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I LOVE THE UPLANDS, and the RIVERS in the VALLEY
Isaiah 60-66 flowing: at rest, and mobile alike
The lively lavishness of the word of God
In the work, With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength, Ch. 6, we included words on Isaiah 60 (these references, both relevant, to pp. 157 and 137) and proceeded to Isaiah 66.
Today, we plan first to extend the sequence Isaiah 60-62, in a little more detail, in terms of developments as these chapters move onward to exuberance of Isaiah 63, where the judgment is seen in its drastic proportions for the earth, as foreshadowed in Isaiah 24, just as it is later seen in more consummate form, in the very presence of mercy and deliverance for some, in Isaiah 59 and 66.
However, in this phase of the prophecy of Isaiah, there is a marvellous medley. Following the vast interview with the documents of salvation in Chs.45-55, the exhortation to faith in Chs. 56-57, to righteousness in 58, and to view the end in the light of the flash floods of sin in 59, yes the documentation of ruin, and at last even for Israel, redemption at the end of that chapter, there is a a further onrush of revelation. Now arrive a series of vigorous depictions of the wonder and the glory which God will provide at the end of this pilgrimage for His people, and in the Messiah for His own of whatever race, followed by a deposition of manifold developments, arrest by storm, glistening with fresh cleaning as from rain, and lapsing as vision irradiates while many hearts fail.
For some peace refreshes; for others, keen on distrust of the Lord, devastation arrives in this predictive timescape, and the contemptuous toward God is at last shown contemptible. So rich in scope, moving in depth, uniform in treatment, as is all of Isaiah, is this sheer spectacle of divine dealings with man, divine exhortation and divine provision, that it is important both to appreciate its wonder and absorb its power, while following its lightning like movements.
These at times quieten to the peaceable delight of the knowledge of the Lord personally, and of what is to come when the Lord returns. So did we have, earlier in Isaiah, in Chs. 24-31 the medley of rebukes, exhortations, blessings available and pre-crucifixion intimations of the Messiah, leading to the Messiah in 32, and the vision of His kingdom in 33; or in 7-11, the mixing of the mess of unfaithfulness of Israel on the one hand, and the marvel of coming kindness on the other, in multiple revelations of the power of the Messiah, His peace and His humiliation (as in Ch. 22), exposed further in 50,52-53. Now, after those things, to our current interest, in perfect parallel does Isaiah move. With the light of life shining brightly from the Lord in the revealed word he is given to utter in His name. he moves onward to our present portion, in Chs. 60-66.
Meanwhile, consider the sheer energy and imagination, depth and height of this last passage. It is like coming up from a valley to the uplands, the sun sparkling with beneficent radiance in the clear air, while using crampons here, fast strides there, one surveys scenes not only spectacular, but intimate as well. Clearly does the author remember, when living in Denver, Colorado, driving to Boulder, and ascending to the 10,000 ft. or so heights. Be careful! warned the sign, of fast changing weather.
Over the brow of the heights, and to the edge of things, one could stride, and there in a peace of mountainous quiescence lay a valley in which mountains, snow-capped, appeared as relatively junior, below, with perhaps a lake here or there. Thus the altitudinous eyrie brought a sense of fast survey of the alpine topography. The eye could rove, though the feet were still.
Here in Isaiah, it is quite similar, but the scenery is spiritual; but look, spiritual does not mean excluded from the earth! It is ABOVE the earth, but it can invest it, invade it and bless it. It is a book, and the Author can treat His work as He will!
Jottings Ch. 2, The Pitter-Patter
of Prophetic Feet
Ch. 8, Light of Dawn Ch. 1, Lord of Life Ch. 7; see also SMR pp. 520-532).
60-62 THE SENSE OF MOBILITY,
REQUIRING AGILITY, BUT PERCEIVED IN PEACE
Our present purpose, then, is not to repeat what is found in the area of the work With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 6, cited in the first paragraph, above. Rather, it is to extend it; and thus, to be sure, a survey of that part of that Ch. 6 to which the link above will take you, would be a good prelude to what now follows.
