Isaiah 62:4 - 64:3
If verse 3 of our chapter predicts how the Israel of God in the coming age will be a crown of glory and a diadem in the hand of God, verse 4 declares the place of blessing that shall be theirs, in contrast with all that has characterized them hitherto. Several times already in reading this prophet we have seen that both they and their land have been forsaken by God because of their sins. To this day no interposition of God on their behalf, comparable to what He did, when He delivered them from Egypt under Moses, has taken place. The delivering act of God is yet to come.
When it does take place by the appearing of Christ, it will be a repentant and born-again people who are delivered. As such they will be called, "Married." The figure used in verse 5; that of a young man marrying a virgin people and their land, may remind us of the striking words of Psalm 110, where the people who refused Jesus in the day of His poverty, will be willing in the day of His power, and the youth of Israel will rally to Him as the dew falls in the summer morning. Only then will Jehovah their God rejoice over them.
But though that is so, the forsaken Jerusalem is not forgotten by the Lord. This is expressed by the setting of watchmen on the walls, who are never to hold their peace until deliverance comes. It is worthy of note that Ezekiel was the prophet set as "a watchman unto the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 3: 17), and he it was who in vision saw the glory of the Lord depart from the temple and the city. During Israel's night the watchmen are not to hold their peace. They are, so to speak, continually to be reminding the Lord that His glory is involved in the establishment of Israel in their land, and Jerusalem becoming a praise to His name in the earth.
When we lift our thoughts from the earth and Israel's predicted place of blessing therein, to God's purpose for the heavens and for the church, we may surely speak in similar fashion. When in response to our Lord's assurance of His advent, we cry, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" we are thinking, we trust, not only of the fulness of our own blessing in the heavens, but of God achieving in the church all He purposed before the foundation of the world. There will be, "the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1: 14). As on the earth, so in the heavens, His glory will shine forth.
Yet after all the watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem are needed to keep God's purpose before the minds of men, rather than before the mind of God, since He never fails. God Himself has sworn that He will do it, and He swears by Himself, as Hebrews 6: 13, reminds. us. He connects His oath in verse 8 with "His right hand and by the Arm of His strength." So here again the Arm of the Lord is introduced, since it is by Him that the thing will be done, and the Arm is characterized by strength, for Christ is the power of God, as well as the wisdom of God, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 1: 24.
Corn and wine are frequently mentioned together in Scripture as indicating the sustenance that man needs, both solid and liquid, only here we see that all will not only be secured to Israel but that it shall be enjoyed by them in the presence of their God; as it is put here "in the courts of My holiness."
The three verses which close the chapter give us a prophetic forecast of how this will be accomplished. In Isaiah, "the daughter of Zion," is an expression that occurs a number of times. The first occurrence is in verse 8 of chapter 1, and it seems to be identified with the "very small remnant," mentioned in verse 9. We believe that is the force of it here. The God-fearing remnant will be found scattered to the ends of the world. They will be called and a standard lifted up to which they will gather; and then their way to the holy city and through its gates will be opened up before them, and every stone of stumbling will be removed.
And how will all this be accomplished? By the advent of their Salvation, who is evidently a Person, in the light of the words that follow. By His reward and His work the Arm of the Lord will prove Himself to be God's "Salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa. 49: 6).
And what will be the result as regards those who are gathered as "the daughter of Zion"? They will at last be exactly what Israel was originally intended to be-"The holy people;" that is, a people separated to God, in accord with His mind and nature. This delightful condition will only be reached since they will be, "the redeemed of the Lord."
This redemption will be a vital and spiritual reality, and not just a national thing, without regard to the spiritual state of individuals, as when they were brought out of Egypt under Moses. It will be brought about by the grace of our God, and not on the ground of law-keeping. This is indicated very clearly in Romans 11, where Paul states that though at present shut up in unbelief, they will ultimately "obtain mercy." The coming salvation of the godly in Israel will be as wholly an act of Divine mercy as is the salvation of degraded Gentile sinners today. The mercy of God will reach both the people and their city.
