Isaiah 23:3 A Mart of Nations
Tyre claims the ignominious distinction of being the last in the list of Isaiah’s burden judgements. It supposedly represents the world as a great commercial system much as Babylon suggests a religious system. Interestingly these two historic entities seem placed as book ends (chapters 13-23) in which the prophet delivers this series of "grievous visions" as Jehovah rides in fury "upon a swift cloud" with the "weapons of his indignation."
Tyre claims the ignominious distinction of being the last in the list of Isaiah’s judgements. It supposedly represents the world as a great commercial system much as Babylon suggests a religious system. Interestingly these two historic entities seem placed as book ends (chapters 13-23) in which the prophet delivers this series of "grievous visions" as Jehovah rides in fury "upon a swift cloud" with the "weapons of his indignation."
As Ironside puts it, "This is the pervading aspect of the world as we know it today, when nation after nation is reaching out for commercial gain and people are living on a luxurious scale such as has never been known in previous centuries. But the day is soon coming when all these things upon which men have set their hearts shall be destroyed and the present world system pass away. We may see a prediction of this in the prophecy relating to the doom of Tyre."
The commentators are not agreed as to which specific period these words may refer for, "Tyre is remarkable in history for two things, its maritime trade, and the many sieges it has undergone" (Alexander), however, they seem to lean toward that of Nebuchadnezzar. It is probable that the prophecies are generic encompassing aspects of the many assaults upon this island bastion which is located on the Mediterranean coast just a bit south of Beirut.
This is the land of Hiram from whence came the "cedars of Lebanon," trading in the merchandise of Tarshish, serving the wants even of King Solomon (I K.10:22; Ps.45:12). (Note: the terms Mart and Merchandise come from the same Hebrew word ) Ezekiel 27 uses a different word but stresses the theme.
This prophecy like that concerning Egypt (ch.19) ends on a positive note and seems to reflect a change which can only come about in the millennium. The vivid picture is that of an old harlot seeking to relive her inglorious past only to find that even that which characterized her past is somehow made to glorify the LORD. How He can say "blessed be Egypt, my people" (19:25) is beyond our ken. Tyre, the harlot, like Rahab will find a place in God’s future plan and like the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, her merchandise will be perceived as good. Amazing!
Isaiah 24:3 The LORD Hath Spoken This Word
It is thought by some that from this chapter to the thirty-fifth the prophet is addressing Judah now that he has spoken to all the various other nations in the preceding chapters and though it is difficult if not impossible to see any systematic development in this section, it does seem perhaps that chapter 24-27 belong together.
If so, perhaps the use of the term in that day (26:1; 27:1, 2, 12 and 13) may serve to guide us, especially since verse 13 of chapter 27 seems to be a concluding statement. It will be noted that following this point there are a series of chapters that begin with the word woe, ending with another concluding statement occurring (35:10) before there is an obvious change in the subject. I hope these rather superficial observations may be helpful as we slog through. Before you criticize my use of the word "slog" be sure and look it up in Webster. There will be some refreshing springs in this desert such as 26:1-4 and I can hardly wait to get there!
You see, as meateaters we are supposed to be studying the Scriptures not just looking for a text that we can take out of context to use as a pretext; we are to be "rightly dividing" the Word. Do we look for a theme i.e. how many times the word earth appears in this chapter? Does the prophet mean the whole earth or only that part where he lives? Can we separate the generic prophecies from the specific? Is Isaiah speaking of events at the end of the age or a certain city or country being judged (v.10; see 27:12&13)? Can we distinguish hyperbole from reality? He can shake the earth (v.19) but will He actually turn it upside down? Can we discern the difference between simile (v.13) and metaphor? Will the sun be ashamed (v.23)? Do we try to understand the difficult verses (v.15)? What is "the everlasting covenant" (v.5)? What do we learn from this chapter?
Isaiah 25:9 Lo, This is Our God
Take the last verse of chapter 24 and put it together with the first verse of chapter 26 and think of the chapter between as the words of a song being sung as one of the songs referred to in 24:16 entitled "Glory to the Righteous." Perhaps this is one of the songs that will be sung in triumph during the millennium.
One of the themes that Israel will sing will be about the way our God has laid waste the defenced cities of all their enemies like Babylon and all countries like Moab (v.7). They shall say – "see, this is what our God can do – we have waited a long time for this!"
Israel has certainly waited a long time (v.9) and still must wait until after the tribulation to "rejoice in His salvation." The prophet must be seeing that time and the use of the expression "in that day" would seem to indicate that future blessing. Seeing, with the eye of faith the ultimate overthrow of enemies like the Babylonians must have caused his burst of praise (v.1).
The apostle Paul grabbed one of Isaiah’s thoughts when he was writing to the Corinthians about the resurrection, "He will swallow up death in victory." For death to be "swallowed up" indicates that it would be totally abolished (II Tim.1:10) which even we today have a bit of a struggle getting our minds around so it must really have been a stretch for Isaiah. John in Rev. 21:4 put the thought of "no more death" together with the wiping away of tears but here Isaiah beats him to it (v.8)!
We can certainly join the prophet in his words of praise for the LORD is our God too so let us praise His name for He has "done wonderful things" for us. His counsels to us in His word are true and His mercies (v.4) are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!
Isaiah 26: 3 Perfect Peace
Remember, Isaiah lived during the time when the Assyrians carried away captive all of northern Israel and was making serious incursions into the southern kingdom of Judah. During that time they destroyed 46 walled cities and carried away 200,000 captives (Halley, p.254). Exactly when this song of praise was composed and sung is probably impossible to determine but he is no doubt prophesying the survival of Jerusalem as an encouragement to the besieged inhabitants and, of course, Sennacherib did not succeed taking it though he boasted (37:24) that he would.
One can imagine, as reports of defeat poured into Jerusalem daily, how ridiculous the words of Isaiah must have sounded to some of his skeptics. But, he would urge,"We have a strong city" and what makes us so? Our fear of Jehovah (25:3)! Do you forget how He has been such a strength to the poor; such a strength to the needy in his distress? "The LORD’s our rock, in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm, secure whatever ill betide," etc. When those terrible Assyrians are assaulting us as a storm blast against our walls (25:4) just remember that we have Jehovah’s salvation promises for our "walls and bulwarks" (60:18).
Under such conditions, we are going to "Trust in Him ye saints forever, He is faithful, changing never, neither force nor guile can sever those He loves from Him" (Thomas Kelly–Praise the Savior).
Did Isaiah’s usual long range antenna kick in all of a sudden and for a minute did he see the great tribulation as he said, "Come my people, hide for a little moment until the indignation be over past"?
The promise of resurrection (v.19) would certainly help, under the pressure of whatever travail comes, to keep us "in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee" (v.3).
Isaiah 27:13 At Jerusal
In the effort to assist our readers to keep the correct perspective as we spend our time writing these devotionals I try to offer a few guidelines. This chapter affords us an excellent opportunity, we trust, for making some helpful points.
First and foremost we assume that you will not fail to carefully read the entire short chapter at one sitting, praying that the Lord will open your eyes to understand His Word and will use its teaching to strengthen your faith and aid in your growth.
Why are you reading the prophet Isaiah? Probably it is because you are reading systematically through your Bible and though you are tempted to skip the prophecy section and get to the New Testament, your conscience won’t let you do that. If, on the other hand, you pick and choose what book you are going to read for your devotions, perhaps you have chosen to read in the prophets because it is the part of your Bible that you understand the least. There might even be someone out there who has picked up a commentary or two and is trying, by God’s grace, to study the book!
In a way, I envy the latter person or persons and sincerely wish I could join you in research and discussion; what a great time we could have! Unfortunately most of us find ourselves in the former classification, with lack of time being our major difficulty. It is primarily to you I would address these thoughts.
You probably have noted that there is a common phrase in the first two and the last two verses; "In that day." To what day is the author referring? As you know by this time Isaiah shifts often from present to future and to far future. Here it would seem that it is far future even though he does refer in verse 13 to Assyria. Notice the dragon (Satan) is being slain (v.1); Israel is filling the world with fruit (v.6); Israel is to be gathered one by one (v.12); and there is to be the blowing of "the great trumpet" (v.13).
You could go back and re-read the whole section (ch.24-27) and you could go to Joel and compare the prophecies. It is in the midst of all of these last day events that Israel is taught to sing the song of 26:1-4. See how much more meaningful these words are when taken in their context.
