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Topography of History
An Extension of Ch. 7
I don't care!
Don't care was made to care!
The awesome advent of reality into childish churlishness is a fine example of returning to base, and awakening to fact.
The world is rather like that, in its worldliness, in its cultural mandates and academic prowess, insouciance and endeavours to reach an imperturbability which in basic issues often varies - to use childish language - between just silly and will-nilly. We have seen something of this in Secular Myths and Sacred Truth, as in Earth Spasm, Conscience Chasm: and Renewal of Life, as indeed in TMR, Wake Up world and Spiritual Refreshings... not to mention, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9.
It is not an accident that the world looks more and more like one. It is not an accident that a drunken 'teen ager may have an accident. It is more an incident, palpable and close to predictable, in the realm of anti-purposive action. Man is capable of such, just as he can sleep through a useful lecture, or shout during a crucial intimation, and so miss it. Freedom is wonderful, but its misuse is not. It has results. The state of this world is one of these consequences. It refuses to care in the only way that counts, HEARING the drill, FINDING the facts and ACTING on this.
That it is its Creator who must be heard is obvious, since ONLY HE can heal the mind of man, not so much missing, at the DIRECTIONAL LEVEL, in several cylinders or features of keenness, as missing the point of the entire exercise called life. Further, the lack of intimation is not lack of information, since His word is clearly conspicuous these millenia of suppurating substitutes and efflorescent pretences. Hence there is an abyss which could be called modern history in its international ramifications: wilful blindness resulting in due course, in various aspects of politics and war which leave one almost dazed at the folly implicit. This is not of course to outlaw war in some ethical sense, but to make it unacceptable as an in-law.
Blind folly and creeping greed, devious machinations and ignoring of God in His protestations combine like so many drugs to produce a state-of-consciousness world scene which would all but defy description, were the drugs not known...
One of the drugs is the drowsiness to things spiritual, to what could be called the domain of God, were this not obviously an inadequate, if evocative phrase. Rather let us call it, no, not the primacy of God, for this though true is not enough of the truth for our present need:
the Creator's Kingliness,
Kinship with God in Love.
Without this, it is rather like a combination of not knowing what a road is and where a road goes, if you are a car driver. That there will be pandemonium is not a possibility, but a certainty. This world is that certainty, for while many KNOW these things, far fewer GO on that basis. Their 'knowledge' not being faith, they do not act. Action however is what this world has much of at present, and where people do NOT act on fact, then they DO act on non-fact.
To have restored to man, that kinship, there is need first of repentance at its omission in past time, since man was not made that way, and it is his erratic embroilments which attest his resultant instabilities and cardinal inabilities; and then comes the day of taking the Way called Christ, to the Place called Calvary, and finding at this point, the intersection of sin and mercy. Here is pinpointed the Lord of Glory crucified, from which flow to faith pardon and adoption into His family Galatians 6:14, Romans 3:25). Meanwhile, the world is not on calling terms.
Returning now to our theme from the last chapter, let us see more of the predestinative, propulsive, inveterately powerful, impendingly merciful, extensively operational work of God in history.
THE TOPOGRAPHY OF HISTORY
Predestination, like foreknowledge, is one of the uttermost tools of the divine mind. It is a
1) PROPHETIC-EMPOWERER, for of a certainty, there is no OTHER way in which forecasts millenia ahead, both in substance and in detail, could be made (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9, The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 4). Any one declivity, failure, error, false margin, wrong anticipation would result in a whole navy of ships of consequences at various levels, and in the interaction of levels. A death might remove an empire (in the end), and while, for example the death of the Arch-Duke in the Balkans may be said to be merely an immediate cause of World War I, and that the tinder was there anyway, yet it is equally true that without the fire-starter, the gases sometimes are swept aside by increasing wind, and the tinder becomes damp...
This knowledge, foreknowledge, makes possible what is actual, such predictions as are common in the Bible.
2) PERSONAL-TRACER is another of the functions of foreknowledge-predestination from the uniquely divine, deity Himself. Thus NO ONE is lost, who belongs, and NO ONE is found, who merely founders, being a hypocrite. God knows, always knew before the foundation of this world (Ephesians 1:4), a site which man so often seems to imagine is the most prodigious thing, but actually, though a wonderful piece of creative understanding and a colossus of power in its inception from the eternal power of God, is just a something, a facility operated by deity. Both creative and a sweeping surveyal is the casting of His mind before human history began, over all of its results and the convolutions of will, freedom, intervention, intimacy and overall direction. In all this, He knows His own, before and beyond sin.
It is complicated by the fact it involves life, and what lives has some potentially sublime augments in view; but these too are a product, at one level most impressively impregnated in the case of DNA with thousands of instructions, so that one cell of a man's body, with nucleus, is often likened to a set of 1000 volumes of an encyclopedia in terms of its information incorporated and complexity. Indeed, that is almost the least. In man, it is activated by power to ponder, deliberate, hypothesise and assume, in tainted twistiness, or with earnestness. It, the life of a man, may even vomit or be vomited by truth, when it leaves every option for fiction.
Even the body of man is organised so that it has
SYMBOLICALLY UNITARY ARCHITECTURAL,
Yes, in construction, we in our bodies are written, and finding this out instead of being some marvellous innovation for nubilous thought, is merely a verification of what God declared in the Bible: namely this, that HE SPOKE and it was done. The Word of God, who was always with God, and hence is eternal, and hence uncreated (cf. John 8:58), so that ALL things created are from Him, Himself thus is in another category, the deity itself (John 1:1-3). Indeed He is singular in the plurality of the deity, and man cannot participate in his own construction, since you cannot create yourself before you are there to do it, a fiction best left to the sects: it is HE who has created all things (cf. Colossians 1:15), which in turn did not invent themselves from the same absence!
With thought, expression and power God has declared them into existence. Things are made from mentality, originality, imagination, power and cherishing, at the level of the creator, and when it is man, that level in some things is operative at the level of God who having made freedom, opens the door to love, and seeing it shut, re-opens it by His own mercy.
The curse (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 2) comes not causeless (Proverbs 26:2). People love to say, I DON'T CARE! in this field, as if this in some way would alter its realities. It does not do so, as history abundantly confirms. If you don't care, care will not cease to operate: if it is not yours, then it is that of your Creator. Care cannot continue too long in absentia, since it irrupts into reality and collides with it. It is naturally, for just that reason, a very sore world which we occupy.