Isaiah 60 is frankly a Zionist mode of clothing a vision of salvation, the city having walls that are 'salvation' (60:18), and gates that are 'praise'. You enter with praise to the Saviour and continue within, guarded by His salvation.
It is of course far more. Thus there we see people flying like doves to their roost (Isaiah 60:8), BACK HOME to Israel, in a display of divine favour separating the current condition from the time of their outage, as by a crevasse:
in My wrath I struck you,
But in My favour I have had mercy on you" - 60:10.
you have been forsaken and hated,
So that no one went through you
I will make you an eternal excellence."
It is quite apparent that the forsaking is not a divine exclusion only, but a human one. Far is this indeed from the plight of this world, which knows its friends, elevates and honours them with its seedy substitutes for spirituality. The cast is the same: ISRAEL the nation, the rejected; but now as a filtrate, it comes to be different with a new name (Isaiah 62), and a New Covenant (Isaiah 65:13-15, Jeremiah 31:31 cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 1), one of eternal dimensions (60:15), that do not pass away (unlike the Old Covenant, rendered obsolete in FULFILMENT mode, in the New Covenant - Jeremiah 3:16, Matthew 5:17-20). As we read further into the chapter, we move from this new covenant to the eternity which stretches like unending terrain, before its precise and crisp beauties.
To salvation in Christ we move in Isaiah 61, and to the Gospel. Whether to be refused by the nation of Israel (as in fact it was, as forecast in Isaiah 49:7 and implied in Isaiah 53 and 50), or not, it is there; and as to the Gospel, it is where the Messiah is, for HE is its crux, criterion and substance, and HE IS the salvation of the Lord (Luke 2:30, Isaiah 42:6, 53:4-12). Hence, of course (Isaiah 43:10-11), the Messiah IS the Lord (as in John 8:58, Isaiah 48:16) on earth, in the flesh. Thus the celestial took terrestrial mode, and caused His spiritual magnificence to appear, like those snow-capped mountains one could see rising superbly from the valley to the heights to which, crowned, they belonged, within it*1.
In a way often found in Isaiah, we move speedily from salvation to judgment, and indeed, such a movement is found in John's Gospel itself, in chapter 3 as it progresses.
Thus in Isaiah 61:1-2 from which Christ quoted when He preached at Nazareth, we see the salvation He provided; but in the latter part of verse 2, already the judgment looms, which is the counterpart of the crisis of the Messiah, on the cross, where He bore sin, to avert judgment; for the judgment, when not so averted, through unbelief, is converted to action. What is not judged in Christ, is judged without Him; and without Him, it is the furnace minus asbestos. What, says the Psalmist, can stand before HIS purity to redeem from sin (Psalm 49:7,15); it is God Himself alone who can provide the cover for it (Isaiah 61:10), in justice (Isaiah 44:3-6,45:24-25), to allow rest in reality and peace with purity (Isaiah 27:5). It is not to be found without it (Isaiah 57:19-20).
In Isaiah 61, then, we proceed to the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 61:7-8), the new one of the kingdom which shall not pass away (Daniel 7:25, Revelation 5, 21-22), and clearly (Isaiah 61:6), we move from the Aaronic priesthood to one which is universal (as in Hebrews 4 and 7, 10), where each may come boldly to the throne of grace, that exquisite disposition of spiritual forces and blessing. So Isaiah 66:20.
Now shame is replaced by everlasting joy (Isaiah 61:7 cf. 51:11 as it approaches 52-55); and that is the precious correlative to the shame of sinners before conversion. A special case of the latter is found in the recalcitrant Israel (Isaiah 64:1-65:1), sinners like all others, but sinners with a unique and specific covenantal breach in view, in terms of their regicide of the Messiah, and voiding of the contract provided by what we have deemed disfaith (cf. SMR Index at faith).