But there is another side to this matter, which confronts us as we begin to read chapter 63. Israel's redemption will involve drastic judgment falling on all those who are foes of them and of God, just as judgment fell on the Egyptians, when Israel was typically redeemed in the bygone age. And He, who is to become Israel's Redeemer in power, is the One who will overthrow them.
In verse 1 of our chapter, however, Edom is specially singled out as the one on whom the judgment is to fall. Now Edom is Esau.
In the Proverbs we read that, "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city," (Prov. 16:19), and this has been exemplified in the history of Esau and Jacob. The feud today is as strong as ever. It underlies the situation of great danger that surrounds Palestine today. It will be decisively settled at the second coming of Christ. Some excuse might possibly be found for Edom objecting to the reoccupation of the land by unconverted Jews, but evidently their objection will be just as strong against any re-gathering of a converted people. He who will re-gather Israel will destroy them.
The figure of treading "the winepress" is employed in verse 3, and the same figure is used in the closing verses of Revelation 14. It evidently indicates judgment of a wholesale and unsparing kind. There is also of course judgment which discriminates between the righteous and the wicked, but then the figure of a harvest is used, as we see in Matthew 13: 40-43, as it also is in earlier verses of Revelation 14, showing that judgment of both kinds will be executed in the coming day.
The whole of Obadiah's short prophecy is directed against Esau and he makes it plain that just when, "upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions," the house of Esau "shall be for stubble," which gives us the same thought of unsparing judgment under a different figure.
In our chapter this judgment is presented as the personal act of the One who is called, "Mine own Arm," taking place when salvation was accomplished on behalf of God and His people. At that solemn moment "the day of vengeance" will be in His heart, that day spoken of in Isaiah 61: 2, which our Saviour did not read in the synagogue at Nazareth.
That day of vengeance will introduce the year of redemption for God's people. Judgment being God's "strange work " (Isa. 28: 21), it will be a "short work " (Rom. 9: 28). Hence vengeance is only for a day compared with the year of redemption. All this, be it noted, has to do with the government of God on the earth, and not with saints who today are being called out for a heavenly portion. As far as we are concerned Edom is just one of the peoples amongst whom the Gospel is to be preached, though, alas! so few from amongst them respond to it.
Having predicted the coming day of vengeance, the mind of the prophet turned back in verse 7 to contemplate the extraordinary goodness of the Lord in His dealings with Israel from ancient days. It had been a story of loving kindness and of mercies according to His own heart. He had adopted them as His people, accredited them with truthfulness and saved them from their oppressors. Moreover He entered into their afflictions, granted His presence, redeemed them from Egypt and carried and cared for them till they reached the land of promise. In Exodus 33, we read how God promised His presence to Moses and the people, and in the last chapter of that book it is recorded how the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Also we read of the Angel of the Lord who went before them, who here is called "the Angel of His presence." InMalachi 3: 1, the expression, "Messenger of the covenant," is really, "Angel of the covenant," and is clearly a prediction of the coming of the Lord Jesus; so here also we may see a reference to Him.
On God's part therefore nothing had been lacking in His dealings with Israel; so what had been their response to all this goodness? Verse 10 gives the sad answer, "But they rebelled, and grieved His holy Spirit." As a result of this His holy government had to come into action, and He became their adversary. Here we have in few words what Stephen amplified and brought up to date, as recorded in Acts 7. Here the prophet has to record that they vexed God's holySpirit. Many centuries after Stephen says to them, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost. "To grieve Him is serious indeed, but to resist Him is fatal.
As Isaiah saw it in his day, what was God's answer to this vexing? God remembered His original doings with Moses, and therefore there was hope in the prophet's heart, and still a basis on which he could appeal to the Lord. Again, in verse 12, the Arm of the Lord is discerned as He who acted at the Red Sea, and the people recognized that God had triumphed gloriously. Hence, on this the last time that the "Arm" is mentioned by Isaiah the adjective "glorious" isattached to His name. Glorious He is indeed.
Verses 12-14 therefore summarize the kindly dealings of God with His people, when He brought them out of Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and finally brought them into the land. There was the acting of "His glorious Arm," and consequently He made for Himself "a glorious name," as well as "an everlasting name." Nevertheless Israel was still under the law, and hence the hand of God lay heavily on them in judgment.
