Messianic appeals, which never cease (Isaiah 53:1, 55:1-3, 54, 48:17ff.), latent (4:6 with 32:1ff.) or patent (1:18).
With all this, we find the faithfulness of God, with such tender mockery (42:18ff.) indicating the steps He will take, despite all their folly, not to mention their barbarous treachery with their own Messiah, and this divine faithfulness, not by virtue of any spiritual obligation towards those who broke the covenant (cf. Zechariah 118-11), but for His own name's sake (Ezekiel 36:22), as He pours out once again His Spirit on them (32:15-19), and proceeds to His two step action (as in Micah 7:19ff., and Ezekiel 37), to recall them to their land and then to the Lord (as in Isaiah 59:20), taking on their behalf at the appropriate time, whatever action of power is needed (Isaiah 66:14ff., Deuteronomy 32:42ff., 49:26). This action He is to take with chariots of fire, "feeding those who oppress you with their own flesh", with blood spilled and dead bodies, with arrows "drunk with blood" so that the escapee who wants a God of no power who does not run the universe according to His promises, cannot find Him. The reason is simple: such a god as that is not there (cf. Isaiah 44:24-45:25).
With this, in the return phase for the rebelling nation, Israel, in which though still indicated as unbelieving in the most incredible seeming fashion (Isaiah 41:18ff.), in full accord with the first stage of the restoration, the geographical, as in Ezekiel 37, they are nonetheless returned to THEIR PLACE (Isaiah 42:11ff., 49:19ff., Zechariah 12:6), indeed as we see here, being crowding into their little land in an efflorescence of grace so prodigious that it is breathtaking, admirable and lavish in lovingkindness! Such was to be and now is, the history of the people of Israel: who being called, reneged, and being disciplined are yet restored, and while being restored, are yet blind, and being blind, are yet with a tenderness singularly poignant and startlingly direct, called home to the happiness of the blessing of God, if they will but come!
Meanwhile the activities of converted Jews, whether at the outset with the Messiah, those like the apostles and the many thousands initially believing, or at the second and spiritual restoration of so many, will be astonishing and a fitting continuation, though at first by so relatively small a number (Isaiah 66:18ff., 61:9), while the many remain so blind.
How blind ? So blind that He can say: "WHO IS BLIND BUT MY SERVANT!" What a tribute: they become the criterion of blindness, to whom so much was so vainly given by so many, and this above all, by their OWN Messiah, a privilege of no other people, a gift which nevertheless they repudiated with scoffing and scorn. However in this the Gentiles have joined in the last 200 years especially, with a vehemence, vigour and scorn, sometimes slightly sophisticated as in some of the sensationalistic articles not absent from the news magazine category, devoid of wisdom and knowledge to a degree equal to any competition! sometimes pseudo-academic as in seminaries at least as debased as any scribal falsetto.
In these ways, the now duly instructed Gentile nations (or to a large extent so), have turned from the better to the worse, from God to their fabricated ideas, fables and follies (just as predicted in II Timothy 3 and 4:3-4, for God has told us all what is to be, so that very blind might see, be they Jewish or Gentile). Instructed, they get leave, so that Europe by many, including a major missionary organisation, is now, and has long been viewed as a mission field!
In other words, the Gentile decay of the theological teeth, through bad diet and bad will, has been in its way a fitting rejoinder, as if to preserve from all racism! New Gentile 'servants' in name but not in word and deed, vie with each other and the ancient work of Israel in its divinely cited rebellion, as for an Olympic rating in sophisticated subversion, sometimes with this as the express purpose (as shown in the WCC case, where Communists used the connection for simple infiltration and corruption or manipulation: found through the records made available through glasnost).
However, the focus in Isaiah is on the opening up of the Gentiles, beyond only Jewry, to the Gospel, as in Isaiah 24:16ff., 42:6 and 49:6, in tune with the music of several psalms in the 60s, with Jeremiah 19ff. and other places.
WHILE this happens, still the nation of Israel AS a nation, remains blind: so Isaiah 42:18ff., 23-25, reproves them with words likely to assist their repentance; for there are times when the most direct speaking is the only kind left, though it be underlaid with tenderness and compassion, calling, calling...
No more, however, can even the most calloused heart pretend that there is something specially irritating about the 'favouritism' accorded the Jew. They were to show forth the praise of God (43:21), in terms of a covenant, and did not in the end achieve this through prolonged decline and eventual disaster (49:7), being eventually replaced (Isaiah 41-42, 51-52 as above), first by the Messiah, "An Israel in whom I will be glorified" (49:3), and then in Him, with the believers from all nations (49:6, 24:16ff.). As to these, they are as ONE to be raised in the resurrection (26:19), while Israel was to be restored first to the land as we have seen already, both in Isaiah and in contemporary history (cf. SMR Appendix A), and later to the Lord (66:10-17). It is then that in large numbers able to be characterised in peace, many of them are to be found joining the ranks, the only ranks still open, of the church of the Lord (66:18-21), the people of God, as do all others, while only they have their specialised history.
Only they have had this special relationship to God from early times (Deuteronomy 4:7-9, 7:7), one with so many phases. It has been one with such rich lessons to be learned by the Gentiles as also by contemporary people in Israel, yet it is one so gravely disregarded by so many of the Gentile peoples, in that sort of incongruous blindness in which they for their part have specialised, that they are to be found looking in Mars for life (cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-3), with billions to lose for it in dollars, while ignoring the necessities of their own life on earth. It is however there that God Almighty placed and built life by creation, in man, life of mind matter and spirit; and not even learning from history, as if it were a fallen actor, not an active agent, they proceed to regress like a new driver, unaware that the forward gears so much as exist!