Isaiah 28:23 Hear My Voice
We begin a new section consisting of six chapters, five of which open with the word Woe so you know that it will be quite negative. It will be a warning to Ephraim (Israel), it will condemn the folly of Judah, it will discourage all intercourse with Egypt, Assyria will be a threat to be reckoned with. It was written before the fall of Samaria which was a beautiful city spoken of here as having "glorious beauty" which "the mighty and strong one" (the Assyrian) would "cast down to the earth."
Next we have a passage usually taken out of context, which is extremely difficult of interpretation. Having read everything I have on the subject and having spent all the time I can spare, I cannot even come close to what I would consider a satisfactory explanation. So, I must leave it (vs. 9-13).
We are all saddened to know of friends and loved ones who fit into verse fifteen. Their covenant with death is just not to think about it, their agreement with hell is that their friends are there. They take refuge in the lies of evolution and hide under the false views of religion.
We are thankful to have built our beliefs on the precious cornerstone of the Lord Jesus Christ and we shall not "be confounded" (I Peter 2:6).
"What is any better than a good night’s rest," they say. Well, try to get it when your feet hang out over the end and someone else has all the covers! Perhaps we could go back from verse 20 to verse 12. God has the answers in His word and we will find rest and refreshment there. This is apparently something Isaiah’s hearers were unwilling to do. He closes with a simple argument. The farmer has the good sense to use discretion, being taught of the LORD, how and when to plant and harvest. We would do well to listen to Him Who "is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working."
Isaiah 29:14 A Marvelous Work and a Wonder
?Straight to the heart of God’s people is this woe-ridden prophecy sent. A new name for David’s city, Jerusalem, appears here, used just five times in the Bible, four here in this chapter and once in Ezekiel. Ariel. This word presents a good opportunity to show how difficult it is sometimes for translators to know what to do. You know, most Jewish names are simple concepts made proper in usage, often developed from a compound word containing God’s name, for example Joshua, a compound of Jehovah and the Hebrew word for saves or salvation. Ariel, it would seem is a combination of the word for lion and, of course, the el, which is most commonly translated God. The problem is that there is another word pronounced the same but which has a tiny mark in the Hebrew lettering which changes the word to mean an altar.Calvin, usually an extremely cautious translator, holds to the latter in this case while Ironside calls it a toss up. Reference to the killing of sacrifices in the first verse and saying in the second, "it shall be (the city) unto me as an altar"– possibly changing the words from the proper noun Ariel to the literal meaning of the word. (Lion would make no sense here.) Just a thought and obviously of little consequence.
The fact is that Jehovah is about to make of His city that He had chosen as the place of His habitation (Ps.132:13) an altar whereupon He will offer, as it were, the heart of the nation to be destroyed by Babylon. The visitation will be as a bolt of lightening, a devouring flame as thorough as that which licked up the very stones of Elijah’s altar on Carmel (v.6).
Why would Jehovah do such a thing? Woe unto those whose "works are in the dark" (v.15). He hates the works of darkness and cannot abide a nation of hypocrites who honor Him with their lips but whose heart is far from Him. The Lord Jesus recognized the similarity between the nation of Isaiah’s day and the hypocrites of His when He applied this prophecy to the Pharisees (Matt.15:7-9).
Isaiah 30:15 And Ye Would Not
Next time we shall think about Israel’s failure in going down to Egypt, but now we shall think about what they should have done. I have the words "how sad" written in my Bible at the end of verse 15. Actually, the words of this verse are wonderful words and are certainly often quoted.
"In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength." It is too bad that the verse does not end there! But, unfortunately it doesn’t, and that is what this book of Isaiah is all about. The affect of reading these prophecies is that we should be caused to weep as did Jeremiah over the stubbornness and rebellion of Israel. What they could have had were they only willing to "trust and obey."
Oh for the day that Isaiah saw in the future when Jehovah will graciously gather His people (note that word in 18 &19).
What a difference there was between what lay in store for them when they would hear a voice behind them saying "this is the way, walk ye in it," and what the Assyrians would hear from Him whose "lips are full of indignation and his tongue as a devouring fire" (v.27). This but a foretaste of what awaits all of the enemies of Jehovah who of old prepared the lowest hell, Tophet, where, as Ironside says, "will be cast the last enemies of God as the day of the LORD is ushered in and man’s day comes to a close."
In the meantime back to a nation that will learn nothing from all of this that would soon come upon them. Would they return and rest in a gracious Saviour? We have but to turn to Matthew’s gospel (23:29 and following) to hear the eighth in the series of woes from the lips of God’s gracious Son pronounced upon those who killed the prophets like Isaiah. " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not!"
Isaiah 31:1 Egypt’s Horses and Chariots
It is typical that when we speak of going in a southerly direction we say "down." We go down to Portland, up to Bangor. But going down to Egypt was not only to go south, it was to go in the wrong direction. It was, of course, merely coincidental that the way to Egypt was down for it would have been just as wrong for them to look that wayfor help even if it were sought upon the highest mountain or even among the stars!
Egypt! What memories it conjured up. Every year when Nisan, the first month, rolled around, the stark contrast of the crimson blood on the snow-white neck of an innocent lamb, the bitter herbs, a reminder of the sweat and tears, of the grinding labor to make bricks without straw. Of these things they could only read now, but from the scroll one could sense the anguish the great cry arising as from a single Egyptian throat "for there was not a house where there was not one dead" (Ex.12:30).
Egypt, the iron furnace, 400 years of suffering, of prayer for deliverance, of longing for unfulfilled promises and then, finally, amazingly, they stood on the bank of the sea as it washed triumphantly over "horse and rider" (15:1). How could they ever forget it? "Who is like unto thee, O LORD among the gods? who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (V.11).
And yet, they had apparently forgotten. Unbelievable! Do they not understand that the Egyptians are but men and what are they in comparison to the Almighty, the LORD of hosts! And what these horses of flesh when compared with those that surrounded Elisha at Dothan (II K.6:17). "O fools and slow of heart to believe..." (Lk.24:25). The heart of Jehovah beats in the breast of our Lord Jesus Christ and it must likewise grieve over us when we "seek first to the physician" or depend on the arm of flesh, forgetting that our strength is still in "the Holy One of Israel" (31:1) and it is in Him that we are to trust.
Years ago I jotted down next to Psalm 20:7 "some trust in chariots and some in horses" and some in mailing lists "but we will remember..." I hope we will.
Isaiah 32:17 The Work of Righteousness
Ah, let us linger on these pages, sifting out the precious from the vile. What is more vile than those who would cause their sons and daughters to be burned alive as an offering to Molech (Jer.32:35). Could such a thing be happening in Jerusalem? Yes, (v.31) it had been for some time and Jehovah’s fury is building. Soon He would bring upon it such a blast of the heat of His anger as to "remove it" from before His face.
But not yet! There are still a few good men. Thank God for them. The liberal of verse eight is, in this context a magnanimous person. Soon to come will be Manassah who brought such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah that it made the ears tingle of those who heard of it (II K.21:12). Such was the one soon to come out of the loins of his father, but not yet! Before this happens, "a king shall reign in righteousness" and in concert with him "princes shall rule in judgement." Such a king was Hezekiah! It is said of him that there "was none like him" before or after him.
He is the one being spoken of in this chapter. That is the interpretation. As for the application, it is fortunate that Isaiah wrote these words or else our modern hymn writers would have lacked much poetic language that they could apply to our Lord Jesus and His work of righteousness. It is for certain that we can hide in Him for He is a "rock in a weary land." It is the effect of His righteousness that produces "quietness and assurance forever" (v.17).
It was, however, Manie P. Ferguson (19th century) who really capitalized on Isaiah’s words in his hymn Blessed Quietness. Several of the stanzas of this great hymn have thoughts and phrases adapted from this chapter and the next. Praise God that indeed we do dwell in "a peaceful habitation and a quiet resting place."
Isaiah 33:22 He Will Save Us
What goes around comes around. Assyria was now the spoiler but it would not be long before Nineveh would be itself overthrown by the Babylonians and would suffer in turn being spoiled. Thus it is always among the nations as God uses the one to mete out justice against the other.
It is even so with individuals for the very worst treatment that can ever come upon us at the hand of our enemy can only result in physical death whereas those who mistreat us will suffer for their sins for all eternity. That may not seem like much of a comfort when pain wracks the body of the martyr but even in such an extremity some are given grace to pray for their enemies who not only "know not what they do," but in fact know not where they are headed. Witness Stephen who took his pattern from our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 7:60).
Verse six, in the short term, speaks of the stability of the times yet to be had under Hezekiah, though long term, it speaks of the wonderful treasure it is to His people of any time to know and appreciate the fear of the LORD. (Calvin sees Hezekiah as a "figure of Christ").
