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Isaiah: Not an Agent of Angst
but a Proclaimer of Truth
The Nature of the Case
Isaiah, speaking in the inspiration of the Lord, does not hesitate to present the future as past, or present, to invade a prophetic past (future seen as surely to be done, and so past already) with graphic words as if now being spoken, to proclaim a present structure as a principle in terms of which an assured future will come, or to present coming devastation as a scene base for future eclipse of such results of folly, by the Originator of man, in redemption bringing a glorious result for an inglorious inheritance.
He does not pine, as if in spiritual spasm, witlessly; but rather can expose just such a pining in terms of an immediate correlation with absolute truth, in which the case in short order, in put in place, the outcome is announced. It is rather like a small boy in a class, addressing the teacher: Oh I wish we could go out into the sunshine for this class, sir! The teacher does not share the angst for action into some hoped for resolution, but announces what is to be, and why. It might either be, Yes we can go, for there is no hindrance; or No, we cannot because it is not fitting to reward bad conduct with indulgence, or again, it could be this: Our current work is too demanding for me to allow this currently. Perhaps another time… and so on.
Truth, with Isaiah, comes in definitive, declarative terms, from the Lord who equally definitively made heaven and earth, shall remove the same in due time (Isaiah 51:6), and announces to man both his sins and His salvation. Stages can be implicitly compared, and the final devastations can be seen as outcomes of the present, witnessed in their totality amidst the present trends, rather like a doctor dramatically envisaging for a persistent smoker, what it is to be like. Here you are, he may say, in your due end, facing a heart which is palpitating … and so on.
In Isaiah 64:1ff., we see the exposition in graphic terms:
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence…
That the nations may tremble at Your presence … “
Would God at that time act
? Far from it. He would not act merely to adorn a situation of loss which He
Himself had instituted, so that indulgence might foster laxity, licence,
injustice and folly (as in Isaiah 59’s exposition of the final case when He
DOES act!). Before such a style of intervention as that, much had first to
occur. There had to be the incarnation (Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 52-53), in which
salvation (which GOD ONLY is – Isaiah 43:10-11) would come in the Messiah, the
eternal on earth in human format. There WOULD BE His rejection by
THEN, when the whole world was caught in what initially had been (to some extent, as Isaiah envisages trends and finales freely, exposing both what is in process of happening and where it will in fact end) and then would be Israel’s ruinous situation (Isaiah 1:7, 32:14, 64:10, 59), the sin of the nation being in much paralleled by the fall of the world, there would come likewise universal results. God having acted on one, would act on all. Devastation would surely become universal as in Isaiah 24, so that then the Lord would come not merely to one, but to all (Isaiah 59:21, 42:12, 2), Though His advent is to be TO Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 14:5ff.), His access is for all.
Death is thus by the word of the prophet, not merely overthrown physically (as in Isaiah 26:19, 53:12, Psalm 16), but regally. He is coming to rule (as in Isaiah 11, Psalm 72, Psalm 2), and His slaughterers, if unrepentant, whether of physical violence against Him, or of spiritual violence against the truth, which is He, will indeed mourn (Isaiah 2, 24, 66, Revelation 1:7, Matthew 24:31).
A man may mourn for his mother’s passing; but here he is to mourn for the passing of his own life into an indebtness from which there is no remedy, since the DECLARED REMEDY for sin had been dismissed, fatally and finally (Isaiah 8:20, 14:9ff., 66:24).
THE NUTURE OF THE CASE
No angst could then atone, since atonement in principle in the only place available, had been summarily dispatched. How can ANYTHING atone when what atonement is, is removed! What can quench thirst when liquids do not exist! On the other hand, Isaiah is quick and intensive in pointing out that nothing is REQUIRED NOW for the quenching of thirst, but the taking of the water so FREELY available (Isaiah 55). What ludicrous and solemn farce it is (55:2) to go seeking for spiritual redress or comfort or position or help, when it is available in the Messiah who has been APPOINTED for this (55:3-4)!
What monstrous folly when it is He who has been SACRIFICED for this; and what artless lament it is to be grieved, when HE has already been grieved in paying the price, spiritually, judicially and personally, for the shortfall and the distortions of sin (Isaiah 53), even to the utmost disfigurement (Isaiah 52:12-15, 4)!
WHO has believed ? (53:1). THIS is the question. It is not anxiety with its debilitation, depression with its devitalizing outcomes, nor is it angst with its often implicit exaltation. (See how generous in spirit I am, thrusting in deliberate and perhaps passionate power into the heavens to find something by my human maestro self-marhsalling, or penetrating power! or See how noble am I in failure!...) No, that is to the point at all. It is trusting your own Maker and Source instead of you own made equipment and self! (as in Romans 10, Isaiah 2:17-22) and HENCE receiving something more than a new program or update, a download or device. What then ? It is a new heart, a rejuvenated mind, a life in link with the love and power of God, not in premises of pollution self-control, but in the service of the Saviour (cf. Jeremiah 31:31ff., Hebrews 8, Isaiah 32:1-4, 33:17ff., 11:10, 55:2, 61:1-3).