The chapter 61 ends with the paean of delighted praise which is common to the hearts blessed of God in all the converted, Jew or Gentile, and indeed this chapter is largely one of simple salvation, though having particular application to the people from whom the prophet came, and for that matter as to the flesh, the Lord came! (cf. Isaiah 59:19ff.).
The movement then in Isaiah 60-61 is joint and complementary, emphasis on salvation, its essence the pardon and peace of the Prince of it, but locality and locale arise there with specialised thrust which can be annulled only by reading into the clear words of grace, the obliteration of the particularities. These, Israel's ALONE, cannot be duplicated, for none other was such with the Lord, that they RETURN to what they had; for as to the rest, it was never theirs. The race from Adam is fallen, and only Israel found grace, to which it came as a nation to lend disgrace, and in recidivism to find exile and divorce from the very provision of the Almighty. Divorce ? Yes, but they were not and are not forgotten, as Deuteronomy 32 so gloriously exhibits and Romans 11 so precisely foretells.
is indeed ONE salvation; but there are folds within it, not of the salvation
itself, for it is ONLY ONE, but of the derivation, of the root from which
the various sinners come, and of the details of the divine providence which
teaches the world lessons on divine faithfulness to His word, at the very
same time as transcending all races in the wonders of the Gospel. To receive
back Israel in view of the mess they made AS A NATION, at that level, of
the Messiah, of the covenant, of the provisions of the Lord, it is always
a marvel, one to come with astonishing force and divine manifestation.
So it is that a whole book, Hosea, presents this, the restoration of the
one who was a harlot before the prophet even married her, who went back
from him to her lovers, and then had to be restored by the payment of ransom.
In parallel to this does Jeremiah (in 3:1) put it:
"They say, 'If a man divorces his wife,So is Israel to find grace as in Isaiah 61:7, 61:4, 62:1-5, 66:14-16; 65:2 with 60:10,14-15.
And she goes from him
And become another man's,
May he return to her again ?'
Would not the land be greatly polluted ?
But you have played the harlot with many lovers,
Yet return to Me, says the LORD."
It is always a mistake to make the shoe fit a fat foot. It is so here, to seek to make the shoe of understanding, yes in this case, especially, ram on regardless of metacarpal pressure. As for the foot of an athlete, footwear by a personal craftsman adjusted to him is needed. Understanding must first be moulded by truth, all of it. We must clothe with vision, the things that are, not meretriciously provide a philosophy which dictates to the word of God, or directs it, either to make it too fat with meaning that is not there, or too slim with meaning avoided because it is not the theoretical model.
It is what it is, neither more nor less; and every feature that is one thing, is to be addressed as such, and what does not fit, as what it is. Then the understanding, exactly as in scientific method, but in this case with the roving joy of studying all the scripture rather than seeking to check all the workings of the natural world, comes with the opening of the eyes to the grandeur of it, as by the Lord. What however you see, must be THE WHOLE of it, and justly. Hot compresses and baggy flaps alike, are out of shape here.
The word of God is wonderful. As Paul exults in Romans 11, its manifold depths are a cause of praise.
Now we move on to Isaiah 62, from Isaiah 61:10-11, that site which has such a relish of being clothed with the Lord's own provision in love, as the Lord God causes righteousness and praise alike to spring from the earth, rather as in Psalm 85 (q.v. Beauty of Holiness Ch. 3).
Now in Isaiah 62, we surge into the spiritual realms, 62:2 making it clear, in terms of 65:13-15 with 53-55, that the setting is CHRISTIAN (Messiah-an if you want a word to make the point clearer, but not the terminology more attractive!).
Thus from 60-62 there has been a veritable tidal wave of the beauty of holiness, the ultimate kingdom, but here and there, like flecks in a tweed, comes Israel AS A COMPONENT of that kingdom with individual history and specialised participation in the vast drama of delight, wrought by the mind of the Almighty.
