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Parallels in Perspective
Isaiah 59,63,66 in settings
Poetry can be wonderful;
truth is essential:
confusion is calamitous.
Often have we on this site referred to the treasure trove of Isaiah 60-66. On the one hand it is individual like a ruby; on the other, it is integrated like a diamond, sapphire, ruby ring.
Its themes throb throughout the book. Its light is enhanced in the redder setting of the sun.
It flows like waterfalls, glorious in freedom, pure in power, impelled and impelling.
In Isaiah 59, 63 and 66 in particular there is one theme which is arresting, coming as it does in different contexts, like an aeroplane which swoops now from the East, now from the West, the South on a target, each time pursuing various aspirations, but in the composite giving an excellent picture of that target.
us see. What links these in theme ? One link is this. In 63:1-6 there is a
wholly amazing movement into a culmination of vengeance, blood and battle. It
comes BETWEEN one of the most lustrous passages in Isaiah 62, of evangelical
warmth, brilliant light and favour from the countenance of the Lord spiritually
(that is, the divine fulness), and reflections on His lovingkindness in
On looking back somewhat,
in Isaiah 59, we find a cognate movement from Isaiah 58 with its challenges to
godliness, its blessing and its promises to faith, a lambent beauty, to Isaiah
59, where this changes in a magnificent and startling way. Suddenly, we are
moving BOTH in terms of promise and rebuke. The Lord's hand is not shortened
that it cannot save, BUT your iniquities have SEPARATED. Then comes, not in
blood, but in a flood of exposure, an exposé on the utter and chronic
wickedness enshrined in the affairs of the nation of
It culminates in 59:15:
Then we proceed to the Lord's taking action, just as in
Isaiah 63. Indeed, this further adorns the understanding, showing the aspects
of compassion, tenderness, entreaty, review, contrast, judgment and action as
in Isaiah 63, but more fully. And what of that action ?
Once again the Lord's action is practical, judgmental, harrowing in its ultimacy, transcendental in power, transformative in result, overcoming in battle against His enemies, delivering to His people, who, however, are to be found resting IN HIM, not fighting against Him, as He selects for Himself the faithful remnant, now in Christ (as in Isaiah 53:1, 61:10, 65:13-16, 66:1-4,19ff.). He put on, not the clothing of quietness, the pleasures of peace (cf. Isaiah 52's gospel announcement in utter contrast), but the "garments of vengeance". This reminds us that in quoting Isaiah 61, about comfort and liberation, the Lord Jesus stopped before the immediately following reference to "the day of vengeance of our God" (cf. Luke 4:18-20). He did NOT however omit such a feature in speaking to the recalcitrant fraudulence in the priestly party which presumed to try Him! (Matthew 26:64 cf. Matthew 25:31-46 where this is associated with judgment).
There is to be sure, and most precious it is, a time for NOT CONDEMNING but SAVING (as in John -17); but there is also a time for JUDGING because of refusal of salvation (John ,36). They are not the same. The Lord is patient but just; loving but true; compassionate but coming to judge. Long has the offer waxed eloquent of mercy.
It is not words alone,
however. The word of God ACTS (Joel ). It acts to deliver, to save; to
judge and to condemn (cf. Amos 4). It is not less than the power which created
which atones, which judges, and nothing is mixed, but the hearts of those who
cross and confuse the cross with poetry, or God with non-performance. Those who
are Christians now know that they can cry to God NOW, who performs all things
for them (Palm 57:2, cf. Isaiah 64:5 q.v. in
With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 6).
Thus have we compared elements and aspects of Isaiah 58-59 with those of Isaiah 62-63, each consummating its force into judgment, when the compassions which fail not, are bypassed, sidelined and made into a pleasant lagoon, a pleasant song in the night, as if Christianity and Christ were poetry, not power, puniness not purity, magic not majesty.
The majesty is very real; it is precisely that which makes the love so amazing in its tenderness. Alas in the human race how little has been understood by so many, of such a panoply of powers. They rush after Harry Potter, but disrelish Jesus Christ. They advocate or practice (to some measure, depending on the times), family tenderness, or desire to advance their children with every contrivance of help; but let them be crossed in business, opposed by other nations, in some way, and behold the hatred, the passion, the disregard of ethics, the continual and deplorable death to mercy, understanding to the undertakers. Where it tries to resurrect itself, behold, injustice again, as in the UN confrontation with Israel (Red Alert ... Ch. 10), or its failure for it in the days of Nasser,to protect it, as likewise in the damaging limitations of liberty of speech now coming like a tumult even into ‘Western’ powers.
It is a distortion, a false
perspective, a foolish passion which operates, like a wound not bound up, and
suppurating, driving the victim who is also the oppressor, to violence.
