Isaiah 24:1 - 27:13
The last of these cities, upon which a "burden" rested, being disposed of, the prophetic strain moves on to make known in a more general way what would be the state of things at the end of the age. It is a dark and sorrowful picture: the whole earth turned upside down and the inhabitants scattered, no matter to what class they belonged. And not only Israel is in view, for though the closing accusations of verse 5 may have special reference to them, since laws and ordinances were specially given to them, the covenant of law, given at Sinai, could not be termed "everlasting." The reference here is rather to the covenant established with Noah and the new world of nations of which he was the head, according to Genesis 9: 9.
The first 12 verses of the chapter are filled with the gloom of earthly judgments, but when we reach verse 13 light begins to break, for a remnant of God-fearing ones is indicated, under the same figure as was used in Isaiah 17: 6. So that, even in the darkest hour, a note of praise will be sounded and God will be acknowledged and honoured; and that in all parts, for "the fires," is a poetic expression for the east, and "isles of the sea" for the west.
Thus God will have His witnesses in all parts, though in the presence of abounding evil and the judgments of God they may only be conscious of their leanness. Thus indeed it ever is and must be with God's true servants. It is the false who speak of their fatness, as "rich and increased with goods." God may empower His servants by His Spirit, but they are conscious of nothing but leanness in themselves.
Verses 17-20, give us a graphic description of the terrible overturning of all human order and institutions, that lies ahead. Six times in these verses is "the earth" mentioned, referring rather to the established order and world-system of things than to the actual earth-crust on which we live. All will be violently shaken before they are removed by the presence of the Lord.
The three verses that close the chapter show the effect of His presence. Not only will punishment fall on the kings of the earth but also "the host of the high ones . . . on high " will be judged and "shut up in the prison." What this means comes out more fully in the book of Revelation, where we learn of Satan and his angels being cast out of the heavens, and then Satan himself bound in the abyss, when the kings of the earth, under the leadership of the beast, are consigned to their doom. God will judge not only the nations but also the Satanic powers behind the nations. We get a glimpse of these powers in Daniel 10: 13, 20.
Then shall be established a new order of things in the presence of which the very institutions of heaven will be confounded, for Jehovah of hosts will reign in glory "before His ancients." This is a remarkable word. He does not reign over His ancients when He reigns in Zion and Jerusalem, but before them. They are witnesses of His glory, and remind us of the "elders" of Revelation 5. The word here might be translated "elders," we understand, which confirms the thought.
And, who is this Jehovah of hosts? He is evidently "the King of glory," but, as Psalm 24 asks twice "Who is this King of glory)" We know He is the One who bowed His sacred head in death for our sakes, according to Psalm 22. So our chapter ends with the power of evil-both in its fountain head and in its ramifications- smitten from the earth and the Lord Jesus enthroned at earth's centre and reigning before the delighted eyes of His ancients.
No wonder therefore that Isaiah 25 opens with a note of praise. The Lord will then have visibly done wonderful things, and His counsels of old will have been fulfilled in faithfulness and truth. When these things come to pass it will be easy to sing the note of praise, but it is our privilege as Christians to praise before they have come to pass: to-
"Sing-till heaven and earth surprising,
Reigns the Nazarene alone."
When the glad millennial day dawns it will mean the overthrow of man's strong cities and of the terrible nations that built them. It will also mean the shelter and uplifting of the godly remnant, as indicated in verse 4. Jehovah will prove Himself to be for them "a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat." We turn to Isaiah 32: 2. and we find that the same two things are to be found in a Man: truly an extraordinary statement, for an ordinary man in a tornado is but the sport of the elements and no refuge at all. In very deed, the MAN of chapter 32 is no ordinary man, but to be identified with the Jehovah of our chapter. We know Him as the Lord Jesus Christ.
The power of the great adversary, and of the nations who have become his tools, having been disposed of, full earthly blessing will be brought to pass, described as a feast of fat things and of old, well-matured wine. It may have been to this that our Lord referred, when He uttered the words recorded in Matthew 26: 29. The day of earthly joy is coming, and it will extend to "all peoples," for the word there is in the plural. Yet the centre of it will be "this mountain," referring to mount Zion, mentioned in the last verse of the previous chapter. Jerusalem doubtless is indicated, but mentioned in such a way as to emphasise that the blessing will be given as an act of mercy and not as the reward of merit.