Accordingly, in 62:4, we find that NO LONGER will they be called forsaken. Now what the world has the utmost difficulty in calling forsaken in precisely its own. There is again, as before, here before us, the spiritually forsaken Israel, so because it not merely killed its king but failed for so long to REPENT of it, as it must and will do as in Zech. 12:10, in the climacteric moments coming to its very existence.
It is the nation which here arrives in view, like an express train heard through a siding, then suddenly in view. The railway system is there, but here is an advent of a special part of it: the train of special events.
have set watchmen on 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" - 62:6.
NO LONGER will their grain be prey to their enemies. It is to "the daughter of Zion" that one must say, "Surely your salvation is coming!"
Actually, Zion in the spiritual sense, the Jerusalem which is above, the church invisible, the congregation of the elect throughout the earth, it does not need to know that its salvation is coming for one very good reason. IT IS CONSTITUTED BY HAVING IT ALREADY! It would be rather like saying to a boy aged 7, Wait for it! Your breath is coming! If it had not already come, he would not be a small boy.
To WHAT, moreover, is this to be said: To a Jerusalem already blessed with the presence, or one awaiting it ? If it is not so blessed, it is assuredly not the church, let alone the invisible one! If it has it, how then does it await it ? Let alone with such fervour of anticipation and expectancy, as a venue and a wonder to come!
But someone may say, It is of the eternal state when there is no more suffering, pain, the redemption of the body, to which the prophet here refers.He is telling the people who already know Christ and have His salvation, His Spirit, to await eternity.
Is it indeed however to the church already empowered, saved and indwelt (Romans 9:9 - if the Spirit is not in you, you are not a Christian, says Paul, cf. I Cor. 12:13), filled with Christ and at His command, the Christ who goes with it every day, with all power accorded Him for that purpose, that the prophet makes address ? It is as well actually to read what is written!
To say to the CHURCH, "Surely your salvation is coming!" (Isaiah 62:11), using a great banner for more impact, is like saying to the saved, Your salvation is coming! It would make them all hypocrites, and while many are the tribe of Judas Iscariot (as in Jude), yet the church per se, decidedly and in the heights of its making up what remains of the sufferings of Christ's,as examples on site of His love, IS NOT WITHOUT SALVATION.
It is only because it already most emphatically has salvation, that it so much as exists. It is no more possible to make the church to be what has forsaken the Lord and inherited His wrath, invited to return to what it left, than for the church to be awaiting what is written, its SALVATION! Only Israel fits either of these considerations. The localisation is far too specific, the identification criteria here and continually far too historical in that vein that ONLY Israel has had, and so could conform to, for any thought of vexing the word of God with vague, illusory and vacuous misfits as if they were interpretation, rather than repudiation.
Efforts for the fat foot do nothing to avail. You need to have the foot that fits. So have we been seeing the common salvation and the uncommon coming ingredient to it, so long delayed, while the Lord turned to the Gentiles (Isaiah 65:13-15), before re-accepting them (Isaiah 66:8-13) on the common salvation to which they had been, as also most common among the Gentiles, so long removed in voluntary apartheid. Here was a kingdom, a race which many in both camps regarded with contempt. Not with contempt however will it end, as Isaiah declares:
"Hear the word of the LORD,Certainly, the spiritual depth, pith and essence of this applies to one and to all, irrespective of nationality or race, for there is one Gospel and one glory. However, its particular contextual application is specialised, as to one battalion (as in Revelation 14, where those of Israel are cited and then in the same glory, but with special application apart, the Gentile believers).
You who tremble at His word:
Your brethren who hate you,
Who cat you out for My name's sake, said:
'Let the LORD be glorified,
That we may see your joy.'
But they shall be ashamed" - Isaiah 66:5.