Both the enemies that attack from without and the hypocrites within the walls of the city should fear the devouring fire of Jehovah, yea all except those described in verse fifteen. Need the gold and silver fear the heat which only cleanses and makes more pure its substance?
It is these who "walketh righteously" whose "eyes shall see the king in his beauty." Though it even yet is a "land that is very far off," yet, though we can hardly believe it, Zion will be "a quiet habitation" and there we shall forever behold "our glorious LORD."
Isaiah 34:8 The Day of The LORD ‘s Vengeance
Chapters 28-33 comprised a section characterized by the word Woe. These seems to relate primarily to the immediate threat of the Assyrian army. At least the prophecies would begin by speaking of relevant subjects: Ephraim; Ariel, David’s city; going to Egypt for help; king Hezekiah.
Now, the subject is more encompassing. Let the earth hear; all nations are to be destroyed; all the host of heaven dissolved. Note the sense of finality: the nations are utterly destroyed (v.2); it shall not be quenched; none shall pass through it for ever and ever (v.10); the wild beasts shall possess it forever (v.17).
Thinking back we will remember that whenever the judgements upon Israel were mentioned there would always be mercy and blessing at the end for her. But now we are dealing with the judgements of the last days. The earth is being reaped. It is the day of the LORD’s vengeance (v.8).
Ironside says "this prophecy (1-3) is in perfect harmony with Revelation 19:19-21. In fact these words of Isaiah might be looked upon as a commentary on, and explanation of, the vision found in the Apocalypse. It coincides also very closely with the first part of the 14th chapter of the book of Zechariah." This refers to that time in the tribulation period when the nations shall be gathered together against Jerusalem.
He says that the judgement mentioned here in v.5 on Idumea has never yet taken place but that it will be literally fulfilled at the time spoken of here and he thinks that Edom will be inhabited by these fowls throughout the millennium as a reminder of how God judged a rebellious people. We shall see.
In the meantime, we have the wonderful promise of the next chapter and one of the most wonderful promises ever heard by mortal man.
The world can only look forward to God’s vengeance, but we await His richest blessings. Praise the Lord!
Isaiah 35:10 Shades of Handel
Well, there is no doubt about this chapter which some have likened to a poem or song. The theme is the millennium reign of Christ on earth. The "book of the LORD" is full of information about this event especially the prophets (34:16) and among God’s creatures there shall be great rejoicing when that time comes. We often sing about it during the Christmas season. "Joy to the world, the LORD is come, let earth receive her King, let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing." When He comes the effect of His kingdom will be observed in every place where previously the curse of sin has abounded. Even the wilderness and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose.
Ever since man sinned, the prevailing winds have blown upon Israel from the east. Once they shift to the west, clouds larger than a man’s hand will begin to drop much rain upon Carmel and we remember with amazement and relief how God thus turned the tide and the tables of Jezebel there once before. The abundance of rain is all it will take for the whole Sahara desert to burst forth and blossom.
What did Christmas have to do with all of this? Much every way. Do you remember what our Lord Jesus sent as a soothing message to John the baptizer? Tell him that the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap, etc. (Matt.11:5). He did not say that the dumb sang, but the verses He had in mind do, for He certainly had reference to Isaiah’s prophecy, and what is it that causes the song but those "streams in the desert" (v.8)? His first advent presaged the second!
What hallelujah singing will resound from the highway of holiness as the ransomed return to Zion with songs of gladness and indeed, "sorrow and sighing shall flee away!"
Isaiah 36:21 Not a Word
Suddenly we are whisked back from the glorious future to the startling reality of the present. Sennacharib has invaded Judah - his general is at the gates of Jerusalem. (This is not to say that there is any relationship between chapters 35 and 36. There probably is not.)
It is very important at this point that we keep straight in our minds the fact that we will be dealing from now on with two major nations which are attacking Israel and Judah. The first is Assyria whose king is Sennacharib who succeeds in conquering the 10 tribes of Israel, carrying them off captive from whence they shall never return. He also captures 46 cities of Judah and 200,000 of the people as well. The important thing to remember is that they were unable to defeat Jerusalem!
The second nation to keep in mind is Babylonia whose king Nebuchadnezzar (inter changeably with Nebuchadrezzar) did succeed in capturing and destroying Jerusalem 125 years later.
What is of special interest to us is seeing the way God worked in these two situations. In the first, He delivered Jerusalem from being captured and we have a wonderful account of that deliverance here in this chapter of Isaiah and the next. This was during the reign of Hezekiah and it was in answer to this godly king’s prayer that the city was spared. (See devotionals on II K. 18 & 19; II Chr. 29 - 32.)
Later, especially in Jeremiah’s prophecies, we shall see a completely different picture when, because of Judah’s sin, it becomes God’s will to destroy Jerusalem and a totally different scenario unfolds which catches Jeremiah in an imbroglio from which he barely escapes with his life (Jer.38:9). ( It’s a great word, check it out in Webster!)
The encouraging message of this chapter is that no matter how successful the enemy is at what he does, he is absolutely powerless against us when we have Jehovah on our side (Ps.91:1 -7). Behold what threatening, "but they held their peace and answered him not a word."
Isaiah 37:31 Taking Root and Bearing Fruit
Other than a slight difference in the verse numberings, this chapter is exactly the same as II Kings 19, a fact which goes to show that this is the point where history and prophecy touch and flow together for a bit. If you have access to what I wrote in II Kings I suggest that you might go back and read it. Also, it is available on my website: www.oldmainepastor.com.
The time will come all too soon when another king of another nation will succeed where here Sennacharib fails. If Hezekiah was one of the best kings Judah had, his son Manasseh was one of the worst and though he repented at the end of his life and though his grandson Josiah was a revivalist king, the wickedness of the nation had ripened to the point of no return. But again, as we have previously stated, that is about 125 years down the road, and if you think the chronology of Isaiah is a challenge, just wait until you get into Jeremiah.
Hezekiah’s is a most wonderful prayer (vs.16-20) and can be a pattern for us when we have a stressful situation that needs to be "spread before the LORD." Can we really believe that we have the ear of the God of all the kingdoms of the earth and that it is He Who made heaven and earth? Yes, as much as he believed it and certainly experienced the reality of such astounding deliverance from Sennacharib’s powerful army. The LORD will hear us for the same reason that He heard Hezekiah, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that He is the LORD.
At a time when most of those around us believe that evolution is the answer to the riddle of life let us be ready to stand fast in the faith portrayed in this chapter. It is only a remnant that continues to sink its roots into the unchanging truth of Scripture, but as we do so, we shall certainly "bear fruit upward."
Isaiah 38:19 "As I do this day"
If there is opportunity, a backward glance at the events taking place here in Hezekiah’s life as recorded in II Kings 20 and II Chronicles 32 would be rewarding. It is in II Chronicles 32:32 that the inspired text states that "the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and his goodness" are to be found written in Isaiah and the Kings. We have already made reference to the tribute made to him in II Kings 18:5 where it says, "He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him."
Therefore, before we leave this man behind in the dust of history and the grave, let us spend a few moments thinking about the great physical trial that came into his life and how it affected him. Here we see how human he was as he asked God to be delivered from the sentence of death dispatched to him by Isaiah. Any of us could hear that same sentence the next time we see our doctor. If and when that time comes, it would be well for us to be able to say as Hezekiah did, "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart and have done that which is good in thy sight."
Something that we are in a much better position than Hezekiah to understand is that the LORD has indeed undertaken for us (v.14). He has, in love to our soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption (Hell). He has cast all our sins behind His back! The living, yea, the living "he shall praise thee as I do this day" (v.19). May we pass these truths on to those who come after us (our children) and may we be found singing songs of praise for all eternity. (For I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever- Ps.23:6). Hallelujah!
Isaiah 39:4 What Has He Seen in Our Hearts
The story of the Babylonian visitors is a rather strange one. There is nothing to say that they were spies, though they might have been. Hezekiah was "glad" to see them and show them around. What was so wrong in that? It was what we might think of as a common courtesy. These foreign ambassadors seemingly were innocent enough and they had come "from a far country," the least he could do was be hospitable.
In fact, it must have been while showing his treasures and his armaments that momentarily the sin of pride creptin and just at that moment as it was His way to do at times, the Spirit of God left him, perhaps grieved to think that little did he know but that all these things that he had amassed would be carted off to Babylon sooner that he might realize. Babylon was not that far away.