Moreover, there will be a work Divinely wrought in the hearts of all who enter that glad age. The power of the adversary has cast a covering, or a vail over all the peoples, and it will be completely removed. The Apostle Paul uses a similar figure in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, only applying it more particularly to Israel, based upon the vail that Moses wore. Yet he makes it more general in chapter 4, when he claimed that he put no vail on the Gospel he preached, and that any vail that existed had its seat in those that were lost. When today the vail is lifted from a sinner's eyes, and he discovers his Saviour, it is the gracious work of the Spirit of God. Today it is an individual matter. In that day it will be on a world-wide scale, and it will result in the discovery that is brought before us in verse 9.
But we must not overlook the great statements of verse 8, particularly the one that Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15: 54, as finding fulfilment in the day of resurrection. Whether the saints who lived before Christ came, discerned the resurrection in these glorious words, may be open to question, but we now know what they infer, and in the faith of them the victory enters our hearts, and we have it before the actual day of resurrection dawns. Death being removed, the tears, that by reason of it have been on innumerable faces, will be wiped away for ever, and the "rebuke," or "reproach" of His people will be gone for ever too. Primarily no doubt, His "people" here refers to the redeemed and born again Israel, who will enter the millennial age.
But it will be true for all saints-those who by resurrection enter the heavenly world, as well as those blessed upon the earth. Through all the ages God's saints have walked in reproach. Enoch must have looked odd in his day, and certainly Abraham in his. From a worldly standpoint how foolish of Moses to leave the splendid place he had in the court of Pharaoh! And so we might continue till we come to Paul and his associates who were "fools for Christ's sake." What are we who profess the name of Christ? Have we so accommodated ourselves to the spirit of the age that reproach for Christ is hardly known by us? If so, we shall miss in large measure the thrill of that hour, which will surely come, for "the Lord hath spoken it."
The salvation which will reach Israel in that day will be wholly and obviously of the Lord, and publicly owned as such. The godly, who will enjoy the salvation, will be those who have ceased from their own efforts and have waited for Him to intervene on their behalf, just as today the sinner who receives the salvation of his soul does so when he learns to condemn himself, ends his strivings, and trusts in the Saviour. Then too he gets deliverance from his spiritual foes, just as Israel will get deliverance from Moab and other enemies, as the closing verses of our chapter show. In that day they will exclaim as they see the glorified Jesus, "Lo, this is our God."
Then in the opening verse of Isaiah 26, we get the jubilant song that will be heard in the land of Judah in that day. The prophecy still centres geographically in Jerusalem and mount Zion. The city will at last be strong inasmuch as its protection will be the salvation which God will have appointed. No other city has been beseiged so often as Jerusalem, but at last its sorrows will be over, and its inhabitants be described as "the righteous nation which keepeth the truth."
The sequence of thought here is to be noted. First, salvation, then, righteousness, thirdly, peace. But peace is to be enjoyed as the mind and heart is stayed in simple trust on the Lord. Hence the exhortation of verse 4, where the name of the Almighty is, so to speak, duplicated. It is "JAH-JEHOVAH," to emphasize that He is indeed "the Rock of Ages"-as shown in the margin of our reference bibles. Isaiah uttered this exhortation to the men of his day, before God's delivering might was manifested. It is equally valid for us today; indeed more so, since to us God has been made known in Christ in a far more intimate way.
But this deliverance for the godly will involve the work of judgment upon the world of the ungodly, as verses 5-11 show. God is presented as the most "Upright" One in verse 7. He weighs the path of the just, which has a character in keeping with Himself. So, while the godly wait for His judgments to be made manifest, His name is the object of their desire and they are sustained by the remembrance of Him as He had been revealed to them. This saying is sometimes linked with 1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25, "in remembrance of Me," and not unjustly, we think. Only, their desires and remembrance will be directed to One, who had made Himself known to them in the past by deliverance through judgment. We remember the One who expressed Divine love through death on our behalf, while our desire goes out for His return in glory.
This passage is in complete accord with the fact that the Gospel is being preached not to convert the world but to gather out of it "a people for His name" (Acts 15: 14). Favour has been "shewed to the wicked" for over nineteen centuries, and unrighteousness is still as rampant, if not more rampant, than ever. The hour approaches when God's judgments will be let loose in all the earth, and then at last those who come out of the judgments will have learned righteousness. Verse 10 also shows that what is wrong is not merely man's circumstances but man himself. Put "the wicked" into "the land of uprightness" and still "will he deal unjustly." Many an ardent Communist or Socialist agitates, and labours to improve the conditions under which the masses of mankind live, under the mistaken notion that granted right conditions all would be well. The fact is that the root of the evil lies in man, and the wrong conditions have been created by him. Put fallen man in his unconverted state into the most ideal conditions and he will overturn and mar them.