Thus here the practices of Israel ALONE (apart from some proselytes which joined) are in view (66:3), and the punishment for their special recidivism, departure from the wonders of the Old Covenant are cited (66:4) as a specialised consequence. From this comes the re-establishment as in a moment of what had been cited, of that special unduplicable metropolis, in that sole land of forsaken splendour and renewed company (66:8-10), while the Lord lets the devourers be devoured for their untender mercilessness towards those whom He has Himself afflicted for their follies of old (66:15), in the normal mode of the scenario covered so often in the last chapter.
we look forward. Let us return to Isaiah 62, and the "Your salvation is
coming!" situation, and see what follows in Isaiah 63.
ISAIAH 63-66 MOVING NOBLY
In Isaiah 63 we turn away from the blend of the spiritual and the particularities which illustrate it for the nation of Israel in particular (in the scenario explicit in Romans 11), found in Isaiah 62, to the devastations to be wrought in neighbouring Edom, as we behold the Lord "travelling in the greatness of his strength", even He who is "mighty to save". What is He then bringing ? is it a resurrection as a follow on from Isaiah 62 ? Far from this is His purpose at this point. It is the geographical neighbour of Israel, not the celestial neighbour of the resurrection, which in perfect precision and harmony with the context preceding, now appears.
Not resurrection yet, do we then find; rather is it a local matter, most terrestrial, involving blood as we have seen so often in Ch. 5 above where we traced the scenario repetitively put, with varying emphases, in various minor and major prophets.
It is not only blood, but judgment in which blood symbolises the results of wrath (Isaiah 62:3). Many have been "trampled ... in My fury". We are seeing adversaries and adversity. It is "the day of vengeance", as also the "year of the redeemed" (63:4). It is the action of God in the midst of a wicked world, one lusting after Israel as many other things not provided for its will, a world which WOULD NOT LISTEN, which WOULD TAKE THE REINS INTO ITS OWN HANDS (63:5), so that "My own fury, it sustained Me", and
"I have trodden down the peoples in My anger,So does the divine action move, as consistently seen in the rest, from Micah to Joel, as detailed in our preceding chapter.
Made them drunk in My fury,
And brought down their strength to the earth."
This battle in Isaiah 63, this teeming rain of vengeance, not yet the reign of grace, is the correlative to the specialised mentions of Zion, which preceded. There in the earlier chapters of Isaiah 60-62, we saw now the celestial kingdom, now the terrestrial expression as God intervenes for His glory, and now in Isaiah 63 we find that He snatchers an unbelieving Israel from certain doom to delightful deliverance, It is seen as a remnant to be realised, a people to be delivered but ONLY in terms of the LORD whom they so grossly rejected, and so languorously continued to reject for so long, until at last, the Lord, that patient and wonderful fountain of grace and faithfulness, intervened as He said from the first He would do when their scenario was run (Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 32 as shown in the preceding chapter).
In Ch. 63, following this impassioned divine intervention, which the world so loves to ignore and will not so love to experience, we move to the recollections of God's wonderful kindness to Israel, the theocracy, in the past, with that epitome of beauty in 63:14. In 63:15-19 we read of the prophet's or the believing part of the nation's vain appeal, which meets in Isaiah 64 with utter repudiation, since the nation not yet with the Lord, rather at that time was moving on to that utter unbelief which is focussed in Isaiah 49:7, 52-54.
It is indeed He, the Lord, who ACTS for the one who WAITS FOR HIM and upon Him (Isaiah 64:5); but at that stage in view as the appeal of 63:15ff. went out, Israel was coming not to the final return to the Lord. In fact, it was then turning from Him, a movement of spirit which would end even in ferocity of murder, to render evil, like the aircraft splashed at the World Trade Centre, to the Messiah One. So effective would the murder squad be, that the paragon of spiritual beauty would be left in body as One whose "visage as marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" (Isaiah 52:14). As Israel (attested further in Malachi) as a whole therefore became less and less alive to the Lord, so there is no way left, but a temporary and an extended ruin (as in Daniel 9:27). This went on for so long that some peoples appear to imagine there is something almost like a divine right to make a rite or ritual of persecuting the Jews, Israel, the new-born nation, born in a moment, and to be delivered by the fury of the Lord from its adversaries when, at last, its time being ripe, it is no more blind (as in Romans 9:25, and Zech. 12:10, 13:1).