The WAY in which the divine care operates is attested in the Bible, in history, in their correlation, and in the coming of the Redeemer, so that THIS particular INGRESS, this ADVENT, this divine ADVENTURE OF LOVE, might be perfectly general, express, explicit and available for all. In this way, instead of any foolish talk of systems, as if the furnishings were the features most important, He has so acted that we might realise in a PERSONAL WAY, that furniture is for use, and those who use it are the point in view. For them, not some open-garrulous chatter of bits but the orginating and activating power of God is the basis, and His knowledge encompassing but not forcing all, brings not only meaning but penetrating purpose in the rebellious ruins, these almost obsessively made by man, not least of himself.
As Himself, personal: God has sent His personal word to make personal contact, with propositional purity and prophetic background and foreground, with mankind. Not a scintilla of His will or word has fallen, and many have arisen from the dust of decline, by His gift. In predestining infinitude of understanding, He has missed nothing, giving advance knowledge and contemporary authority to something better than the degree of any College: namely, understanding of the truth! On this, we see John 14:6, Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Beautifully, tests are endemic but have an outcome, and grace is superabundant (cf. John 15Z:22ff.). Further truth is as it has always been, available. It does not move, though access to it is no right if you want to be wrong, or don't care.
"Jesus said to him,
'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
" 'If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also;
and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.' "
Thus says the Lord:
" 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord."
We have now seen two of the uses of
foreknowledge-predestination in the hands of the Almighty.
A third is this:
This means that each phase of history, each facet of life, has to be amenable to the point in view, without either releasing its aspect of liberty, or granting it a wiggling autonomy, as if the TV were the only thing in the room. Important ? Doubtless, but all-important ? of course not, for each part must play its part and hence be apportioned its limits. You see something of this in Acts 17:26ff., which is best cited as below.
"And He has made from one blood every nation of men
to dwell on all the face of the earth,
and has determined their preappointed times
and the boundaries of their dwellings,
so that they should seek the Lord,
if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him,
though He is not far from each one of us;
for in Him we live and move and have our being,
as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
"Therefore, since we are the offspring of God,
we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone,
something shaped by art and man’s devising.
"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked,
but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
because He has appointed a day
on which He will judge the world in righteousness
by the Man whom He has ordained.
He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
Not shaped by man's devising, or the concepts of man's intra-natural focus, orphaning himself from God and making false alliance with the mere trappings for life, are the spirit and mind of man. Explicable only in terms of God (cf. SMR Chs. 1 - 2), they are sustainable in only the same manner; and unsustained they mar our contemporary scene; for assuredly it is not some one race which is the problem or the solution, but the human race which is fallen foul. No, not by this method, internalised production, does magnificence come, but from a fitting source which is inspirational in itself, and foundational to man. It is God the Creator of mind, matter and spirit who gives times for nations, as they surge from their commencement to their end; and it is He who allows opportunity.
Likewise it is He who has provided a criterion that is simple in appreciability, profound in meaning and adequate for man. Here lies the end of endings, but it is for faith (q.v. Bible Translations No. 47). It is called the Gospel, and focusses on what God has done in sending His salvation in His own only-begotten Son. If you want man to man dealings, these are they; and if ever a man is to be manly, or a woman womanly, here is the source in understanding, in power and in service, for man needs servicing at the level of his spirit, and the mass of psychiatric cases is in no small measure the negative testimony, the anti-verification of the barren naturalistic idolatry (cf. Aviary of Idolatry). If you insist on dehumanising yourself by denying your heritage WITH your heritage, then is it a wonder what ravaging you can perform in your neglected spirit and manhandled soul ?
4) Thus is found a fourth function of foreknowledge-predestination, that of
Chaff may be shown to have ASSUMED that position, when it is a figure for alienated man, by the WAY it is blown by the wind, without intervention. On the other hand, the Lord KNOWS the way of the righteous, of His people, flock, naturally, for what Shepherd does not! (Psalm 1). It is a matter of intervention as required (as in I Cor. 10:13), encouragement, assistance, development (II Peter 3:18), shaping (II Cor. 3:18), empowering, nurturing and much more than these (cf. Ephesians 1:19, John 10).
With these things in mind, then, let us see
something of the oversight we are shown to be that of the Lord, in the workings
of history, realising that it is done, in the wisdom of God, far sooner than time itself, as we have it.
It is in eternity before our time even began
that this operates (Ephesians 1:4), and beyond this Age as we have it, it consummates in
judgment and eternity. Meaning and mastery go together like a pair in a sports
car with the wind in their hair; and God having the second, shows the first.
To those who fear Him, truly reverence Him, He shows what is to be understood (Psalm 25:14):
"The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant."
It is a delightful combination of
the personal and the propositional, the admonitory and the encouraging,
the work of the physician and of the trainer,
the teacher and of the nurse,
the father and of the brother,
richer than any vein of gold, more pertinent than any focus of beauty.
In this, one finds
not only meaning, but meat,
not only perspective but enablement,
not only organisation, but activation,
not only tuition but tenderness,
not only help but hope, and
not only hope but certainty, more intimate than the centre of an orchid,
more dazzling than the sun as it rises in its strength.
The Lord misses nothing and never fails: this is the way of it, empirically.
THE MATTER OF MEANING, CHATTER, SPATTER AND SOVEREIGNTY
Just as meaning is maintained, so is its lack secured, even its ostensible removal as in Psalm 1:5, this being an ASPECT of the meaning to match the autonomy, and to show ITS meaning! If you DENY and DEFY meaning, merely a sidestepping of rebellion which naturally evacuates you from the only proper place, then your own case becomes not a confirmation of your case, but of the consequences of your assault on God. This is in no small part what is meant by eating "the fruit of your doings".
What many ignore is this, that God is very deep, in fact, His understanding is infinite (Psalm 145). It is IMPOSSIBLE to trick Him, outwit Him, outmanoeuvre Him. A midge might as well seek to outmanoeuvre a dragon fly; indeed, it would be better to try for it, than for man with God!
Thus there may be a quite deliberate distancing of will from its narcotic, whatever its false hope may be, according to the deserts of the case, so that what disdains deity may be explicitly denied full personal meaning by being subjected without intrusion to the very forces beneath God, which have such pathological attraction. This can occur whether they be environmental, cultural or physical, financial, social or hedonistic. Those idols to which a person may foolishly subject itself in thought, lacking the vitality and reality fitting for man, become the scenes of disgruntlement, or the cheapenings of spirit till they are secretly if not openly abhorred; or else the spirit sinks into a cynicism so atrocious, that it becomes like a drain, omitting every good thing.
You see something of this in the particular case of Israel, replete with revelation but opting to relativise, multiply and synthesise what God has with what they choose, in Isaiah 32:14-15:
"Because the palaces will be forsaken,
The bustling city will be deserted,
The forts and towers will become lairs forever,
A joy of wild donkeys , a pasture of flocks -
Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high..."