For this, of course, they pay in environment, in psychic distress, both in Israel the land, and among the other nations (cf. Luke 21:23, 25), in educative fiascos (cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs. 1 and 8), in political follies virtually past belief: for if they had not been seen to do these things, or the word of God had not described the human heart without Him as it does (Jeremiah 17:9ff.), or depicted such developments in advance, one would have been in danger of rank incredulity. The case for merely formalistic religion is scarcely better (cf. Isaiah 1)!
So have they gone, the one leading, the other in repressive pogroms despising those whose example they nevertheless, in this crucial regard, they all too aptly follow.
No then, by any means a 'favourite', Israel is to be delivered, as all sinners must be, of whatever race, by the Lord's hand alone whether in the fulfilment of covenant (Genesis 17 cf. Divine Agenda Chs. 1 and 4, Tender Times for Timely Truths 1, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13), or in the salvation of the soul, of which the former is a picture, the soul itself the quarry in the end.
Notwithstanding all these details and intricacies, yet ones harmonised with happiness, filled with longing, or equipped with lightning rebukes, there are glimpses as we have seen, of the kingdom of heaven, a glance within it at the 'invisible church', though it be one endued with more solidity than it is by many! (cf. SMR pp. 1108ff.).
It is all here - not a camping site for separatees (to coin from the mint), allegorees (to add another coin), transformationists (who will se nothing as it is , despite context), literalists (who make sanctity depend on a lack of responsive imagination).
The unity of Isaiah (given evocative treatment by Osald T. Alllis in his work of that name), and constantly shown in detail here, in its inter-active vitalities, like a digestive system with all the organs not one of which is readily dispensable without disorder to the whole - it is a quality that moves in fact to be more than unity. The book of prophecy is cohesive, inimitable, like that of the body, each part depending on the other, and supporting it - cf. Ephesians 4:16. It is stated here, developed there, exposited somewhere else, put allegorically, literally, passionately, in quietness, in poignancy: it brings the whole yearning and yet judgment of God from first to last, to a declaration definitive, admirable, unyielding, and for this one work, complete.
Seeing it in faith whole, and diverse simultaneously, as in other ordered creations, here the word of God direct from His mouth, is to make the acquaintance of the author, as He enables, enlightens and moves throughout, depositing meaning, directing hearts, completing hints, consummating symbolism, and yet again, returning to directness. It is like a lover who is never weary of this or that tinge, hint, nuance, declaration, development, winsomeness, challenge, and the means to the end circulate as in a blood system, bringing something of the past parts of history to the present and thrusting them to the latter part of time, our Age, in this comprehensive book, so that the mind is entranced, the eye alerted, the mind set at rest.
ISLANDS thus mount in our tally. It is good to come to organic agreement more and more, not pushing this or that partial reflection, but rejoicing in the whole. As this has been used in the above references to focus the areas where diversities have tended to extremes, not warranted. The reader of Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 2 may recall the concept of return to the mainland in moderation and scriptural care, in issues of unnecessary division. It becomes not least the acceptance of the challenge to avoid these too effusive extremes while by no means ignoring their contributions, and seeing the basis for all, taking nothing beyond the scripture itself.
For such increases of unity, may the Lord prepare the hearts of His people as the century moves to its unwitting end, witless as time, but known by God, and in principle and kind, revealed in His word (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
In this case, then in particular, of understanding Isaiah, we see:
- the diversity,
- fluidity (as in the last verse, giving hell a terrestrial depiction in impactive tableau),
- and yet sobriety (as in Chs. 9,11);
- the contemporary charge and challenges (as in 1, 7, 30, 37-38, 43-45, 57, 59),
- the distant heights found (12, 24, 40, 6061,65),
- the display of national and international divine dynamics (2, 9, 11, 32, 49, 63, 66)
- and the individual tenderness (55, 1 - the earlier aspect of the latter notwithstanding - 54, 42, 63 and latter 66),
- the kingdom of heaven (60-66 in flights and reviews, distant depictions to come and past), and glints of a consolidated invisible church;
- the scarification of pomp, pretence and hypocrisy (9,1,65,28-30,59)
- and the elevation of purity of spirit (6,33,66 beginning),
- in the midst of its own natural lowliness in the Lord (6,66,33) so that we have
- not a compound, or a mere synthesis, but an exposition extraordinary.
What is it like ? It is like a huge medical text book such as Gray's Anatomy, spreading out before us what is there, combined with a Street Directory, and a photo album of magnificent coastal scenery. Then there is the intimate loveliness to be perceived with due understanding of what happens when land meets sea, and sea meets clouds at its horizon: spiritual wonder from the Lord meeting terrestrial occasions; and all this, combined with aerial views, and intimate talks from the guide, with overviews and vignettes thereon presented in tutorial .
Over all is the Messiah, His Gospel imbuing all like the setting sun, glorious in beauty and in its departing effulgence, remarking that it will rise again (26:19): His one Gospel never changing, like that orb in its colourful splendour, with its own light, exclusive of the various forms of darkness, inhibiting misunderstanding either through preconceived ideas, or other dim obfuscations.
Indeed, His Messianic light is intense, all the more, because of its intimate beauty.
THIS light moreover, has arisen, never to die - Revelation 1:18ff., Isaiah 60:19, 61:1-4, 9:7, 55:3-4.