The impassioned prophet appeal of Isaiah 64 for divine condescension to spare Israel is thus not heard.
was sought by thoe who did not ask for Me;
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, 'Here I am, here I am,'
To a a nation that was not called by My name.
I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
According to their own thoughts,
A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;
Who sacrifice in gardens...
Who say, 'Keep to yourself,
Do not come near me..."
Here as so often, the fingerprint of Israel is placed prominently before the reader. The appeal for mercy is not heeded, since the mercy provided has been abused and the purity given confused with endless, recalcitrant concotions of religious follies.
Indeed, in Isaiah 65 God makes it clear, as Paul does in Romans 9-10, that there is but ONE method of coming to the Lord, by a total reliance on His mercy, then being draped with salvation as in Isaiah 61:10, so that "by HIS knowledge shall He justify many"... how ? "For He shall bear their iniquities" as we learn in Isaiah 53. In this change of status to salvation, one's own works are not even an element; and indeed, many calling themselves Christians still make the root-fruit confusion, with much peril*2.
To this realisation, they must come; for it is (as in Romans 4 cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch. 3, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13, 17, With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 6, pp. 151ff., Biblical Blessings Appendix III) at all times indispensable. It is quite useless in the light of this evangelical exposure of Isaiah, to break the necks of lambs. One might as well break the neck of dogs! Thus are we taught in Isaiah 66:3.
WHEN the revelation of salvation is understood, not only in the typical format of temple paraphernalia, but in the intense, immense and final form, it is so everlastingly simple. It is Christ who came, and to Him, not to some evangelist's cut-down version, but to the very Christ of God, the Lord's Christ (Luke 2:26), that we must come, in repentance receiving His salvation, lordship and power to do His will. Since this is not, for Israel to whom He first came, the PREDICTED action (Isaiah 49:7), but rather an abhorrence was to be the response, it is alas a consequence, thus, that "I will choose their delusions", for when HE called, they did not hear (Isaiah 66:4, as in Isaiah 30:8ff.).
Not so, however, is the case for those of Israel who, unlike the nation as a whole, actually believe (as provided for in Isaiah 53:1). This is not only a matter of those who are to come at the end of the Age, when judgment comes, as in Romans 11 and Isaiah 59, Ezekiel 36ff., but of those who were as a remnant, came at the first. That is, from the time point of Isaiah's prophecy, these too were still to come, yes some 7 centuries after the prophet made his revelation from the Lord. It was in reality because SOME were to and DID believe, among the Jews, when the Messiah came, that the final complex drama could develop. Indeed, it was these of Israel (Acts 2:41) who were the kernel of the Christian church at that time!
Though they were despised and persecuted at times by the nation of Israel, nevertheless "they shall be ashamed" who so despitefully used the Christians in their own midst. Gathering up the believing remnant of Israel, then and at the coming of the Messiah to rule (as in Zechariah 14:5, Psalms 2, 45, 73, Isaiah 32), comes the Lord who will bring intense joy (Isaiah 66:10ff.). Peace will come at last.
Suddenly the nation would re-form (as in Isaiah 66:8-9), after its protracted exile (Leviticus 26:31-33, Hosea 3:4, and as implied in Isaiah 11:11), becoming a nation suddenly, once again. As so often God had predicted their dispersion from Leviticus 26 on through Ezekiel, and their return as in Deuteronomy, Ezekiel and Zechariah, indeed Isaiah 49 (cf. With Heart and Soul, Mind and StrengthCh. 5). It is then, with Israel as a nation once more with a multiplicity of believers, that this terminal action is to occur. It is a nation first regathered physically, and geographically, and ONLY THEN spiritually*2 , so that the Lord comes in that final judgment which leads to the point where "by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh", so that many "shall be consumed together", in contempt. There is nothing blessed about it, for it is horrific.