UNTIL ? Until GOD is pleased to act PERSONALLY once more, toward them, with a divine initiative which corresponds with intimacy to their inward need, and outward situation. Even among men, this is sometimes necessary, when the braying of what is decaying within, is so loud that time is needed before it stops, and ears open again!
Again, in Hosea 5:11ff. (New American Bible), we have this same deliberate decision about involvement, and which and what and when, on the part of deity.
"Is Ephraim maltreated, his rights violated?
No, he has willingly gone after filth!
I am like a moth for Ephraim,
like maggots for the house of Judah.
"When Ephraim saw his infirmity,
and Judah his sore,
Ephraim went to Assyria,
and Judah sent to the great king.
"But he cannot heal you
nor take away your sore.
For I am like a lion to Ephraim,
like a young lion to the house of Judah;
It is I who rend the prey and depart,
I carry it away and no one can save it from me.
I will go back to my place
until they pay for their guilt
and seek my presence."
(Emphasis in both citations above, added.)
You see the UNTIL or TILL in both cases*1. It is a matter of deliberation, consideration, operation-management; it is ultimately a matter of love and judgment, mercy and entreaty, inter-personal relations with a party which (almost here better than 'who', such is the depersonalisation) often loves to become less personal and more impersonal in its operations. That, it is simply one place to hide.
Sometimes such a pathology possessed patron of naturalism, humanism or relativism may be found using some other person than God, or some other entity, while moving about with this formula or phrase, or that, as if some kind of concoction were in process. It is as ridiculous - yes, more so - as the case where a student in chemistry tries to fulfil a delicate experiment, now trying the text for instruction, now working out another way, now trying something else in case it works, now forgetfully trying what instinct suggests. The result ? It is very much like part, a major aspect indeed, of world history.
Thus in a more extreme case, someone may be pleased to declare, 'History is hapless!'. Knowing this is certainly an achievement in such a case, for if it were so, then so would its product be, and if so, so would his estimate of history be. In that case, however, it would deserve zero attention, being by its own model, productive to the point at issue, of mere garbage words.
However, logic is only one aspect. Our potent thinker having made such an announcement in defiance, may be allowed time to exhibit this to a significant extent in his or her own case, in divine irony.
Hapless ? is that what it is ? yes, then let prosperity make a fool the worse, then affliction show his wasted spirit the more; then let his own torment lead him to reconsider ... or whatever else it may be that with total knowledge God, unlike any human doctor, may propose, and proposing, do. He does not propel as if the person were an inanimate object, but He understands and projects power and opportunity, scope and dynamic, knowing the end, and moving in His own ways of wisdom. Eternity is not a thing He desires man to lose, and in His wisdom, He may open wounds from old times, to renew a dying frame.
One example in this field is to be found in Malachi 2:17-3:6:
" 'You have wearied the Lord with your words;
Yet you say,
'In what way have we wearied Him?'
In that you say,
'Everyone who does evil
Is good in the sight of the Lord,
And He delights in them,'
'Where is the God of justice?'
" 'Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
" 'Behold, He is coming,'
Says the Lord of hosts.
'But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner’s fire
And like launderer’s soap.
" 'He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord
An offering in righteousness.
" 'Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
Will be pleasant to the Lord,
As in the days of old,
As in former years.
" 'And I will come near you for judgment;
I will be a swift witness
Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans,
And against those who turn away an alien—
Because they do not fear Me,'
Says the Lord of hosts.
" 'For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.' "
Here is a profound interpersonal relationship in which a human apathy verging on cynicism is met by a reminder of reality, purity, truth, sincerity, equity, compassion, godly living: and so there comes a sense of a twofold eventuation.
Firstly, there is to be sending of the Messenger of the Covenant, well-known in Isaiah, in David's Psalms, indeed from Moses in Deuteronomy 18; and it is He who will show (cf. John 2 and the temple work of Christ) a better way for a better day. It is however not limited to demonstration, invitation and opportunity; for it leads on to irrevocable judgment which, if persistently and even pertinaciously invited, will come the more remorselessly to the vulnerabilities of compounded sin! Thus the movement readily comes from the vicious to the pernicious, and so the result.
It is one sin to need salvation; it is another to reject it!
You see something of this in Psalm 50:14ff., where we read this:
" 'Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.'
"But to the wicked God says:
'What right have you to declare My statutes,
Or take My covenant in your mouth,
Seeing you hate instruction
And cast My words behind you?
'When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
And have been a partaker with adulterers.
You give your mouth to evil,
And your tongue frames deceit.
'You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother’s son.
These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes.'
'Now consider this, you who forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces,
And there be none to deliver:
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God.' "
Here is shown the divine detestation of hypocritical misuse of religion as a mere dressing room, while the actualities of life are treated ... somewhat differently! for hypocrisy in short. There is a VITAL DYNAMIC from the Lord, which is irresistible when He presses in judgment if necessary, but glorious when He finds His people and they are sanctified in His mercy. In all this, this moves in its own way, at its own pace, being personal and investigative, and above all knowledgeable and sure.
In the last stanza, we find a general warning, allied to Proverbs 1. God is very active, and even when there seem to be recessive periods, they have grounds, reasons and phases, settings for the end and the middle, for the graduation and the gradation to the consequences. This world is not the final judgment seat, but it has many of its elements.
In the first stanza cited from Psalm 50 above, we find advice for those who fear, love and trust God. This relates to relationship: in other word, this is in the domain of felicitous inter-personal relationship which, as for any child, involves an awareness of what the father HAS done, and how to approach him whose offspring you are. It is filled with mercy and availability, God being not unaware of all things from the beginning, and thus able to know the end from the beginning, and even to declare it with that majestic might which is so delicious (Isaiah 46:10 cf. 41:21-42:1, 44:24-45:12).
This He did with Cyrus, long before the need for deliverance arose, and with Josiah, long before judgment arrived on the idolatries concerned at that time (cf. I Kings 13:2, Isaiah 28-45:4). He named them before birth, and He was careful to name Cyrus with the additive, that he would be used by God for deliverance for Israel, EVEN THOUGH he would personally not know God! Here is a further dimension of divine direction, and Cyrus indeed showed just that willingness on the one hand, and degree of ignorance of the deity, on the other, when he actually came into being on this earth!