So we are privileged to peek with God (II Chr. 32:31) inside the great king’s heart. It is only in the historic pages of inspiration that such a glimpse is ever given. Who would guess at that moment in time that there was anything wrong in what he did. In fact, were we not given the inside story, we might be prone to think quite positively about the good man’s effort at witness for it did seem that it was word of the miracle that had prompted them to come. In fact it may have been in that very thing that he had been disobedient in not giving glory to God about the sun going back.
About such things we may only speculate, but what we can do is watch carefully our own hearts and hold lightly those things upon which it often sets great value for we will all too soon be separated from them and all we will have is whatever treasure we have laid up in heaven. No Babylonian thief can get that (Matt.6:20)!
Isaiah 40: 3 The Voice in the Wilderness
Of Course the voice crying in the wilderness belonged to John the Baptizer and all of the four Gospels acknowledge that this reference relative to preparing the way of the Lord is the one that we have here before us in Isaiah, (Mt. 3:3, Mk. 1:3, Lk. 3:4 and John 1:23).
I take the liberty of reproducing what was written on the Luke passage.
Luke 3:12 What Shall We Do?
Where is the meat in this chapter? Perhaps it is in what Isaiah the prophet wrote in anticipation of John’s coming as the fore-runner of our Lord Jesus. We might call him John the bulldozer as he sought to prepare the way for the Lord. Can’t you see him cutting a wide swath through the Judaistic swamp? With the law of Moses as the surveyor’s instrument anything below par must be brought up to grade level, those above the law humbled, crooks brought to justice and character flaws exposed to the cutting edge of the blade of truth. We would do well to ask the question of the day "what shall we do then?"
The answer comes back to us in the call for repentance which means a change is in order. Whatever it takes to straighten out our thinking, for that is essentially what is meant by the word repentance. It involves a word that we usually don’t like to hear..change. But we are saved, we don’t need to listen to John. Not necessarily true! Israel’s voice in the wilderness has its counterpart for the church, the Holy Spirit. He it is who calls us to repentance to change our minds concerning sin. The evidence that we have responded to the Spirit by receiving the One who baptizes us into the body of Christ (I Cor.12:13) lest we be among those cast into unquenchable fire is the attitude of being willing to change and keep on changing as the Sword of the Spirit does its necessary work.
Are we sure we don’t have a few low places in our thinking that are below grade level when it comes to holiness, perhaps a hill or two of pride that needs knocking down? Lord, expose my crooked ideas and smooth out my character until I think and act like You.
Isaiah 41:14 Fear Not Thou Worm
There is a recognizable change that takes place in Isaiah when we reach the fortieth chapter. That is one reason why the so called "higher critics" postulate a second Isaiah. Of this Halley in his Bible Handbook states "the book of Isaiah in our Bible and in Jesus’ day, was ONE book not two. It is not a patchwork, but, from the beginning to end, it is characterized by a unity of thought, set forth in the sublimest of language, that makes it one of the grandest things ever written."
J.A. Alexander, however, as most of the commentators, divides the book at this point and in fact has a very helpful outline of the latter section in a chapter by chapter format. Ironside calls this the third section of the book dividing the first 39 chapters into a prophetic section and an historical-typical section. Interestingly F.B. Meyer has done a special work on chapters 40 - 55 entitled Christ in Isaiah.
You will note that starting with this chapter the word redeemer appears often (13 times) and redeemed another 10 times in 43 -63.
After pronouncing such a thorough-going judgement on Israel in chapter 39 perhaps it was felt that it was time to comfort His people (40:1) which He does now in numerous ways.
While the nations are encouraging themselves by sprucing up their idols (vs.6&7) Jehovah comforts Jacob by reminding him that He has chosen him to be His servant and refers to Abraham as His friend (v.8). What a wonderful and comforting statement is verse 10 as Israel is told "Fear thou not for I am with thee: be not dismayed for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." We enjoy applying this promise to our own hearts as believers, but we must remember that it was said to comfort Israel at a very difficult period of their history. Another "Fear not" is found in verse 14 where Jehovah identifies Himself as their "redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
Isaiah 42:6 A Light of the Gentiles
As we have indicated, Isaiah is Jehovah’s mouthpiece to speak comfort unto the nation Israel now that the destruction of Jerusalem has been announced. If we may, let us attempt to follow the train of thought from the preceding chapter as God is apparently introducing several interrelated themes. He will be emphasizing His omniscient ability to foretell the future in contrast to the deaf and dumb idols (41:22&23); this will lead to His plan to produce a great leader (Cyrus, 41:2&25) who will orchestrate the return of Israel to the land after the 70 years of Babylonian captivity. This, of course, is good tidings to Jerusalem though Jehovah could not find a counselor among His own people to make the proper announcement (41:28).
It is in thinking about this that Jehovah is led to speak again of His ultimate plan to be Israel’s redeemer(41:14).
In the fulness of time Jehovah’s Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ would come. This is the message of our present chapter. There can be no doubt about Who this great Comforter would be for Matthew 12:17-21 spells it out clearly. This is Jehovah’s elect Servant "in whom my soul delighteth" (42:1). God, the Father is spoken of in II Cor.1:3 as "the God of all Comfort;" in John 14:16 Jesus identifies Himself as the Comforter and at the same time promises the Holy Spirit Who will be "another Comforter (of the same kind-Greek) Who abides with us forever, i.e. maximum comfort!
Though they were too blind to see or appreciate the fact, it should have been a great comfort to the Jews that through them Christ would bring the light of salvation to the Gentiles (note: the Septuagint version of the isles shall wait for his law as translated in Matthew 12:21 "and in his name shall the Gentiles trust").
Finally, in the Kingdom His work of comfort will be fully realized as He sets "judgement in the earth" (v.4). Hallelujah!
Isaiah 43:4 I Have Loved Thee
Before we apply the wonderful verses in our chapter to ourselves let us stand in awe of the interpretation of this passage. That such things could possibly be said to Israel is a cause for the greatest of wonder and consequently of admiration for our Jehovah God Who is portrayed in extravagant language as their gracious redeemer as He seeks to comfort them.
One hardly knows where to start when launching into the overwhelming depths of grace portrayed here. Let us be sure we have at least tried to grasp what abundant mercy, what loving kindness is being poured out upon a people "who would not walk in his ways neither were they obedient unto his law" (42:24) which words are hardly out of the mouth of the prophet when we abruptly encounter the words of 43:1, "Fear not for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine."
Again, I reiterate, think about the fact that these things are being said to Israel, not of us, though we may delight to apply them. If we fail to interpret the fact that this is addressed to Israel, we basically miss the purpose for which it was written under Jehovah’s direction. Let us rather take a moment to sigh, yea, weep for a people who spurn such love. This will help put us in tune with Jesus and Paul. Not bad company.
What we see here in Jehovah baring His heart, not for us as N.T. believers, but for Israel which has not ceased to be precious to Him though we wonder why. But once we have really seen His grace to Israel we will never ever question the security of our redemption in Christ. All of grace, all of grace, all of grace, let us never doubt it or forget it!
Isaiah 44:8 "I know Not Any"
Remember now what Jehovah has instructed Isaiah, the servant of the LORD, to do at this point in time, "Comfort ye my people"(40:1) and the people primarily in view would be Israel. The reason is because of His judgement upon them beginning here with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem but extending forward to the day in the future when that holy city would be surrounded with armies (Lk.22:20; Dan.9:26) and "all things which are written (will) be fulfilled." His glittering sword of judgement is sharpened and furbished and in this Ezekiel passage as Jerusalem is destroyed, the crown is seen as taken from the present king (Zedekiah– Ez.21:26) and there would be no more kings until the crown will be given to the One to come "whose right it is" and to Whom it will be given (v.27) by Jehovah, even the Lord Christ.
In the meantime, how do you comfort a people who have brought upon themselves the horrible judgement foretold in Deuteronomy 28:47-68? For most of them, unfortunately, there would be no comfort for what hope could there possibly be for a nation so blind as to worship and serve idols? The description of foolish idol-worshipers in this chapter is quite ridiculous and might be humorous if it were not sadly true.
For the remnant who would believe there are found in this chapter great words of comfort. In fact this whole section, especially chapters 40-44 are packed solid with promises which most of us have underlined in our Bible. There are 7 "Fear not" verses - in the section which in itself is striking. Redemption verses also abound like verse 22 which sounds so evangelic.
Best of all, and here we have a bit of humor which we really can enjoy, when God reminds Israel that there is no other God beside Him – I love it, when He says, as if looking all around the universe, "I know not any" (vs.6-8)!
And Father God, neither do we!