The fat foot syndrome was never more grotesque than here, where people often try to turn judgment into blessing, and the gory into glory!
It is in this overall view,
that we find in Isaiah 66's ending two things. First, the nation is no
longer the focus of the gospel, in its priestly ways, for ministers of
God shall even be brought from among the Gentiles! (Isaiah 66:20); and
secondly, that the Gospel will go forth to the whole world, with the sign
and signal appropriate (cf. Isaiah 53, cf. Isaiah 16, Galatians 6:14).
Then at the end of Isaiah 66, we move to the contemplation of hell, as
a sort of refuse dump of horror, seething in the distance, as the new heavens
and new earth proceed.
GRAND LIKE A FOUNTAIN, FRESH LIKE THE DEW
How quickly does Isaiah move, with what readiness, what esprit, what significances, now here, now there. Is it not like the way Christ, by whose Spirit the scriptures of the Bible were given, who moves so fast from mercy to judgment, from the literal to the parabolic, from rebuke to compassion, from healing and help to indignation and exposure.
Take for example Luke 11. Here in just one chapter, we find the solemn diapason music of the Lord's prayer, teaching, deep and precise all together. From this He moves to the personal at once, with the parable of the friend who would not move because of friendship at midnight, but for the repeated cries of his friend, he answered him and arose. So He led to the lesson of importunity in prayer. It is no mere form, but interpersonal relationships between a person and God are here.
Prayer is not a place of ceremonial coldness but of the warmth of the loving heart in the presence of the God who is love, and showed it in His redemption, His patience and His faithfulness, not forgetting Israel to the end, WHATEVER it has done, so that it is as if they had not sinned, when the time comes, as indeed for all sinners in their blessed restoration (Zechariah 10:6), for the fountain is efficacious (Zech. 13:1), and the cancellation of sin precise (Zech. 3:9).
Using familiar and practical examples, Christ in Luke 11 is seen shaming the faithless substitutes for faith which do not even expect to be heard in truth and reliability, asking "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone ?"
The scene changes.
Then, casting out a demon, Christ rebuts the questing impudence of those who suggested He did it by the Prince of demons: Can a house divided against itself stand! He rebuked them. Clearly, the run on devils was not from the devil.
Again, in controversy majestic, He indicated that in such thought they condemned their own children, for by whom then did THEY cast out devils!
Moving from this, He teaches spiritual hygiene, casting light on the principle of occupation, that man is made for spiritual communication, and if mere moral reform is as far as he goes, then worse spiritual states can supervene, and worse devils seize the controls of power in the unpurged human personality.
Empathy in one of those who heard Him, then moved one lady to bless the breasts that nurtured Him when a child; but it is not sentiment but spirituality which is the more important: "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" - came His reply, thus stifling the pagan romanticism of much mariolatry at once.
A sign ? They wanted a sign ... NONE for you, He rebuked the interrogatory questing of the dissatisfied. What really did they want more than this ? A greater than Solomon, He declared, a greater than Jonah was in their very midst: but did not Nineveh repent even for Jonah, and did not even the Queen of Sheba find amazement at Solomon!
The trouble is in the heart of man. The eye, the lamp of the body, is given for light reception and recognition by it. Spiritually this is a mini-parable. What however if the eye is evil, occluded ? What if the light itself in use, is darkness ? A fulness of light is the need, in which darkness has no place, in which, in interpretation, there is no room for that obscurantism and that immersion in doubt and dabblings of folly, which arises so quickly for the opacities of flesh, masquerading as spiritual.
All this rushes headlong before our eyes, like the countryside speeding past, as a fast car moves onward.
To the exposure of the pompous and pride iniquities of those spurious spiritual edifices, the Pharisees, He proceeds. What are they like ? Like a dish clean on the outside, filthy on the inner and important surface: all show, they know no cleanness within. How they love praise and pride of place! A lawyer accosts Him. He is not pleased, since his group feels itself implicated in Christ's exposure of the Pharisees.