It is interesting, in parallel to this, to read in Ussher's Annals of the World, that Alexander the Great was shown his own place in Daniel's prophecy, and was most impressed (cf. Daniel 8:5ff., and His Wounds Opened Eternity Ch. 4, at Triumph in One). Cyrus likewise, then, was long preceded by his naming as the deliverer to come when Israel needed release from Babylon. It was he who would do it from the new empire which was to be that of the Medes (Isaiah 13:17) and Persians (Daniel 8:20), overthrowers of Babylon, which formerly had been the crusher of Jerusalem, and hence the site to which many a Jew was taken. Thus it was from Babylon centrally that the few, the illustrious few in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, returned. Returned ? by courtesy of Cyrus, as also seen archeologically in the so-called Cyrus cylinder.
With all these testimonies, prophecies, events and eventuations, God has in different ways made His thoughts known: by direction, and indirection, by protection (Isaiah 37:21ff.), and by removal of defence (Isaiah 22:5-8)*2, by ruin of grandeur and by sustaining the weak, by bringing from hopelessness, triumph, and to triumphalism its pittance. In multiple dimensions and in singularity of quality, He has acted, and will act till this stage work is over, and the final assessment is handed out. It is in the highest degree a marvel, but in another sense an illustration of the justice of God, that in preserving such a world as this at all, and you see in the above scriptural quotations, just how it is assessed in no few manners.
Crucially, He has also instituted the remedy for sin, the outage for defiance, the salve for rebellion, the door for entry to His kingdom (John 10:9), so that it is the denial of this magnificent provision, rather than the failure to be perfect, or anything remotely like it, which is the criterion of judgment (John 3:19).
On the other side, as you see in John 5:24, it is He Himself who is the criterion of the removal of the same for ever (John 10:27-28). We were created freely with neither consultation nor contribution (Isaiah 40:13-14). We are saved with no less liberality! Man in his tempestuous and tortuous rebelliousness tends in vast millions of the sadly deluded, to seek now to pay for what is free of fee (despite the liberality in Isaiah 55:1ff.! and in Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:1-12), just as he sought before, to be accepted in paying his way to God, from the very days of Cain (cf. His Wounds are Entrance to Eternity Ch. 4).
There comes a time when this sally of silliness into salvation becomes a finale to life (cf. Hebrews 6:1-6, 10:26ff., Isaiah 57:15, John 3:19,36).
In Hosea 7:11ff., you see the grief, resolution and application of judgment to Israel which the Lord pursues when having long sought them, He finds their way so wholly contrary with contrariness that the path must end, at least for the time, abruptly. If you do not put water in your car radiator, there comes a time when on a hot day, there is a result. How much more merciful was the Lord who for so long with so many means and in so many ways sought restoration for a wandering people, with so many appeals even towards the end (cf. Jeremiah 17), brought at last the inescapable truth to light in a day of trouble. Even at that, the South was restored after the predicted 70 year exile (cf. Jeremiah 25, Daniel 9).
"The arrogance of Israel bears witness against him;
yet they do not return to the LORD, their God,
nor seek him, for all that.
"Ephraim is like a dove,
silly and senseless;
They call upon Egypt,
they go to Assyria.
"Even as they go I will spread my net around them,
like birds in the air I will bring them down.
In an instant I will send them captive from their land.
"Woe to them, they have strayed from me!
Ruin to them, they have sinned against me!
Though I wished to redeem them,
they spoke lies against me.
"They have not cried to me from their hearts
when they wailed upon their beds;
For wheat and wine they lacerated themselves,
while they rebelled against me.
"Though I trained and strengthened their arms,
yet they devised evil against me.
They have again become useless,
like a treacherous bow."
(Hosea 7:10ff., from the New American Bible).
To gain a more complete perspective, we need even to go to the beginning of this chapter 7 in Hosea, to see the outgoing desire of the Lord to HEAL THEM, and that He WOULD like to heal them, but they spurn His ointments and refuse His remedy.
"When I would bring about the restoration of my people,
when I would heal Israel,
The guilt of Ephraim stands out,
the wickedness of Samaria;
They practice falsehood,
thieves break in, bandits plunder abroad.
Yet they do not remind themselves
that I remember all their wickedness.
Even now their crimes surround them,
present to my sight."
You see here, for this theocratic State, formally committed to the Lord, the inveteracy, the obduracy, the inexorability of their exit from the reality of the Lord. If you refuse air, breathing becomes difficult, for your lungs are made for it. Even if you are not pledged to use it, your lungs are still such. Morality is not relative, since we are not; God is not relative, since His absolute existence is the logical pre-condition to that of anything else, for not fairies and not airies, not air-borne diseases of the mind but care-formed power of the Maker made the made things. To be unmade is a desire not grantable; to be remade, reborn into the presence of God by His own power, this is the only option. Inveteracy of rejection does nothing for the lungs. Hatred of goodness and love does nothing for the spirit of man, the reality of his inter-relationships or the livability of his world.
There is indeed a 'silly dove' syndrome, and it is often practised with a macho which is so absurd that one could but weep, if there were not a remedy, realistic, regenerative, restorative, redeeming, ready for repentance, at hand and costly, though not for the wanderer, but for Christ. As to that, it is paid already, sufficient for all. The wearying world is without excuse. Nor should it seek any. Its people need to seek not explanatory expiations by their wits, but vicarious victory through the Saviour whose works are unique, whose wonders are unsurpassable, whose attestation is unbreakable and whose awakening is the glory of life.
It is only in such an unguent to irritation, such a restoration to the outcast and such a potency for pollution that one can well speak, for the woes of man grievously without God are mounting to the skies, and he does not know it, he does not realise that his wilfulness is his woe, and his salvation has been waiting these millenia, complete and full.
In the midst of all this, the Lord works.
THE MATTER OF COMPOSITION, CONTOUR AND OUTCOME
In fact, man's personal life, like history's own vast concourse of events, is made to speak.
There is, with this, a far more intimate speech (cf. Jeremiah 17:7-8,14-16, 15:10-19). If history is conceived as the topography, this then, the direct biblical communication, formally divine, is the space-perspective! From this one sees the very hills themselves, instead of discerning them merely as looming upward.
Moreover, within this communicative grace of God, there is the personal tuition of the Lord.
As the Messiah expresses it, in trinitarian beauty, seen predictively in Isaiah 50:
"He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear,"
Again in II Chronicles 36, you see the divine directives deposited:
"The Lord God of their fathers sent to them, by His messengers,
Arising early and sending them."
There were things to say, and He said them. They were intimate, and in the case of the prophets, they were objective propositional revelation including judgment, its time or place or nature or some combination. It included appeals (Jeremiah 17:19ff.), and exhortations (Isaiah 1:18, 55:1ff.).
So is there meaning readily placed, likewise an aural message, enshrined in warning, exhortation, solicitation, and in judgment.
