Isaiah 59:1 - 60:5
The glorious promises contained in the closing verses of Isaiah 58, may have sounded idealistic and visionary even in Isaiah's day, and more so in our day, when in spite of every effort the problem of Israel and its land seems insoluble. What has delayed, and still delays, the realization of such promises? The opening verses of Isaiah 59 give the answer.
Unbelieving men would make Israel's plight a ground of complaint and reproach against God. Either He was indifferent so that His ear never caught their cries, or He was impotent and unable to deliver them. The true state of the case was that their sins had driven a wedge of separation between them and God. They were utterly alienated from Him.
This is a matter that some of us are inclined to overlook. In considering the havoc sin has wrought we are apt to think mainly of the guilt of our sins and the judgment they will incur; perhaps also thinking of the enslaving power exerted by sin in our lives, while giving but little thought to the way in which it has separated us from God. But none of the effects of sin is more disastrous than this-alienation.
If any desire proof of this, let them read Romans 3: 10-12. The whole human race having fallen under the power of sin, there is none righteous; and, worse still, sin has darkened the understanding, so that by nature men do not realize the seriousness of their plight. Worst of all, sin has undermined and alienated their beings so that none seek after God. That being so God must seek after man, if ever he is to be blessed: in other words, God must take the initiative. We fall back therefore upon the sovereignty of God. To the recognition of His sovereignty God was leading the people through Isaiah, as we shall see before we reach the end of this chapter.
But before that is reached Isaiah has to speak to the people again in the plainest and most detailed fashion about their manifold sins. This is ever God's way. He never glosses over sin, but exposes it before men's eyes, that they may be brought to repentance. The preacher of the Gospel today had better recognize this fact. The deeper the work of repentance in the soul the more solid the conversion-work that follows.
Verses 3-8 give in full and terrible detail the sins that had separated them from their God, and we note that the indictments of verses 7 and 8 are quoted in Romans 3, in support of the sweeping statements of man's utter ruin, to which we have already referred. And further, having quoted these verses and others from the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul observes that these things were said, "to them who are under the law," that is, the denunciations are against not Gentiles but Jews, who were the picked sample of the human race. If true of them, true of all.
If in verses 3-8, the prophet speaks on God's behalf, denouncing the sins of the people, he turns in verses 9-15 to make confessions on behalf of the people, such as well might be made by those in their midst who feared God. He owns the miseries that existed on every hand:-no justice, obscurity and darkness just as if they had no eyes, desolation and mourning; every kind of oppression, falsehood and injustice rampant. Anything like truth utterly failing. A darker picture can hardly be imagined.
And one further feature of a very grievous sort was to be seen. There were some, however few they might be who walked in the fear of God and hence departed from all these evils and walked in separation from them. Such came under judgment from the mass who went on with the evils; for, "he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey." It was a very unpopular thing to do, since it cast a discredit and rebuke on the mass who indulged in the sins. The same thing may be seen today, though the injunction to depart is far clearer and more definite:-"Let every one that nameth the name of Christ [or, the Lord] depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2: 19). Such departing is no more popular today than it was then, but it is the clear command of the Lord to the saint of today.
Such being the state of things in the Israel of those days, and more or less so ever since those days, what will God do about it? The answer begins in verse 16. As we indicated a little earlier, God falls back upon His sovereignty in mercy. He indicates that though there was no hope in man, His mighty "Arm" would act and bring salvation. So here we have prophesied that which the Apostle expounds more fully in the closing verses of Romans 11. Through the Gospel at the present moment salvation is being brought to Gentiles in the mercy of God, but when "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," God will revert to His promises to Israel, and they will be saved; but not as the fruit of law-keeping. It will be altogether as the fruit of His sovereign mercy. The contemplation of this wonderful mercy to Israel, as well as to us, moved the Apostle to the magnificent doxology with which he closed that chapter.
In the closing verses of our chapter the "Arm" of verse 16 is to be identified with the "Redeemer" of verse 20 and this verse is referred to in Romans 11: 26 and the verbal differences we notice between the two passages are instructive. The Redeemer is now referred to as the Deliverer, for the Arm of the Lord will prove to be both. When He came as the humbled Servant of the Lord He accomplished redemption's mighty work. When He comes to Zion in His glory, He will bring the deliverance, made righteously possible by the redemption.
Then, according to Isaiah, He will come "unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob;" whereas in Romans we read that He " hall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." This again is what He will do in His delivering might, while Isaiah shows us rather how He will do it. He will come unto the God-fearing in Jacob, when judgment falls upon the evil-doers.
Verses 17 and 18 of our chapter speak of the judgment that must be executed by the Arm of the Lord. There is "no man" who can act and be an intercessor, just as earlier we saw that "none calleth for justice." No man has any merit, and no man is able to act to put things right. This latter fact we meet with again in very striking form in Revelation 5, where "no man" was found worthy to take the book of judgment and break its seals, save the Lamb that had been slain. What is so plainly shown in the Revelation is indicated in our verses. The Arm of the Lord will be clothed in righteousness and salvation. The salvation will reach His people, but His righteousness will bring fury and recompence to His adversaries, so that from west to east the name of the Lord will be feared and His glory known.
But how does it come to pass, we may ask, that there will be found the God-fearing remnant in Jacob when this tremendous hour is reached?" This is answered for us in verse 19. The testimony of Scripture is clear that just before the Redeemer comes to Zion, the enemy will have "come in like a flood." This will be the case in a double sense. According to Psalm 2, the kings of the earth and the rulers will have set themselves against the Lord and His Anointed, and Jerusalem will be the target for antagonistic nations; but also, Satan having been cast down to earth, as related in Revelation 12, spiritual wickedness will reach its climax. But just then, the enemy coming in like a flood, the Spirit of God will act, to raise up a "standard," or "banner," against him.