It is mercy with longsuffering which is required; love with patience; chiding if necessary, but never childishness. How hard to bring up children when childishness is the lore of the land!
is not just for the family, the city or the nation. It is for the world; and if
it is rejected by many, yet it must remain in ALL relationships in the heart.
If you have even to kill, in war, a madman bringing an axe to your home, so be
it. It is better he go than that all go. But this is not an act of furious,
foolish violence but of regretful and grieved defence. Love does not grow cold,
but the world is warming up in seas, as if in contrast to its coldness of
heart, to achieve an unbalancing balance, a comic comparison, a quite rebuke.
Multiform, Multiple Parallels
IN THE END, when love has had its total exhibition, two millenia of it in fact, to nearly a nicety, then justice, not mere passion, will and must supervene. But it is GOD who will show it HIMSELF! This then we see quite clearly and categorically in Isaiah 63:1-6, and Isaiah 59:16-20. Indeed, after the long and lavish exposure of the wonders of salvation and the cost to Christ of the same, in Isaiah 49-55, the promises of 56, the reasonings of righteousness of 57, the tenderness and incitation to holiness of 58, we come to 59 with its issue in judgment.
Similarly, after the holy sanctity of the vision of 60, the practical promises of 61, the building of the people of God in 62, we come to this calamitous action in 63, here delivering His people.
That final aspect of deliverance in the very MIDST of judgment of the oppressor is common at the end or by implication in both 59, and 63, the culminating aspects. In 59:59:18-21 we see this aspect supervening on the judgment on the adversaries, vengeance with selective deliverance for His people. IN 63, we find that one aspect, in parallel, of His divine action of vengeance is this, that it is linked closely and intimately with HELP. "I looked, and there was none to HELP: and I wondered that there was none to UPHOLD: therefore ..."
These two closely developed contexts in Isaiah 59 and 63 are in parallel, a third line, with 66 in significant attributes. Indeed, even in the milieu, the environment in which they come, there is some parallel.
Thus in Isaiah 65, this time in the midst of sobering reflections on the persistent, chronic rebellion of Israel (that is, the human side in its emptiness), indeed its spiritual replacement by a wider ranging body, though one for the same Lord who does not change (65:13-16), we actually come to the millenium of peace and security. In this, nevertheless, "the sinner one hundred years old will die accursed" (65:20), since it is peace, not heaven, a haven and not yet the end.
Then in Isaiah 66 we see
the parallel affirmation of the new covenant (to 53:1, 62:2, 65:13-16,
66:1-4,21), and very much as in Micah 7, the vindication and victory for the
remnant who yet believe the Lord, and in particular the Jewish remnant, whose
total delineation of unique kind, is repeatedly announced by the prophet.
THE PRACTICE OF PURGING POWER
IN PURITY THAT FLASHES
AT THE END OF A VERY LONG BEGINNING
AS LIGHT ENTERS THE NIGHT
Marvelling empathetically with the people who are brought back in the Lord, to the New Covenant (as in Isaiah 42, 49), even those (as in Micah 7), who had strayed from the Lord and been systematically castigated for it throughout the book of Isaiah, we find this onset of PRACTICAL ACTION IN JUDGMENT. It is that of Isaiah 65:15-17. He will come "to render His anger" and it is in that context of wrath that "the slain of the Lord shall be many."
Alas, those who want to inherit wrath might well engage in some kind of imitation of this ‘slaughter’, this ‘slaying’; but it is no blessing that is to be found in that cup! The Lord took HIS cup, and in one sense, indicated to certain disciples that they might indeed take their version of it, but the cup is severe indeed; and it killed Him. It is so here, as in Jeremiah 25. It is the cup of grape juice pressed out in the stamping of feet (as in Isaiah 63:3-5).
But then comes the blessing following judgment, and in 66:19-24 we find the intimations of celestial peace together with - though wholly apart from - the eternal wrath of God on the spiritually doomed (Isaiah 66:24).
Thus does it come (59:19): "According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompence to His enemies; to the islands He will repay recompence."
It is useless to tamper, timidly, constructing poetry when a cross was the price, fury is the instrument and faith is the escape route (Hebrews 2:1-3, Isaiah 66:19). God means, as always, ALL that He says, and selective intimidations of His word by ignoring ALL its aspects is not really what it seems.
The word of God may be
gutted in liberal, radical assault, or perverted in philosophic distortion, but
it endures for ever, and those who so sidetrack issues as to ignore what it declares,
alas, like the foolish ones to whom Christ spoke in Luke 24, have forgotten
much of the story. The disciples then were willing to learn. It is always
necessary to be willing to learn, not some new story: for it is all there, has
long been there and is self-attesting in its grandeur of continuity, its
variegation of beauty, and its parallels of exposure, as if to ensure, as noted
at the outset of this Chapter, that if we did not realise the perspective in
the first overflight, we would when we took it from all the angles.