Indeed, at the purely personal and individual level, there is on offer power for directed performance, for His servants, while on the other hand, spiritual drought for negligent hypocrisy, time for securing of whatever the soul desires in fatuous irrelevance, that all things in all ways eventually show themselves up; and what is left over, that is for judgment (Revelation 6:10-11). Indeed, the personal flavour of this is paramount, and so we look at this text:
"When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
"And they cried with a loud voice, saying,
'How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood
on those who dwell on the earth?'
"Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was told them
that they should rest a little while longer,
until both the number of their fellow servants
and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed."
There is order, there are dimensions, there are times, there is a composite series, there is a composition, there is a disposition of events, there is a discretionary involvement and there is an outcome at the last. There is objective and formal revelation which is the road, the highway, and there is personal intimation which is the air above it, for His promises for wisdom, power, grace, mercy and thrust into His own good pleasure abound on all sides in the objective revelation, and His intimacies within this guide as one guides a horse, leaning now this way, now that, even moving the eyes so that the set of one's frame on the back of the horse, at speed as the wind flows like balm against the cheeks, indicates subtly to the galloper, what is the next slight adjustment required.
Such a unity of purpose is truly delightful, and if it is so with a horse and its rider, how much more with one's Creator, for the Christian now also with the Redeemer who in love all but inexpressible in magnitude and tenderness has made such a unity with His own will and ways that it is to soar, as Paul's words suggest, into heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6, cf. Psalm 32:8).
If the positive composition of mind and heart with the will of God is so wonderful, because He is so, as a simple matter of fact, then the loss or denial of such a vital collaboration becomes a thing most mean, unseemly and vacuous.
Small wonder then, to take a negative case, if the fountain pen, refusing in rebellion to be a writing instrument, were in time to find a certain nihilism of soul if it had one! Man does have one, and so does the time come for the outcome. It is fitting, and it fits... the outcome is fitting because the desire is not!
The loss of what is fitting becomes the occasion for the eventual expression of that loss in a fitting way. Does not what is not well fitting lead to clumsiness ? and is not this poor whirling world an occasion for grief, since it seeks what is unlovely, basely contrives for reductionist irrationalities (cf. Spiritual Refreshings Ch.13, SMR Ch. 4 Extension), and pursues them till it despises life to the point that it wallows in blood from this cause and that, while treachery and pretence mingle with pride and pretension, as if to try the very heavens.
You see just this particularly painful aspect in Proverbs 1, where therefore they will "eat the fruit of their own devices".
What could be worse than 'achieving' in foolish industry, exactly what you valued, but this in its duly and properly devalued reality! What a comment! When man refuses God he is asking for every kind of humiliation and degradation; and if he does not at once gain this, it is not because justice is severe, but because mercy is strong! God in fact is on record that it is so that the world may hear, for He does not quite yet wind things up yet, desiring that none should perish, but rather that "all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
Incidentally, when He is talking here of a thousand years as a day, it is not to declare that a carefully structured account of a chronological kind can be slashed at will, but that in the current environment of terms it is so. What is that environment in this case ? It is this, HOW LONG BEFORE JUDGMENT DAY ? There is a certain delay which the Lord institutes, lest untimely wrath preclude the most beautiful repentance or the most excellent product that patience might have achieved. It is fascinating, then, that this day for judgment has already taken a couple of 'days' in the format of this context, namely 2000 years.
It was never envisaged as being immediate, nor yet too long! The term 'day' covers both aspects, how it is TO THE LORD (and that is HIS affair, unlike the way it is expressed FOR US, when it communicates what we are to understand, as in all good writing): for how we are to interpret this delay, in this context, is clear, so that an explained usage of 'day' is provided for this purpose.
In this case of II Peter 3:9, it is express that this is how it is to the Lord, but how we are to understand it is as it is, in terms of thousands of years, as it has been. To Him, AS IF but a day; to us AS THOUSANDS OF YEARS. He instructs us so that, as with His normal clarity to those who seek, it is impossible to misunderstand without misalliance from His word. How then a day is to be understood depends on the context, whether enlarging the concept in terms of divine patience, and readiness to suffer, or reducing it to defined norms in the area of chronological exactitude and itemisable constrict ion.
WHY, however, does it so seem to Him ? it is because of the greatness of His power, majesty and knowledge, time itself a creation of His (Romans 8:36ff.). WHY is it so much prolonged as this context makes it clear is the fact for us in our time frame ? It is because of a mercy which longs for the lost, just as in Genesis it was with a crispness of eternal wisdom and power which just as it occurred, instituted our very terms of normal living, days, nights, actions, deeds.
But as to the opposite and apposite work of patience with the wayward will of man made in His own image, WHY does it stop at all ? Do we not see this in the Hosea reference above ? There is a time when the elastic is at full stretch, when evils all but swallow up a fallen civilisation (as occurred similarly for the Amorites, whom God spared for yet 400 more years, as He told Abraham, before He would have Israel enter that land in judgment, till their cup of the wickedness of those in it, was full - Genesis 15:13ff.). There is a time to act, when pollution in its pride becomes a gnarl in life, broken and dry, and on the other end is mercy, live-giving, lively and abundant. "Abundantly pardon" is the beautiful phase and phrase as found in Isaiah 55:7.
In this, there is this grand mercy, that there IS a way which God desires for man, and He HAS shown to the entire world in vast actions and prophetic words for millenia, what that is.
He cares. So He acts. He wrought and brought to Calvary His own only-begotten Son; but the world winks, and continues its way, sometimes abrasively rejecting, sometimes subtly changing, or even erecting an entire religious system by twisting the very base, even turning for some the sacrifice into edible bread, though Christ cried that His words were spirit and life, and challenged them to realise that so far from such things, His work required Him to return to heaven! (John 6:62 - cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H). If there is a way of doing it wrong, it seems that man will find it; but as there is a way of restoration, God has shown it. Granted this grant is rejected, what then follows in history ? God's ways are many, but the result comes.
Thus, if in the very face of His love and provision of salvation for man, there is a pertinacious precocity of folly, in time it may be rewarded, perhaps in stages as in the case of the Israelities passing through the desert, desiring meat with such vehemence that they were both ironic and sardonic in speaking to their leader, yes and spoke as if God had done nothing rather than achieving for them a massive deliverance from perhaps the world's most powerful empire of that day. There in Egypt, before Moses' action, they had been grinding and baking as slaves, cheap labour and degradation, the gift of Egypt, for them. How often they complained in their compliance to the way shown through Moses, the way out and on; and just how grievously they refused in the end even to enter the promised land when they at first came to it (Numbers 14). But let us return to the journey to it, and their mounting complaints, even hostility.