The meaning of this is clear. Another scripture says, "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60: 4). Just when the enemy's action reaches flood-tide height, there will be the counter-action of the Spirit of God, and true servants of God will be raised up, men who will "turn from transgression," and welcome the delivering might of the Arm of the Lord. Then at last the ungodliness of Jacob will be turned away for ever.
The permanence of this delivering work is stated in the last verse of the chapter, in which the Lord addresses the prophet as the representative of the nation. In that day they will possess two things:-"My Spirit " and "My words." When the sons of poor, failing Jacob shall be dominated by the Spirit of the Lord, so that they walk in obedience to the words of the Lord, their full blessing will have come.
And the same thing in principle stands true for us today, while we wait for the coming of our Lord. We have the Holy Spirit not only "upon" us but actually indwelling us, and we have not merely certain words put in the prophet's mouth, but the completed word of the Lord, bringing us the full revelation of His purpose for us and of His mind and will for our earthly pathway. We may note also that through Haggai the prophet, God encouraged the remnant who had returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel in a similar way. In Haggai 2: 5 we have, "the word that I covenanted with you," and "My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. "May similar encouragement be ours today. No matter what disastrous things have transpired in the history of Christendom, the Spirit of God and the word of God still remain.
Isaiah 60 opens with a note of jubilation and triumph. The Redeemer having come to Zion, according to this prophetic strain, and God's covenant, connected with His Spirit and His words, being established, what else could we expect? Two things will then mark the people of Israel. They will "arise," since they have been sleeping in the dust of spiritual death among the nations. Further they will at last, "shine," as a testimony for God, and their light be seen among the nations. This hitherto has never been the case. And, why not? Because the law of Moses, under which they have always lived, has only proved that they have no light in themselves. They will only shine when the light of God, concentrated as it is in their once-rejected Messiah, shines through them.
At His first advent Jesus came as the dawning of a new day, bringing light to those sitting in darkness, as we see in Luke 1: 78, 79. But the Jew rejected the light and as far as they were concerned they put it out. Consequently, as we saw in Isaiah 49, He was given, for "a light to the Gentiles" to be "My salvation unto the end of the earth." His second advent will be in "the day of Thy power" when, "Thy people shall be willing," according to Psalm 110. Then at last they will come into the full blaze of that light and reflect it, as the moon reflects the light of the sun.
This thought, that of reflected light, is clearly in the verses that open Isaiah 60. The earth will be filled with darkness of a very gross sort at the time when Christ comes again. This He Himself indicated when He said, "Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18: 8). It will be rare and but little in evidence. During His absence there is no light save that connected with faith. When He comes, the glory of the Lord will be manifested, and it will be seen upon Israel, and so reflected on them and in them that the Gentiles shall come to the light that shines through them, and "kings to the brightness of thy rising."
Again we have to say that in principle this applies to us who are of the church while we wait for Him. To Christians of Jewish extraction it is said that they had been brought out of darkness, "into His marvellous light" (1 Peter 2: 9); and to those who were brought in from among the Gentiles it was said, "ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Eph. 5: 8). To them the word was added, "walk as children of light;" that is, their light was to shine out as a testimony to all around. Spiritual light is to shine forth from the saints of today, who form the church, while we wait for the shining forth of the glory in a fashion that all can see.
In an earlier chapter we have read what God's purpose as to the people of Israel was: "This people have I formed for Myself: they shall show forth My praise (Isa. 43: 21). They have never yet done so in any proper sense, but in this coming day they will, and therefore they will become a centre of attraction upon earth. First of all the attraction will be felt by those who are truly of the Israel of God. Those who can be called, "thy sons" will come to Zion from afar, and those who are "thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side." This will be a re-gathering of the true Israel in the land of God's choice that will altogether eclipse the migration of Jews to Palestine that we see still proceeding today. God will be behind the movement and the revelation of His glory in the once-rejected Servant, but now the mighty delivering Arm, will be the attractive force.
The effect of the revelation of the glory upon redeemed Israel is further shown in verse 5. True, it will not be essentially a matter of faith as it is with us today, for, says the prophet "then thou shalt see." The thing will be manifest before every eye, and the result will be threefold. They will "flow together;" so the drift will be in the direction of unity, and the old divisions that have marred the nation will disappear. Then they will fear, and experience how true it is that, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9: 10). As a result of this they will "be enlarged."
We venture to think that this enlargement will take place not only in material things but also in mind and heart. It will take place in a material way, as the rest of verse 5 indicates, but the enlargement is clearly stated to be of the heart. The verse mentions the "abundance of the sea;" and frequently that figure is used to indicate the masses of mankind. The statement does not mean that Israel will be well supplied with fish, but rather that though evil men, far away from God, are like the troubled sea that cannot rest, in the coming age the spared nations will be like a placid sea, yielding its abundant treasures and converting them more especially toward Israel. This is further emphasised by the words that close the verse, which according to the marginal reading would be "the wealth of the Gentiles shall come unto thee."
And all this blessing, both material and spiritual, will be poured upon Israel when the Arm of the Lord is revealed in power and glory, and those who "turn from transgression in Jacob;" that is, the true Israel, born again and in the presence of their Redeemer, stand in the virtue of His work. That work He wrought when He was despised and rejected of their forefathers and being led as a lamb to the slaughter, He was wounded for their transgressions and bruised for their iniquities.
As Christians we are today blessed with "all spiritual blessings," and that, "in heavenly places in Christ." When Israel is blessed in this way on earth, we shall be in the fulness of blessing in heaven.
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