Isaiah 45:22 I Am God and There is None Else
Isaiah the prophet ministered from about 740 to 698 B.C. and Cyrus conquered Babylon in 538, so the fact is there were over 150 years between the two. This is what makes this passage so remarkable and why the liberals have done so much to try to discredit it postulating a second or Deutero Isaiah. If, however, this was written after the fact, as claimed by these unbelievers, what we have is a very fraudulent piece of work intending to deceive by claiming the foreseeing of the future, naming Cyrus years before he was born and declaring him as the one who would rebuild Jerusalem (vs.4 and 13).
Furthermore, the alleged reason for Jehovah telling the nation these things is for the purpose of comforting the captives assuring them that He had a plan that He was developing and concerning which He was so much in control that He had the end all planned! He refers to Cyrus as His shepherd who will build Jerusalem and the temple (44:28). In these things He makes the claim of declaring it "before it came to pass" as an evidence of His transcendence over their graven and molten images (48:5).
If these things are not truthful as indicated then not only is the Isaiah writing them a fake, the One about Whom he writes is even a bigger one!
It is significant, I believe, that in this chapter alone Jehovah reiterates six times the statement that He is the LORD and that there is none other. (Check them out for yourself!) He indicates that He is girding Cyrus even though Cyrus does not know Him that it may be known from sun to sun that He is God and the day will come when every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue shall swear it, indeed all of the seed of Israel shall be justified (23-25). Hallelujah ! (Phil.2:10&11)!
Isaiah 46:10 My Counsel Shall Stand
Calvin brings up the minor question as to whether this chapter belongs with the previous or the following one. My observation, for what little it is worth, is that it goes with the former, and I mention it for the purpose of encouraging readers to look for helpful repetition when studying. The student might think it strange that the phrase "I am God and there is none else" occurs but six times as in ch.45 when so often, as we know, we are used to experiencing the number seven. Well, here is number seven in this chapter (v.9) and we know, of course, that chapter divisions are not in the original text. We might have expected as much.
Then too, it is enjoyable to see the irony here regarding idolatry. Sarcastically God speaks of the ridiculous picture as the nation’s idols are loaded onto beasts of burden to be carried out of Jerusalem and into captivity along with the people (vs.1&2). This is followed by God speaking of how He has carried His people and will continue to do so in verses 3&4 and continued in the following sections as God discusses what He is like in contrast to dumb idols.
Here He reminds them again of His ability to declare "the end from the beginning." How important to get those two words right for I have often heard them confused (and Satan claps his hands).
Finally, this interesting chapter closes with more reference to Cyrus, further attesting that these two chapters belong together. The four letter Hebrew word translated "ravenous bird" was the translator’s choice for a swift bird of prey and probably the concept of swiftness in conquest is being implied. Actually, we are told, Cyrus was "beak nosed" and his ensign was a golden eagle with opened wings on a high spear. One thing is certain, though he didn’t know it, he was certainly raised up by God to do "the counsels of his own will" (Eph.1:11). (That is God’s will, of course. I always use capitals when referring to diety except when quoting a version that does not - and here it seemed confusing). ?
Isaiah 47:1 O Virgin Daughter of Babylon
George Rawlinson, M.A. in his 3 volume work entitled The Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World tells us on page 510 of Vol. II that "Babylon the capital of the Fourth Monarchy was probably the largest and most magnificent city of the ancient world." The historian Herodotus, an eyewitness, claimed that the city was a square, 14 miles on all 4 sides with streets cris-crossing at right angles to 25 gates on each side. The Euphrates river ran through the middle guarded by walls of brick on either side. A hundred yard bridge crossed at one point and ferries served the others. Ostensibly there was also a tunnel 15 feet wide (Diodorus Sic. II. 8 par.2) beneath the river.
The most conservative estimate of the length of the surrounding wall was 41 miles. Various estimates of its height are from 335feet to 75 feet and of its width 85-32. (Herodotus gives the larger numbers.) Teams of four horses wide could swing and turn on the wall.
The outstanding feature of the city was the hanging gardens, 400 feet on each of four sides, it towered 75 feet in height. Sheets of lead interposed between burnt brick cemented with gypsum were employed to prevent the moisture’s destructive force. In front of it was a large reservoir fed by a canal from the river whose waters were lifted by machinery housed within the structure to water the garden which contained trees with trunks 12 feet in diameter.
We remember from Daniel’s story how proud Nebuchadnezzar was of this vast and magnificent city that he had built.
Rawlinson writing some 150 years ago says, " we are struck with astonishment at the small traces which remain of so vast and wonderful a metropolis." He quotes Jer.51:37 "and Babylon shall become heaps" as he speaks about the fact that only shapeless heaps and unsightly mounds is all one sees.
It would be 100years before Nebuchadnezzar would rebuild Babylon after Sennacharib so utterly destroyed it that traces of that period of its existence can hardly be found. Once again it was rebuilt and once again destroyed. After Jeremiah pronounces God’s wrath against Babylon in chapter 50 and 51 God tells him to tie a rock to what he had written and throw it in the Euphrates saying, "thus shall Babylon sink and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her."
Such is the future that Isaiah sees for the virgin daughter of Babylon.
Isaiah 48:20 The LORD Hath Redeemed His Servant Jacob
Just in case it might occur to you, as my child, to settle down and feel comfortable at home in Babylon, I have now showed you (in the previous chapter) what I am going to do with that little insignificant piece of dirt which I will blow away much as you might blow the dust off the scales before weighing out some piece of merchandise (40:15).
Now child of mine, you are that piece of merchandise; you are to Me, Jehovah God, as the "house and lineage of David," "of the stock of Israel" and "are come forth out of the waters of Judah," in other words, pretty special.
This is what Isaiah was saying to the house of Jacob as he opened this particular prophetic utterance.
You are special to Me but unfortunately, I am not so to you. Oh, yes, you give me lip service but there is no truth in it and your righteousness is as a "morning cloud" (Hosea 6:4).
And this in spite of the fact that I have demonstrated my omniscience by showing you future things before they take place (v.5), yea, I have showed you new things even hidden things and have created new
things – but are you impressed? No, you paid no attention, in fact you are true to your Jacobean character, "a transgressor from the womb" (v.8).
The only thing that stands between you and judgement as great as I will bring upon Babylon is My name which shall not be polluted (v.11). If only you had listened to me and done as I told you it would have been well with your soul and you would have been singing "when peace like a river attendeth my way," etc. There, however, is an option open to you. I would like to hear you sing when you come forth from captivity so they hear it "to the end of the earth. Say ye, the LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob."
Isaiah 49:26 The Mighty One of Jacob
The big question as we launch into this chapter is, who is this servant of the LORD? At first glance it seems that it might be Isaiah himself who, like Jeremiah (1:5) has been called from his mother’s womb. Or, is it Israel, as seems so evident in verse three.
I am convinced, especially after studying Hengstenberg on the subject, Christology of the Old Testament Vol.1, pg.551ff, that the whole passage relates to the Messiah.
I began to get the picture when Hengstenberg took me back to chapter 42 (pg.529) where, as he says, "the Servant of God is first to be introduced." There He is spoken of (vv.1-4); then to (5-7) but here is Himself doing the speaking. All of this, along with the revelation of Cyrus as a type of servant is to ultimately give comfort to those who are facing 70 years of exile in Babylon. This we have indicated right along. Hengstenberg puts it this way, and I quote, "The 40th chapter has an introductory character. It comforts the people of the Lord by pointing, in general, to a Future rich in salvation." We shall soon see just how rich as we come to the 53rd chapter.
The Messiah is Israel personified (v.3), a usage similar to that often employed in secular literature. Who else could this be? The Light of the Gentiles, the Savior for the ends of earth. Step back, as it were, and look at the whole chapter before examining the details.
And if any further evidence is needed, check out what Simeon thought when he embraced the baby Jesus, he who was still waiting for the consolation of Israel (Lk.2:25-33). Note also the quotation in Acts 13:47 and Paul’s use of verse 8 in II Cor.6:2.
So wonderful is the prospect of Jehovah’s great mercy (v.10) that both the heavens and earth are pictured here as breaking forth into joyful song because He has comforted His people. True, they will experience affliction and perceive of themselves as forgotten by Him, but He declares that they shall not be ashamed that "wait for me" (v.23) and He promises in the end that all flesh shall know that He, Jehovah, is their Savior and Redeemer, "this mighty One of Jacob" (v.26).
Isaiah 50:7 The Lord GOD Will Help Me
I think that because of Jehovah’s allowance of Jerusalem to fall to the Babylonians, the Jewish leaders were thinking that He had abandoned them. It seemed unthinkable to them that He would ever allow such a thing to happen even in spite of their disobedience. Here God is using the metaphors of marriage and servitude to indicate to them that His treatment of them is their fault and not His. How often He had called them to repentance and obedience and they had failed to respond.