On the way, God acted with much patience, and bypassed a number of provocations before He brought them meat, quail in quantities almost unimaginable, so that they gathered it in vast amounts, but before it came to be eaten, still in their mouths, before chewed, it embroiled them in what became deadly plague. There can indeed be irony, and you see it at a far more profound level in Psalm 2, where God mocks their mockery as He resurrects His Son, as seen likewise in Psalm 16.
All these ingredients in the terrain of history, in its topographic contours, they are far from mere desire. Justice and judgment, discretion and pity, compassion and patience, vast plans and gracious deeds abound. Nevertheless, through the foreknowledge of omniscience and the assurance of predestination, there are wrought things intricate and yet apparent, in many measures, as in fine needlework by the fingers of a skilled weaver, whose patterns speak for her.
What then ? Neither does wilfulness defile truth, nor is the lure of folly dimmed to the spiritually darkened, but in a myriad of ways,
here in irony, here in tenderness, here in the temporary reward of folly,
as base for its final emptiness, like a black jewel in a white setting;
here in rescues extraordinary, marvels of Red Sea crossing type,
there in dumpings of pride, exposures of folly, intimations of vanity,
through the power of predestinative wisdom with the dynamic of everlasting vitality;
by the outpourings of His Spirit (Proverbs 1: 23),
the regeneration of His people that they might be His indeed (John 3);
for the call of sincerity He does not despise (Psalm 145:17ff.);
just as on the other side,
He appoints results for the degeneration of careless societies.
The flavour of the last is seen well in Zephaniah 2, where words cover the case for Moab and Ammon, before settling on the ferociously evil city of the Assyrians, without comfort.
" 'Therefore, as I live,'
Says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,
'Surely Moab shall be like Sodom,
And the people of Ammon like Gomorrah—
Overrun with weeds and saltpits,
And a perpetual desolation.
'The residue of My people shall plunder them,
And the remnant of My people shall possess them.
'This they shall have for their pride,
Because they have reproached and made arrogant threats
Against the people of the Lord of hosts.
'The Lord will be awesome to them,
For He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth;
People shall worship Him,
Each one from his place,
Indeed all the shores of the nations.
'You Ethiopians also,
You shall be slain by My sword.'
"And He will stretch out His hand against the north,
And make Nineveh a desolation,
As dry as the wilderness.
"The herds shall lie down in her midst,
Every beast of the nation.
Both the pelican and the bittern
Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars;
Their voice shall sing in the windows;
Desolation shall be at the threshold;
For He will lay bare the cedar work.
"This is the rejoicing city
That dwelt securely,
That said in her heart,
'I am it, and there is none besides me.'
How has she become a desolation,
A place for beasts to lie down!
Everyone who passes by her
Shall hiss and shake his fist."
This last segment above, we see in Zephaniah 2:15, and it speaks of Nineveh. How amply was this fulfilled, for the very city was LOST! till generations later it was found, a heap in the desert precisely. Imagine if this had been said of Moscow - and then happened, the very site lost in desert for generations! So does God act in His own time. As He declares and then does it, often with what appears something near incredible patience, He enunciates principles and teaches mankind; but who listens ? There are some, but the engines of mortality over-heat, and the imaginations of politics rush, till there is only judgment left.
Thus pride, arrogance, assuming sovereignty over God's people, these are things not desired. It was so with Israel and its continuation is not appealing, nor is it without fruit carefully predicted as in Zechariah 12, where already the first instalments of the action have happened in the major triumphs of Israel 1948-1990, this way and that, just as the tensions remain, since Israel has herself not yet returned nationally to the Lord, so that suffering continues as the accompaniment to obduracy.
Thus here in Zephaniah you see the outworking of principle, atmosphere, and spirit relevant to Jerusalem, to those who afflicted her, to godlessness in general, in phases and stages, in small scale as on vast horizons.
This prophet gives us a great feast in this area of overview. Thus in Ch. 3, you see detailing of the provocation ethically, socially, financially of the Jew in Israel, and fancy the evocative designation:
"Her judges are evening wolves, that leave not a bone till morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people, her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law"
- from Zephaniah 3:3-4.
We see the various outcomes, some near, some far, in a way intricate, just and yet merciful, all precisely foretold.
Before the review of Zephaniah 3:6, reminding
Israel that "I have cut off nations", there comes
the deft indication of the fact that HE for His part is continually available
with judgment for those who seek it, righteous ways and sound paths still in
view for many:
"The LORD is righteous in her midst,
He will do not unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light:
He never fails,
But the unjust knows no shame."
for which they await His time.
Their own recoilless renegacy continued to the point that repentance seemed far away:
"Despite everything for which I punished her," she continued unpurged, for "they rose early and corrupted all their deeds."
The Lord then proceeds, as seen in Zephaniah 3, to unveil the terminal conflicts of the Age, leading to the coming of the Messiah in power, with the call to a meek and lowly people who "will speak no lies", as in Micah 7:15ff., Isaiah 24, 2. NO FLESH will glory in His presence on that day, Isaiah 2 declares.
God gathers up and He gathers in, He purges and He calls, and while delivering a people, He also seeks their deliverance from the enemy within, that is pride of life and destitution of faith, until the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. This wrought, the earth departs ... As to His salvation, it did not cost the earth, but far more than this, so that when the earth goes, an ageing thing (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35), what is most valued remains (Revelation 20:11ff.).
Through all of this, the Lord does not fail to hear the cry of faith which He has foreknown (Psalm 145:17ff., Acts 2:21), even the last verse noted (Acts 2:21) having been foretold thousands of years before its citation by Peter, centuries before Pentecost, by Joel.
As to His servants, however theirs is a role, and in John 16:2 we see that it is so arranged that some will kill them, imagining that in so doing, they are doing GOD a service! So do spiritual things continue out of vogue, but vital in intensity and significance, in meaning and in consequence. Love does not fear to seek for faith, that some might be delivered, and this brings the contemporary expression of the love that provided the Saviour nearer, as Paul puts it in Colossians 1:24. While Christ paid all (Colossians 2:14, Galatians 3:1-13, Hebrews 9:12ff.), adequate for all, applicable to many receiving Him (I John 2:1-2, 'us' in Isaiah 53:1-6), yet there is a demonstration which does not fail to impress and impact on the watching world, when His present-day servants suffer for His sake, hence focussing the continuing reality of His sacrifice and of the love which was behind it.