In verses 12-18, the prophet addresses the Lord on behalf of the remnant who fear Him. He confesses what a redeemed Israel will be brought to confess in the coming day. The peace that they then will enjoy is wholly the work of God. They will no longer speak of their works but of the works He had wrought on their behalf. Then as a result of this they are delivered from the old idolatrous powers that formerly forded it over them. No other name but that of Jehovah will be on their lips, and the very memory of their dead idols will have perished. Then they confess that only under the chastisements that God inflicted on them, have they turned to Him and been increased. Their own efforts produced no deliverance for themselves nor for the earth.
Verses 19-21, give the answer of God to this prayer of confession. "Thy dead shall live, My dead bodies shall arise" (New Trans.). Here we have in a brief statement what is given in more detail in Ezekiel 37, and alluded to in Daniel 12: 2 - the national reviving of Israel, when God raises up and gathers His elect. They had been dwelling "in dust"-or, as it is put in Daniel, sleeping "in the dust of the earth"-they were to awake and sing It is worthy of note that, when proving to the Sadducees from Scripture the fact of the resurrection, our Lord did not quote these scriptures but went back to His words to Moses.
Though many Jews are now back in the land of their fathers this national reviving of a spiritual sort has not yet come to pass, nor will it until "the indignation," of verse 20 has taken place. We identify the "indignation" with the "great tribulation" of Matthew 24: 21 which in its most intense form will fall upon the Jew, though "all the world" (Rev. 3: 10), will come under the stroke. The God-fearing remnant, owned here as "My people," are called upon to hide themselves during that terrible period, and this anticipates the fuller instructions given by the Lord in Matthew 24: 15-21.
The severity of that hour and its world-wide effects are stated in the last verse of our chapter. For well-nigh two thousand years the Lord has been in His place of mercy towards rebellious man. Then it is said, "The Lord cometh out of His place to punish," not the Jew only but "the inhabitants of the earth" generally. Judgment is spoken of as His "strange" work, but it will come to pass in its season, and we must never forget it. Israel's revival will take place when the tribulation is over. The believer today may look to be taken out of the very "hour" of the coming tribulation, according to Revelation 3: 10.
Isaiah 27 continues the theme in somewhat poetic language. Note how four times is repeated the phrase, "In that day." Judgment in the first place will reach the evil power that lies beneath the restless "sea" of nations. This "dragon" that is in the sea can be no other than Satan, and Revelation no reveals how he will be dealt with. Then at last Israel will be no longer a fruitless vine but rather "A vineyard of red wine." Then peace will ensue and Israel will be like a tree that is full of blossom, and fill the face of the world with fruit; becoming what God from the outset intended them to be. This will never come to pass as the result of their efforts. They will have to fulfil what is said at the beginning of verse 5, "let him take hold of My strength."
Verses 7-11 however, show that this desirable end will only be reached when God brings to a finish His governmental judgments upon that people. There is "the iniquity of Jacob" which will have to be purged from them by these severe dealings from the hand of God. Yet, even so, the smitings that will fall upon them will not reach the severity of those that will be visited upon the nations who smote them. Upon these there will fall unsparing judgment, but for Jacob the smitings will reach to the altars and groves and sun-images which shall be ground to powder. Thus the very judgments that God will inflict upon His people, largely by the hand of other people, will have the effect of destroying the very things that had been a snare to them.
In verse 12 we meet with the phrase, "In that day" for the third time. There is to be once more a gathering of His people from the land of Egypt, but this time in a very different way. Then Moses brought them out in their thousands as a nation, but in the coming day it will be an individual matter. One by one they will be put right with God, and so gathered to the place of blessing.
But verse 13 declares that in that day, though there must be the individual work indicated, there will be great publicity about it. The "great trumpet" shall sound, announcing this mighty work of God, as also our Lord Himself declared in Matthew 24: 31. Publicly the house of Jacob has been disciplined and overthrown through the long and weary centuries: as publicly shall they be recovered, restored and blessed, when God's work with them and in them is brought to completion. Then at last in the holy mount at Jerusalem they shall give to the Lord that worship which is His due. What a day that will be!
But how privileged are we, Christians, who may worship God revealed as Father, while praise is still silent in Zion. We worship today in spirit and in truth; presently God will be addressed as "Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel" (Ps. 22: 3).
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