WOE to you lawyers! He declared. He implied that they were all of one kind with those of their forbears who killed the prophets, alike resisting the word of God, and indeed Himself, now incarnate, as they did before He came. On this generation of Jerusalem would come the aggregate of the faithless fiascos of the spurious religious past! After all, here was the source and sender of the prophets, amidst them, and they did not quite manage to believe! (despite the point made in Matthew 11:5, to John the Baptist). You TAKE THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE, He told the scribes, but you do not use it to enter into the grace of God yourself, and you hinder those who would like to do so.
At this, "the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him."
He meets their intefadeh sort of exasperation, and continues unfazed by their harassment.
SO is there here seen that lightning, that fast, vast intercourse with man, from the heights of reality, as from the depths, as the tides of truth wash the sandy surfaces of the minds of men. So too is the movement in Isaiah, where the imagination likewise uses imagery, predicts practical events, aligns principles, exposes historical episodes, brings in rebuke, announces relief and keeps a manifest emphasis and perspective as unmoved as the stars, yes and more so, since they will fail, but this is the same.
As to this aesthetic and dynamic kinesthesis, it is all orderly and instructive when you learn to move with it, and not to try to force it to move with you. It resembles the case when, as Ezekiel 47 has it, you SWIM with the river, instead of trying to resist it (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 5). Again, you must take the photographs as they come, and not insist on putting your own thoughts between them. WHEN you have considered what is there, moving as it moves, and swimming in its flow, then you see the way the river is proceeding, and learn to love the sheer active beauty of it.
Why ? It is because the spectacle has meaning, interpretation, depth, colour, conformity to principles, logical development, spiritual sprightliness, profound depth and evocative appeal, bred in truth, immune to dismissal, transmitting in words, the acme of reality. Such is the word of God; and so did the word of God incarnate confound His enemies, rejoice the heart of His friends and inspire those who heard, whose hearts were not on furlough or on other purposes bent, soiled and seduced, corroded or corrupted beyond all desire, or impetus to come.
Here too is seen the power and exuberance of the word of God, its complete disregard of the crimping cramps of wooden presentation, cautious and fearful communication. It is the word of the King, let him who would, contest it, it remains like lightning, incautious and delightful; and like the case of lightning, it is important not to get in its way. Light illuminates; but where it is resisted, it can incinerate.
As the Light of the world (John 8-9) prudently took His own mutilation in order to avoid ours, there is only delight in the light, that it is still available, and that our lenses can be regenerated and vision restored. If on the other hand, people prefer darkness, and the 'light' that is in them IS darkness, how great is that darkness. Like concentrated, hot aqua regia it fumes, and its darkened containers reek. It is now headlines almost all the time!
That too, it is what the Light of Life foretold (Matthew 24, Revelation 6-9,12,16).
How beautiful it is to find
it 'prudent' for Christ to die (Isaiah 52:13-15), to hear that it is wise
to deliver captives, sound to be vehemently resisted, and godly to give
His body and life as a ransom for many. THAT is a sort of prudence almost
defunct in the media, and in the developing pathologies that afflict the
mind of man. Self-interest, self-will, self-fulfilment are like keys to
the safe; but that safe, it is empty.
Philippians 2, Psalm 45, Isaiah 9:7 cf. With Heart and Soul, Mind
and Strength Ch. 4, pp. 64ff.,
for 2 excerpts on Isaiah 9; and the same volume for other aspects of Isaiah.
Cf. Joyful Jottings Ch. 2, The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet
Ch. 8, Light of Dawn Ch. 1, Lord of Life Ch. 7; see also SMR pp. 520-532.
See for this, in Ezekiel 37:8-14 with the following interpretation
cf. SMR Appendix A, The Biblical Workman Ch. 8,
It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls ... Ch.
10; Galloping Events Chs.
Ch. 3 above.