While Christians suffer, some who would afflict them even use the name of Christ, just as, after all, some who sought to kill Christ used the name of God AS THEY DID IT! This is as it was to be, with false prophets and false christs abounding in a treacherous world (II Peter 2:1ff., Matthew 24:24), as part of its syndrome, so well paralleled in ancient Israel that none could well have difficulty understanding the syndrome! If you cannot beat them from outside, try rotting them from within! It is an old ploy. But it does not work for the single, simple and good reason that God has all power, and while it may seem weak to some as people suffer for Him, in His love this is testimony to truth, its fertility is great.
You see something of the purity of its tenor in Revelation 12:11:
"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
'Now have salvation and power come,
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.
"They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
love for life did not deter them from death.
"Therefore, rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them.
But woe to you, earth and sea,
for the Devil has come down to you in great fury,
for he knows he has but a short time."
As to the provocation, the treachery, it is of long standing! They did this concerning Christ, presumably, killing to be helpful to God, at least in some cases, and of course, in their burning of John Huss during the proto-Reformation, that time of deformation and deprivation, when to know God became a problem to those who worshipped bread: for on that very idolatry (SMR pp. 1088Bff.), they made a ground of murder for the non-conformists! Carried out in violence, it showed the contrariety to the Cross, which as to violence, accepted it but did not promote it! (cf. John 18:36). It became a prototype for the efforts of Communism to crush with violence, and how Stalin and Mao wallowed in blood. Christ prefers the truth to the weapons of carnal power, repentance to the irrationality of special pleading and rationalisations, mercy to judgment, and does not place the irrelevant, the sword, where the reality if the heart.
In all these things there is a divine oversight, as the annals mount, the books compound and the liberation from this scenario comes near, at Christ's return, when the message, however painfully, is finished in its earthly onset, and many being reaped, the grain is kept with Him where it belongs (cf. Matthew 13:24ff.).
It is part of the irony of affairs that those who killed Christ did not receive Him, that those who say they did receive Him, for centuries killed those who in fact did, as if religion could only rebel, and Christianity in the case and face of believers, must suffer from its evil protagonists, who often in fact are antagonists, just as did Christ at the hands of the High Priest. In this way, all subterfuge and counterfeit has ample time to show its fangs, and all philosophy its tangs. Truth continues fearless with unction, while religion in many of its popular fantasies, continues to function as the world desires, in ways for which it pays, first with coin, then with judgment. The Flood judgment was a prelude. The coming one, as Peter points out, is fire, an ultimate purgative (II Peter 3).
Meanwhile the testimony of truth (Revelation 12:10) and the cost of mercy through His faithful servants is woven into that grand design, as lights shining through it, as day through the departing shades of might when dawn first awakens.
Beyond the myriadfold ways of history, there lies the judgment that addresses the end, just as opportunity (Genesis 3) marked the beginning. It is well that mercy smiles in the face of judgment (James 2:13), and divine power keeps what is committed to Him, to the world's only Saviour, safe against that day (II Timothy 1:12, 4:17-18).
The topography of history is often more like a litany of a lost assembly, moving downhill; but the path of the righteous, the children of God is one that winds upward to the light ("the way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath" - Proverbs 15:24).
As Proverbs 4:18 has it: "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more into the perfect day."
There is in such scriptures as these, a sense of all but unlimited richness of development. It is like someone reviewing in his mind some scope and scenario lovingly and yet with assurance, going over the elements without effort, but with application in view. It is this which is just one of the emblems of divine majesty, when human history itself is the target! Its divine overview is as when one surveys the mountains from afar, being intimately acquainted, and sees this or that feature without difficulty. Predestination is merely an element, foreknowledge a basis, and into it all, love comes as Spring to a desperate Winter.
You see something of this serene and sovereign coverage in the Malachi references shortly after the place where this endnote occurs in the text.
In Isaiah 29-32 you have that same aura of authenticity. Let us pursue it as it there is exhibited.
Thus you see Jerusalem as if a comrade well-known, but a treacherous one for all that. Thus one finds its levelling with the ground, and the muted voice, no longer of pride, coming as if from some earth-bound medium (29:4).
The sensation of the devastation will border on the incredible, for had not the Lord done so much for so long to deliver them, in miracles, marvels, proclamations, overthrow of nations! but they would not hear, would not be thankful, would insist on their idols, their social horrors and their moral messes to the uttermost point.
So the end comes - but it is but for a time, in this Old Testament case, a good warning to the world of Gentiles now, for whom the case is that of greater ultimacy, for the Christ is now not to come for crucifixion but for rule (Isaiah 32).
In the meantime, God exposes the subtle interface of rebellion and false righteousness which is precisely what makes the nation at this point a needful target. You go to the learned and ask, What is in the book (of the Lord) ? They do not know, for they have some learned waffle, reminding one of some of the extravaganzas of old-style dispensationalism, by which with ostensible learning but actual turning away, they distance the word of the Lord: IT IS SEALED they say (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 3).
But then again, they go to those not so 'learned', perhaps they have some innocency of understanding which will allow them to speak the obvious: not so! We are not learned! they interpose. NO ONE is willing to take it as it comes, and the word of God is suppressed either by tradition and some kind of egregious eclecticism, or by leaving the matter to those who have 'learning', who being unwilling, leave the field with ZERO resultant when it comes to applying the word of God now to what it concerns. It is like those who having a handbook for their car, throw it aside, saying, Oh I never know what is in that! But it is there... it is there!
Disgusted with this satirically exposed national turning away from God (Isaiah 29:11-13), He denounces this interplay of irresponsibility.
"Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord!"
He declares, indicating that
"this people draw near with their mouths, and honour Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear towards Me is taught by the commandments of men" (29:13).
This could not be said of the Gentiles generically NOW, but it MIGHT indeed apply to many of those 'churched' and if at church yet leaving the word of God in the lurch (cf. News 121, 122, SMR pp. 686ff., 700ff., 1032ff. and Things Old and New Chs. 9, 10 with Epilogue), and Appendix (touching sects, politics and philosophies, and their tedious, torturous tapestries). There is no small proportion of ‘churches’ involved in this insidious social substitute for spiritual religion founded on the handbook of the Almighty!
Moreover, there is no less a peril for ultimacy of judgment in the escape-minded rushing to fantasy which has invaded the culture and all but collapsed rationality in the minds even of many who ostensibly follow it (cf. Secular Myths and Sacred Truth, TMR Ch. 1, Earth Spasm, Conscience Chasm...).
The text of Isaiah 29 moves on to the substantial power and reality to be shown in the day of the Messiah, a continual area of focus in Isaiah (the 'evangelical prophet' as Luther rightly has it), in 29:17ff., where in His rule the options will not include the outrageous outage and the insidious charm, but will deal in truth. To that day, Isaiah duly comes in Isaiah 32, just as he focussed its substance in 28:16 where the rock to come is none other than the Lord as man, to be seen in similar power in Isaiah 35, and given vast exposures in Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 40:10ff., 42, 49, and 50-56.