God then assures them that their situation is not due to a lack of ability on His part to deliver them. He refers once again to the crossing of the Red Sea and His provision of water from the rock as evidence of providential care of them and assures them that His hand is not shortened "that it cannot redeem." Chapter 59 verses one and two clearly state why it is that He has failed to deliver them as He reminds them that their "iniquities have separated between (them) and (their) God."
Verses 4-9 are thought by Hengstenberg to be a return to the monologue of the Servant of Jehovah but this is argued against by Calvin who thinks it is Isaiah speaking personally but representing all of God’s servants. He makes quite a point out of the idea that the one who would speak for God must be one who has first learned from Him.
It is significant that twice (7&9) it is stated here that "the Lord GOD will help me." This seems to be promised especially to those who are undergoing persecution. This passage must be particularly comforting to the many servants of the Lord who are going through such terrible suffering for the faith (v.6).
The chapter closes with a wonderful admonition about trusting the LORD during dark and difficult days and a warning not to "kindle your own fire" in such times.
Isaiah 51:11 Everlasting Joy
It is obvious from this chapter that Jehovah wanted His people to pay attention to what He was saying to them. "Hearken" He says, we say today "listen up." We can picture a parent giving the child a little shake when attempting to get their attention. Listen intelligently, listen obediently! "I will comfort you,(40:1) but you must listen to me." He uses a different Hebrew word in verse four, perhaps for emphasis.
"Think about where you have come from and don’t let your circumstances fool you. Babylon may not be the garden of Eden, but if you keep your eyes on Me, you will find joy and gladness there. In contrast to the garden of the LORD it may seem like a waste wilderness, but you will find reason for thankgiving there and soon you will be singing."
Notice the emphasis in verses 4-8, My people; My righteousness; My salvation; My law – but especially note how many times His righteousness and salvation are mentioned!
Next, notice the reference in verse 10 to the Red Sea experience. This seems to be Jehovah’s Old Testament signature. I have notes that indicate in verse 9 that Rahab refers to Egypt and the wounded dragon to the Pharaoh.
Now, see that there are three verses that start with the words, Awake, awake! - (verses 9,17 and 52:1). Here we are reminded not to forget "the LORD thy maker" Who longs to comfort them (v.12) by reminding them not to fear what man can do but again to remember the LORD of hosts Who "divided the sea."
What a great verse is verse 11! One that has been put to music by the church. It speaks of great victory, of singing, of joy and of gladness and of course, for Israel looks forward to the redeemed returning to Zion, which is what this chapter is really all about! (See the next chapter.)?
Isaiah 52:11 Thy God Reigneth
It is evident that chapter 51 and 52 belong together. In fact, it seems that the break might better have come at 51:17. From that point note how many times the city of Jerusalem is spoken of. These words are certainly intended to comfort Israel regarding the future loss of their capital upon which Jehovah would soon pour "the cup of his fury" (51:17) but now promises that they will "no more drink it" (v.22) but rather it will be given "to them that afflict thee."
In contrast now in this chapter, "the captive daughter of Zion" is told to act as if they were already delivered though it was not yet accomplished. "Put on strength; put on thy beautiful garments" (v.1). This sounds like the N.T., put on Christ. We must keep in mind that the city had not yet fallen to Babylon when these prophecies were given. They had been struggling against Assyria and the city had been spared. They probably felt as if it was invincible. How important to them would be these words when they were being carried into captivity by Babylon.
If we might have the tendency to think it strange that these events were being anticipated and being treated as though they had already taken place, just think about the fact that most of the 53rd chapter is written in the past tense!
Again, as we read verses 7-10 we must keep in mind that Isaiah is not speaking primarily about the "good tidings" of the gospel message nor the salvation that is in Jesus Christ, but rather of the future deliverance of Israel from the 70 years captivity during which they should remember that "thy God reigneth." He is comforting His people (40:1). There is no doubt, however, but that it has implications reaching far into the future (v.10) when the nations gathered around Jerusalem to destroy it "shall see the salvation of our God."
It is also significant that the apostle Paul makes use of verse 7 as he applies it to the preaching of the good news of the gospel of redemption in Christ (Rom.10:15). The true and singular interpretation, however, of the watchmen seeing "eye to eye," the singing and the (by faith) statement, "the Lord reigneth" all have to do with the Babylonian captivity. We simply apply the principle when we declare, in the midst of difficult circumstances, Praise God, in spite of everything, we know He reigns!
Isaiah 53:11 He Shall Be Satisfied
This is the Mount Everest of Biblical prophecy. The air is rare, the sights are grand and who that has once ascended its majestic pinnacles has not returned again and again to be inspired with some new view. I know we shall not be disappointed as once more we make the trek.
As we wend our way over rough stony ground we note the flecks of crimson that keep leading us higher (52:13) while perhaps at times we hear the strains of music; "I must needs go on in the blood-sprinkled way, the path that the Savior trod;"- if ever I climb these sublime heights from which we can survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died. Strangely the higher we go the deeper lies His path, the One who is carrying the burden of our griefs and sorrows yea, even all of our iniquities we see are "laid on him."
"Oh sacred Head now wounded with grief and shame weighed down, how scornfully surrounded with thorns thine only crown – mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain" (Paul Gerhardt).
Annie B. Cousin has captured in song a view of the high mountain peak of redemption or is it the lowest valley of the death Christ died when it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him as He lifted up His rod: "O Christ it fell on thee! Thou wast sore stricken of thy God; there’s not one stroke for me. Thy tears thy blood beneath it flowed, thy bruising healeth me. For me Lord Jesus, thou hast died, and I have died in Thee: thou’rt ris’n my bands are all untied; and now thou liv’st in me...." (O Christ, What Burdens Bowed thy Head.)
But let us listen, in closing, to the words of the inspired Isaiah as we come in sight of the highest peak of all. Yes, Messiah shall see His seed and shall be satisfied. "My servant shall... be extolled" (52:13) for He, my righteous servant, has justified many. "When purified, made white, and tried, thy glory then for me." No, Annie, for Him, yes indeed for Him,-- for Him!
Isaiah 54:2 Lengthen Thy Cords
In God’s economy 70 years may be "a small moment" (v.7) but to those who feel "afflicted, tossed with tempest and not comforted" it is a lifetime. What a wonderful chapter we have before us filled with encouragement and promise.
The question is, will the "everlasting kindness" outweigh the "small moment" that Jehovah’s face seemed hidden? Did the sorrows of Moab mean anything to Naomi when she held Obed to her bosom? What would make Elizabeth forget her long years of empty arms? Do you think that outfitting a nursery for little John (who would one day be John the baptizer) might do it? Could she have seen the future would it have made a difference? How would Naomi have reacted to knowledge that she was changing the diaper on the grandfather of the greatest king God’s people ever had or ever would have until He came Who would fulfil the type?
What is the point? Israel will have such a house full of children that she will have to build a bigger tent. She will completely forget the days of her widowhood when her "seed shall inherit the Gentiles" (v.3).
What woman wouldn’t like to have a husband like Jehovah Who can lay the world at her feet? Someone Who would take over all training of the children and Whose very presence would bring a peaceful solution to every problem (v.13), Who could absolutely guarantee deliverance even from the tongues of the judgmental (v.17). His kindness would be more steadfast than the mountains and His mercy would last forever. The foundation of the house He is building you, O Israel, is laid with sapphires.
Back to the question. Can Israel wait for the reign of the Messiah? In the meantime, the Church can enjoy spiritualizing these great promises as she appropriates her espousal to the King’s Son and basks in the love of her coming Redeemer-Husband. Can we wait? Faithfully?
Isaiah 55:1 Ho, Everyone That Thirsteth
The temptation when reading this chapter is to assume, due to its evangelical flavor, that it was written to the Church. Paul, however, makes it clear in Ephesians three that the concept of the N.T. Church was hidden from the O.T. writers and that it was given to him to be the one to reveal it.
Therefore the obvious interpretation is that the prophet is speaking of the kingdom reign of the Messiah. The principle is much like that of understanding the Sermon on the Mount. Dispensational interpretation would say that it relates to the Millennium Kingdom but that when the King reigns in the life of the believer he lives out these principles in his daily life.
Of course, it was probably the case that much of what the prophet spoke, he did not understand, especially in its evangelical sense, yet, the Holy Spirit clearly overruled the prophet’s faculties from time to time and gave us wonderful passages that seem tailor made for us today and we do not hesitate to make the application.