Isaiah was conscious however that he could appeal to God on another ground than the law. So, having mentioned Moses in verse 11, in the closing verses of the chapter, he makes a further appeal to God on the ground of their connection with Abraham, with whom was made the original covenant of promise. If we read Genesis 15, we see that the covenant embraced not only Abraham personally but his seed also, that was to include a great multitude. This covenant put his descendants through Isaac into a place of special relationship before God, and had no conditions attached to it.
Now Abraham, though "the friend of God," was but a man and had long since departed, and so was ignorant of them. Israel too- the name given by God to Jacob-might not acknowledge them. Yet Jehovah, who had included them in His covenant, was the abiding One, and from the outset He had been as a Father to them, for in another prophet we have Him saying, "I am a Father to Israel" (Jer. 31: 9). Hence the appeal to Him here on that basis.
Two things strike us as remarkable here. First, in verse 17 the hardness of heart manifested in the people is traced back to an act of God. "Why hast Thou made us to err. . ." Was this justified? Clearly it was, for just that was the original message given to Isaiah, in Isaiah 6: 9 and 10. What had happened to them was in principle the same as had happened to Pharaoh. Long before they had been warned, "Harden not your heart as. . . in the wilderness" (Ps. 95: 8), but to this no response had been given, and the time came in God's holy government when He sealed home this hardness of heart upon them; and as the result we have Isaiah's cry to God, Thou hast "hardened our heart to Thy fear."
Has such an action on the part of God any application to us today? Evidently it has, or we should not have found the warnings of Hebrews 3 and 4, based upon those words we have quoted from Psalm 95. In that Epistle, Jewish believers are taken up on the ground of their profession, and warned by the example of the Jewish people. Not all who profess the faith possess the vital thing. Hence the warning, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief."
There is also the terrible working of the government of God predicted for the end of our Gospel age, when as to those who refused the truth, "God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2: 11). This most drastic action of the government of God will well befit the most drastic refusal of His truth, that the world will ever witness.
In the second place it is remarkable how the prophet complains in verse 18, not only of the brief occupation of the land of promise but also of the treading down of the sanctuary by the adversary. At the time of Isaiah's prophecy, as recorded in the opening of the book, this had not actually taken place, though there had previously been defeats, as in the days of Rehoboam. It appears that Isaiah was given to see the end to which the people were drifting, and to appeal to God in the light of it. That the sanctuary should be defaced by the adversary was the crowning blow. If that was lost, all was lost. In the light of this we can understand the touching appeal that is made, beginning and ending with what is called, "the habitation of Thy holiness and of Thy glory."
Now what will have to take place if this appeal of the prophet is to be answered? Evidently that which he yearned for, as expressed in the first verse of the next chapter. God Himself must intervene in a very personal way. He must rend the heavens and come down. Nothing short of this would suffice. Yes, but how should this be done?
The words that follow make very plain what Isaiah had in his mind. He desired that God would personally intervene in power and in judgment. He knew that God had come down at the start of their national history, when there were thunders, lightnings, fire, and "the whole mount quaked greatly," even if it did not actually flow down at His presence. Now, if there were another such display of the Divine presence, surely the effect would be great.
It was, of course, something of this kind that would break up the Roman power, and work a visible deliverance for Israel, that the people, even the godly ones, connected with the coming of their Messiah, as we see so plainly manifested by the disciples, both before Jesus died, and even after His resurrection. Something of that sort will take place at the second coming of Christ, as Zechariah 14: 4, testifies. And for that coming we wait.
But we today are in the happy position of knowing that this desire for the presence of God has been answered first in another way. Earlier Isaiah had foretold the coming of the One, whose name should be, Immanuel, and in the opening of Matthew's Gospel we are told the meaning of that name - God with us. The heavens were rent upon Him just as He came forth in public service. He came amongst us, "full of grace and truth;" not doing, "terrible things," but rather suffering Himself the terrible things, when He died as the Sacrifice for sin.
Compared with these prophetic desires, and even forecasts, into what "marvellous light" we have been brought!
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