In these chapters, the fact is seen that this peace and joy on earth (9:7) is not obtained by mere impact, but by suffering, agony and anguish on the part of the sinless and sacrificed Saviour, where love pays the bill of silliness, and meets the cost of sin - for those who receive it (Isaiah 55:1-6, 53:1,10). THESE are the 'healed' just as their sins are seen laid on Him (Isaiah 53:3-6). It is these and no others who are find His peace in that day. It is as in Psalm 49:7,15, an impossible task for man to pay, but God pays Himself (cf. Hosea 13:14, with which see the questing love of Hosea 11:8!).
“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
“ I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man,
The Holy One in your midst
And I will not come with terror …”
He assuredly came with meekness to save (cf. Zechariah 9:9ff.), and He has already gathered the lambs in his bosom (Isaiah 40:10), in His first coming, and to those who look for Him of whatever race, He will come with comfort on His return (cf. I Thessalonians 4). It is not without a love which is powerful beyond all material things that He acts, but it is not without truth that He lives!
In Isaiah 30, meanwhile, having made this double exposure of the problem and its solution, to be picked up later as we have just seen, just as it was earlier in Isaiah, we see the indictment for a false trust in the very empire of yore, Egypt. This had become such an oppressor of Israel that only the unmitigated power and purpose of God could and did deliver them in the Exodus. Trust in them! Is it impossible for Israel to see! so is the theme in Isaiah 30.
This leads to 30:8ff., where the scribe is ordered to write it in a book "that this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the LORD." It is these 'children', as in Matthew 23:37, whom God invited to come, but in their day and their generation at His advent, they would not! HE WOULD ... THEY WOULD NOT! the tide and tidings of the ages, though there are SOME who come!
In the midst of these considerations, the Lord shows His continuing compassion, like a physician talking to a heavy smoker, whose lungs are already riddled, and who refuses both operation and to stop.
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and confidence shall be your strength,"
but you would not."
They would ride on horses to escape and develop themselves; if so, then those who follow them to achieve their deserved ruin, among the nations, will also be swift. Reality has no exit.
Nevertheless, Isaiah lifts his eyes (30:27) to the day when the Lord deals with those who pick the follies of Israel, as if God had no relationship with them because of their rebellion. He will repay, and He will deliver when the time comes, and in phase 1, it began to come in 1948 when Israel returned to its land, in phase 2, when its victories precisely fulfilled Zechariah 12, just as phase 3 will see the rebuff of the invaders and the exposure of the greedy, WHEN Israel as a nation acknowledging its offence and grieving in heart, seeks pardon (Zechariah 12:10).
In Isaiah 31, the enormity of the diplomatic efforts to get help from Egypt is exposed and underlined, and the nature of this sort of escapism is exposed for ever:
"Now the Egyptians are men and not God,
and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When the LORD stretches out His hand,
Both he who helps will fall,
And he who is helped will fall down:
They all will perish together."
Nevertheless, there is a deliverance coming for Judah, as Hezekiah, in his faith found, before that disaster which was reserved for the later day of Babylon (as forecast in Isaiah 13). God is patient and redeems with delight as the day comes; but judges without failing when the need, past all opportunities, at last is found.
The light lifts from under the cloud and the Lord appeals to them, with this coming deliverance in mind,
"Return to Him against whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted, for in that day every man shall throw away his idols ... " - Isaiah 31:6.
It is then in Isaiah 32 that the Messiah in his power and regality is introduced, as in Isaiah 11!
That there was to come suffering first is manifest even in Isaiah 52:12ff., and the shocking contrast between the power and peace of His realm and reign and the mutilation which had to precede it, is there made apparent. Foolish ones and slow of heart, said Christ to some of His disciples (Luke 24:26). Why was this said ? It was because they were "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and then to enter into His glory!"
There is only one thing which obscures such matters. Its name ? unbelief. Its result ? it jars with the power of God who does ALL that He says. Judgment is not for mere sin, but for the more ultimate category of rejecting relief (John 3:19).
Here you see the divine repudiation of the industrious and solemn works of defence which were being constructed. Why was this ? Was it because they were ill-made ? No, it was instead because "you did not look to its Maker, nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it long ago." In that day, we learn, "the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth, but instead, joy and gladness..."
Thus, history has many features, like a temple. One is the work done by God in creation and in redemption, one is the opportunity lost, one is the judgment called for by false priorities, and one is the compassion shown while the contempt was displayed by the unwilling, whose minds were more on their navies, navels and necessities, than on the power which made them. One is the reception of release and the liberation of love in the Cross of Christ. One is the testimony that follows and the vast concourse of wonders which God has wrought over these millenia by His saints.
All these things are functions in the outcomes, and it is all personally decided by the Lord. While His compassions may be ardent, yet in the end, when life is so mocked as it is now being mocked with 'same sex marriages' in some places, and the like, with exclusion of criticisms a growing additive, so that morals are not merely ditched but asked to hitch a ride elsewhere in the very utterance, there can come judgment even on this whole earth. Indeed it is predestinatively marked already (cf. II Peter 3).
Thus you read in Ezekiel 14:18ff.:
"Though these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, says the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
"For thus says the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?
"Yet, behold, there will be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they will come forth to you, and you will see their way and their doings: and you will be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought on Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. And they shall comfort you, when you see their ways and their doings: and you will know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, says the Lord GOD."
How vigorous it is, for what is done is NOT WITHOUT CAUSE, though the causal levels are numerous, subtle, sometimes gross! How wonderful was the vigour of Christ, who finished His own work, declaring, how anguished, pressed He was till it was done, assigning this blessed release as He departed: "It is finished!" (Luke 12:50, John 19:30).
"But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how pressed and confined I am till it is accomplished!"
In this rendering, one seeks to cover the phases of meaning in the verb, and the old 'straitened' of the AV being no longer a contemporary usage of speech, this seems the best coverage.
The fact that "it is finished!" now, means that it is freely to be begun until He comes! Freedom remains the wonder of the Age, in the presence of love, truth and mercy, not as some abstraction, but in the light of the Cross where its concourse met justice, and where judgment being dispensed to Christ, it was dispelled for those who find in God their resting place, and in grace their access to goodness.
To be a child of light in dark places is a mercy incommensurable with any grief this world can impose, and a privilege, for is not life then a blessing in, for and from that light which is Christ Jesus ? and what else would one desire! (John 8:12, 9:5, Philippians 27-29, 2:15, Romans 10:1ff.).