The LORD will be physically near His people during the kingdom reign (v.6), but by His Spirit He is near at hand today as He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. Of course, it is true in every dispensation that God’s word shall not return unto Him void (v.11). We make the application when we think of the Bible as His word, or even when we think of our mouths as being His mouth when we are yielded to Him.
Thirst for water is also true in every dispensation and is used metaphorically to depict a desire for God and His word. They of the captivity would be wise to pay whatever price necessary to incline their ear to it. So too the woman of Samaria. We do not know what it cost the Philippian jailor to embrace the gospel message but we can guess that truth did not come cheap.
We don’t "return unto the Lord" as Israel must do, but we are blessed with an "abundant pardon." Praise the Lord!
Isaiah 56: 3 Eunuchs
If we are able to receive it (Matt.19:12) there is apparently something to be said positively about being an eunuch, or the Lord Jesus would not have brought it up in response to His disciples’ question relating to marriage. Let us think on it for a bit.
First, in His treatment of it He likened a person who did not marry, to an eunuch. In such a case, as in our present text, an eunuch would be a person without issue i.e. "a dry tree." To those, Jehovah says, through the prophet, to put it is Jesus’ words, as have made themselves such for the kingdom of God’s sake, He will give in His house "a name better than of sons and of daughters."
In our Christian circles today, much is made over family and, of course, there is certainly place for that, but we do need to stay balanced. There are those who, because of their service to the Lord do not have any physical children or grandchildren to gladden their hearts and brighten their days. There might be a tendency for such to lament the dryness of their situation and it is to them, it must be, that these encouraging words of the prophet are directed (v.5).
This message has at least two prongs. Children and grandchildren are certainly the Lord’s heritage, but a real blessing only if they are led to Christ and lead a fruitful Christian life. Let the house of prayer be frequented regularly by concerned parents and grandparents (v.7). Secondly, as we spiritualize the thought in 54:1, let us rejoice over the sons and daughters of the faith who will be in heaven, in many cases, because of those who chose "the things that please" God and in doing so had to put home and family on the back burner, so to speak. With such sacrifices, obviously, God is well pleased and eternity will yield the joyful reward to those who must wait to enjoy it (I Thess.2:19).
Isaiah 57:14 Prepare the Way
Here again, a typical prophetic message to Israel. Verses one and two are designed to comfort those who see good men, possibly leaders like Hezekiah and Josiah taken away from among them when their presence seems most needed. Such, states the prophet, are simply being spared having to live through the evil times that lay ahead. The Psalmist called the event "precious" that ushered the righteous into that far better land called Abraham’s bosom(Ps.116:15). For us it is to be present with the Lord which is far better.
Next comes the warnings to the wicked (v.3). Idolatry and baby killing being the leading crimes. As usual these were couched in language which spoke of unfaithfulness to their matrimonial relationship with Jehovah (v.8).
How comforting, in midst of all their fears and frustrations to be reminded of their rich heritage and promised blessing; "but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain" (v.13).
Through saviors like Cyrus and Darius would God level the road, though unknown to them at this time, and through their agency He would "prepare the way" and miraculously remove the stumbling blocks out of the way of His people (v.14; Calvin).
The author of this prophecy, of course, is not Isaiah, but He "whose name is Holy." What a great God they had, high and lofty, Who inhabits eternity. Wow! And yet One Who delights to condescend to dwell among those of a humble spirit and a contrite heart. Such may we ever be! Amen.
Isaiah 58:13 The Sabbath a Delight
The prophet is here instructed to cry against the hypocrisy of the people. He speaks especially of the need to take care of the poor and to stop oppression. He ends with a special plea for Sabbath-keeping. The promise of God’s blessing will then be their experience (v.8) and He will answer their prayers (v.9). They were to "honor him not doing thine own ways" etc. (v13).
The principles are the same for us in our present dispensation. The difference is that our holy God indwells us and certainly as we yield to Him we will be like Him and all of these works should be as natural for us as breathing.
Calvin on the phrase "If thou shalt turn away thy foot from the Sabbath" thinks that it means "If thou cease to advance thy course, if thou shut up thy path, walk not according to thine own will," or, in other words, live in a manner pleasing to God. In this he comes very close to the dispensational application of Sabbath-keeping, i.e. that every day is the Sabbath for us for we are resting in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The believer who understands the death-life principle as set forth clearly in the epistles of our N.T. and who, on that basis obeys Romans 12:1 walks the "Calvary road" every day, not just on weekends. When, as I Cor.6:20 indicates we should, we glorify God in our body recognizing that it belongs to God, we will be glorifying Him every day of the week!
So exactly what are we to do? Study the Bible to know who God is and what He wants us to do, examine our lives constantly to see where we fall short, confess as sin everything less than the character of Christ, reckon ourselves dead to it, take our position by faith, appropriating the power of the resurrection and rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. This is our Sabbath-rest, our delight.
Isaiah 59:20 Turn From Transgression
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." With this familiar verse Paul concludes his well know description of the guilty world having proved that "both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin." As it is written, etc.It is obvious as we look at the center column references in our Bibles that he chose to use verses mostly from the Psalms to put together this list (Rom.3:10-18), however, and I find this interesting, he also drew heavily upon this chapter. (Compare vs.7&8 with Rom.3:16&17.)
Certainly, we are not surprised to hear that the world is guilty of such a list of sins, but we are deeply chagrined to see such a list here and attributed to God’s people. It is for such sins, the prophet laments, that God has hid His face from you that He will not hear you when you pray to Him.
I think that one of the most sobering experiences that comes of reading these prophetic books is to see how far these people had fallen from the grace of their position as the chosen of Jehovah. All of these sins in this chapter might seem to belong more to Roman three, but not in Isaiah 59!
Soon, we hope, God will put on righteousness as a breastplate and salvation as an helmet and deal in vengeance and zeal with His enemies, but first must come those conditions that will produce repentance in His people. The tribulation is the time of Jacob’s trouble and is designed to cause him to "turn from transgression" (v.20) to the Redeemer Who shall come to Zion and rescue him (Jer.30:7; Zech,12:3-11 and Luke 21:20).
We must be aware that when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, there is no peace for the wicked (57:21) therefore, all of this wickedness we see in this chapter must be dealt with until the people are brought to mourn for their sin and realize what it has cost to redeem them.
Isaiah 60:19 The Everlasting Light
The subject of this chapter is Zion, the city of the LORD. If I counted correctly, 50 times, less one, do the pronouns, thy, thine, thee and thou appear and in every case refer to this subject. The city of Jehovah is, of course, Jerusalem and in this case the millennial Jerusalem. The Lamb is the Light in the city of God (Rev. 21:23) and the glory of that remarkable place (II Cor.4:6). Its walls of jasper are called Salvation and thinking about these walls got me started on a subject that has been a favorite of mine for years. Back in the early 1960's I received regularly a periodical called the Defender. Its editor at the time was a brother Armstrong (no connection to the Armstrong cult). In one issue the editor propounded a theory relative to the millennial city in which he pictured it pyramidal in shape. I bought into his idea and have never since been able to conceive of it otherwise.
God’s Word has given us quite a few details in Rev.21 about this city so I think it is fair to say that there is nothing wrong in a bit of speculation or interpretation.
The most difficult fact is its height which is equal to its length and breadth. My center column reference Bible says that a furlong is 1/9 of a mile making this measurement 1080 miles. The Thompson Chain Reference Bible calls it 1200 miles. At any rate, it is a mighty long distance and it is hard to get our minds around it. Let’s go with the latter figure for round numbers. We are talking about the distance roughly from Maine to Florida along one dimension. Thinking of a pyramid instead of a cube doesn’t change the height, only the shape. Armstrong put the throne room at the apex which makes good sense especially when it come to lighting evenly.
To have the foundations on top of each other in layers makes no sense, but seeing them as 12 stories in a parking garage arrangement does. No mention is made of a super structure holding it all of this together but that problem would be the same whether the shape was cubical or pyramidal.
The walls have a measurement of 216 feet (18 inches to a cubit) which must refer to their height. This is probably more like a crystal shield (Rev.21:11&18) which would provide a reflector for the light from the throne (vs.11,23 and 22:5).
It was certainly a wondrous sight when John saw this spectacular city coming down from heaven (Rev. 21:2) looking like a golden crystal satellite of immense proportions. And what is the source of all this reflected and refracted light? The Lamb of God shall be "the everlasting light" of the new Jerusalem!
Isaiah 61:3 Trees of Righteousness
This is a wonderful text to demonstrate the beauty of a Messianic prophetic announcement. Would not those immediately threatened with being led away from Jerusalem as captives be heartened to hear the "good tidings" of these verses, for example, that the old waste places be rebuilt (v.4), etc.? Yet, would this be anything compared to the "everlasting joy" (v.7) for which they longed when "righteousness would spring forth before all nations?" No, they must look forward for that time when Christ would reign on earth in the kingdom of which the previous chapter had so much to say.
With all of this, we have not begun to make the spiritual application of this passage. But wait, Who is this Who steps to the forefront of our Galilean synagogue on this Sabbath day as any Jewish male is free to do? Where shall He turn this day and from whence shall He teach us? Ah, He takes Isaiah, He unrolls the scroll carefully to the text and reads in a strong assuring voice, "the Spirit of the LORD is upon me..."
Thus read He our text to these His familiar countrymen and coming to the words, "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord," He closed the book, gave it back to the minister and sat down saying, "this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:18 &ff).
He stopped where He did in the midst of the passage because the remainder of it yet awaits the 7 years of tribulation when "the day of vengeance" will come.
As a tree of righteousness I have been planted in God’s house and He is glorified. I already have everlasting joy for He has "clothed me with the garment of salvation." I am a "Priest of the LORD." Hallelujah, what else can I find in this chapter to revel in?
Isaiah 62:4 Beulah
"A thousand years as one day" (II Peter 3:8). This is all I could think of as I studied this chapter. Also the words "how long O Lord, how long?"
The LORD has said that He will not rest or hold His peace until He makes Jerusalem "a praise in the earth." The watchmen on her walls must be angels, for only they could endure so long. In the center column reference they are called "ye that are the LORD’s remembrancers!
Oh LORD, hasten the day when she shall indeed be a crown of glory in Your hand, even a royal diadem.
Jehoshaphat’s mother must have been born into a difficult situation for her mother to give her the name of Azubah (I Kings 22:42) which means deserted. We can only imagine that her husband had run off and left her to bring this little girl into the world unwanted by her father. When, in turn, Azubah brought a man child into the world, she probably named him, as she did, Jehoshaphat, thinking and rightly so, (about the meaning of his name), God will plead my cause as my righteous Judge. If she lived to see it, she must have indeed felt vindicated when her son was placed on the throne of David.
Now, Jehovah says to Jerusalem,the day is coming when I will vindicate you and your land will no longer be called desolate (Azubah in Hebrew) but rather Beulah.(married). Every time we sing the song "Oh Beulah land, sweet Beulah land" we are singing about God’s promise to Jerusalem.One of these thousand year days soon we shall see the promises fulfilled and we too will rejoice in our eternal home, the new Jerusalem.
Isaiah 63:3 The Winepress of God’s Wrath
Who is this that cometh from Edom? Commentators do not agree, but again, we need to put on our thinking caps and use our common sense. Calvin strongly says it is not Christ, wet with His own blood shed on the cross as so many are tempted to interpret. He says it is Jehovah reassuring His people that the Edomites, their vicious enemy from within (remember they were circumcised relatives from Esau’s branch) who forwarded the persecution in the day of the destruction of Jerusalem (Ps.137:7), will yet be judged.
The judgement pictured is vividly portrayed. Jehovah is seen "traveling in the greatness of his strength" with garments dyed red, drenched as it were with the blood of His enemies. He comes from Bozrah, a land that was known for its vineyards. He wants His people, who will soon experience a bloodbath by Babylon, to be comforted in knowing that their day too will come. It is a message found often throughout the prophets and elsewhere as seen in the aforementioned Psalm.
As to verse three where we read "I have trodden the winepress alone," again, Alexander, recoiling at making this a description of Christ’s passion says "the impossibility of such a sense in the original passage cannot be too strongly stated," yet he agrees that the figure may be used (the treading of the winepress) so long as "we are careful to avoid confounding such accommodations with the strict and primary import of the passage" (italics mine).
In other words, if we are going to see this as if it were Christ treading the winepress, it must be seen as a picture of His involvement in judgement of the nations as in "the day of vengeance" (v.4 and also 61:2).
The figure of the winepress of God’s wrath is one that is used frequently in the Scriptures, especially in Revelation (14:19&20) where Christ is spoken of as treading "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." Also note v.13 where it speaks of His vesture "dipped in blood."
Isaiah 64:4 We Are All Thy People
This kind of praying is appropriate for every dispensation. The current state of the temple worship was obviously deplorable as indicated by the necessary reform under Hezekiah (II Chr.29:5-6). Perhaps this was a sample of the prayers of Isaiah and his king (32:20). That prayer was answered and during the reminder of Hezekiah’s days there was peace (v.26). Isaiah certainly was aware that more trying days lay ahead (II Kings 20:17) and could well have been shown by God the "desolation" of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple (Is.64:10-11; II Chr.36:19), something that definitely happened when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A D. The prayers of Daniel on behalf of the remnant (Dan.9:19&20) were on the order of what we see here and we can imagine that the cry of Nehemiah (1:5-11) might have been inspired by these words.
Ironside (p.354) calls this the heart cry of the remnant in the last days as they suffer under the Beast and the Anti-Christ.
I am not even going to try commenting on verse four and Paul’s use of it. If you are interested in the problem, you might read Alexander on Isaiah and also Adam Clark’s commentary by Gary Gallant. The solution to the problem lies in the fact that Paul was inspired wherever he got the quote if it was a quote. Of course, some part of it was.
Again, the thoughts about our righteousness being as filthy rags and the beautiful figure of God our Father being a potter and we the clay are fitting ones in any dispensation as well. There is no need for help in making adequate application. For a short chapter, there is much to meditate upon and pray about if we will do it.
Isaiah 65:19 I Will Rejoice in Jerusalem
What great news, Jehovah is creating new heavens and a new earth! Could One Who calls Himself "the God of truth" twice in the verse preceding this announcement (v.16) not come forth with a literal fulfillment of such a promise? Absolutely not, but the big question as we read carefully the details of this prophecy is, to what exactly is Isaiah referring, the millennium or heaven? The problem is obvious, at first it sounds like the latter, but as one reads down through the passage, we become convinced that he can’t be talking about heaven when he speaks about people dying (v.20). There will be no death in heaven (Rev.21:3).
Several possibilities are put forward by the commentators. Walvoord introduces the concept that the new Jerusalem might hover over the earth during the 1000 years of Christ’s reign here and be the home of the resurrected saints during that time. This is only one of several theories set forth in his book the Millennial Kingdom . (p.827–bottom).
McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (p.138), suggests that Isaiah saw both events "on the screen of prophecy" but expands the millennial aspect because it is the "nearest coming event" and leaves the Eternal Kingdom for a fuller description in a later N.T. revelation.
The fact of the matter is that the prophetic vision of the future was indeed limited for they certainly did not see the church age as occurring between the 1st and 2nd comings of Christ (Eph.3:5). If the glass of the future is dark for us, it must have been even darker for them (I Cor.13:12).
In comforting the people, the prophet’s purpose was to create an atmosphere of hope which he certainly was emphasizing in verses 21-24, while 20 and 25 could only refer to the Kingdom, an event about which he was probably somewhat in the dark.
Isaiah 66:5 Hear the Word of the LORD
Mostly what we see in this chapter has to do with the great changes that are to take place in Israel’s future. Most people do not like change and that has been especially true of the Jews. Essentially what Jehovah is telling them is that the days of worshiping Him in a temple are over. What is a building to Him Who made the worlds (v.2)? The Father seeketh those who will worship Him in spirit (John 4:23) and who respect His word.
The four contrasts in v.3 must be studied to be understood but J.A. Alexander indicates that they speak of a change regarding the sacrificial system. No one was hated more by His brethren than Jesus (v.5) but that day will come when those so treated will be vindicated.
One of the greatest changes for Israel has been the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles and, as we know, it is one that they have stubbornly refused to accept. What a great day is coming when they realize that "the casting away of them" has resulted in "the reconciling of the world" (Rom.11:15) and when theDeliverer comes out of Zion and turns away ungodliness from Jacob (v.26).
What of the rebellious people described here and especially in 65:2-7? They "shall be consumed" (66:17) together with "all flesh" that will be "slain of the LORD" when He comes with fire to rebuke "his enemies" (14&15).
The book ends on a solemn note and we cannot read it without thinking of the words of our Lord Jesus in Mark 9:43-48 where three times He spoke of Gehenna, that constantly burning dump near Jerusalem "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched," a picture of hell.
What a contrast! Some in the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (II Pet.3:13), others in the place of unquenchable fire. Like the end of the last book of the Bible – the 66th book!