In terms of such issues from profundity, such stable phases, the sin, the desolation, the mercy, the Messiah, the dispersion, the restoration, the judgment, the Jew, the Gentile, the national and international impact of ruin, the universal coming scope, the former seen as now, then as coming, then as past, as developing, as developed, as latent, as patent, the other seen as deserved, if negative, or as provided entirely by grace if evangelical (Isaiah 28:16, 32:1-4,16-17, 53, 55), do we move. We proceed from envisagement of the Messiah in His sufferings, to a hastening in power as it comes in the future.
In all, you can see many scenes. Like the ways of a friend, you grow accustomed to them: as you do to a face. It is always the same, its mobilities of expression, the very texture of its unity. These, in Isaiah, they are anchored in the environment of terms each time, in the flow of the discourse, the necessities of grammar and the message they impart.
Thus in Isaiah
1 and 64 alike, you see scenes such as to place
The Hope, not as merely hoped for but assuredly coming, the very meaning of the history and message of grace: He, the Messiah and His righteous rule, loving disposition, merciful humility and refreshing regality, comes as new in incarnate presence on this earth, but eternal in His nature and being, bearing the gap, paying the bridge cost, making the way in Himself (Isaiah 7, 4 with 32, 9,11, 40, 42, 49-50, 52-55, 65).
Accordingly, in Isaiah 24, we find that they “have transgressed” so that “therefore the curse devoured the earth” (all past), “and those who dwell in it are desolate” (a consummation to the contemporary trend). This shows the formal and final end of the trend, also the future that is to be, and it sees it in terms of a just maturing of the wine of folly. Indeed “the new wine fails”. But the Lord will act in that then future period, so that “the moon will be disgraced, and the sun ashamed, for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, before His elders gloriously” (cf. Isaiah 66:20, 2, Micah 4, Matthew 29:28, Zechariah 14:5, I Thessalonians 3:13).
Thus a future scene is seen in terms of eventuations already begun, but to be completed. In terms of the void situation of Isaiah 24:4-12, so that “the gate is stricken”, we are graphically similarly transported towards the end; but it is IN TERMS of the beginning, seen as an outcome, when all is done.
Then fittingly we move to the future (24:14-16),
Ø “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sin:
For the majesty of the LORD,
They shall cry from the sea.
From the ends of the earth we have heard songs:
’Glory to the Righteous!’
But I said, ’I am ruined!
Woe is Me!
The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously.
Indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.’ ”
Here in Isaiah 24, we see Isaiah 50’s presentation of the humbled Saviour (in form but not in power, humiliated), that is One brought in contempt and mockery to abasement though not in His Spirit, move to further and poignant grief. Now it becomes one of feeling the sharp pangs of treachery from His own people, though assured (as in 50:6-9) of the glorious and triumphant outcome in the end. All these passages cohere like the fingers on a hand, and their mutual presence is an operative necessity for understanding, as the fingers for full functionality of that magnificent invention, the human hand. Look what it does! Look what is done through the prophetic writings of Isaiah when its cumulative intimacies are realised and applied.
Here then we find the national rejection of the Messiah as in 49:7 and the carping attribution to Him of sin, whereas it is their very own which He bears, or offers to bear (53:3-5), taking what is provided from the abyss of their follies, just as HE is provided for those who take HIM (as shown categorically in 53:6, which refers to the ‘us’ who are ‘healed’). He does not pay for what is not His; nor does He exclude what comes, nor fail to know His own! His love is ample to all, His knowledge is over all, and He is sufficient for all. None directs Him, but in love, He acts over all (I Timothy 2, Colossians 1, Ezekiel 33:11, Isaiah 49:6). None refusing Him is forced; not coming is contrived. God knows His own, and all are most earnestly invited (Isaiah 55), responsibility being ASSURED through the principles of God’s love, to man who prefers darkness.
Indeed HE ACTS, first speaking and then doing, in salvation as in creation.
TIME IN THE CASE
But HOW do we see Him ? It is in the past, as so often, where it is seen as done already before the God who made time and merely ensures that it contains what He is seeking, not His master but His servant. The songs are already heard (Isaiah 24:16), and their content is this: “Glory to the Righteous!” We hear them in this prophet relay, not of electronics but of the Spirit of the living God, thousands of years before their time (cf. Isaiah 51:1ff., Jeremiah 16:19). Likewise the following verses in Isaiah 24, namely 17ff., present the coming time of judgment, judgment of the judges, so that again the graphic predominates. We see someone fleeing from a bear, then coming to the pit. “The foundations of the earth are shaken,” at this point, and in verse 23 we see an ultimate eschatological moment, in the prevailing power of the Lord on the earth (as in Isaiah 66).
Thus, again, the past introduces a graphic present, and again, a future is later explicitly announced, since after all, it is a culmination which is seen in the first place, then provided with graphic insertion; so that it may then be seen in simple historical place as future (Isaiah 24:21).
Again, in Isaiah 64, we are transported to a coming scene of actual desolation, replete with the stage settings, while the aspirations, the angst, are exposed for analysis, as we peer into that epoch, the past surging into the present (64:7), and the present coming to its envisaged culmination (64:10ff.), until in 65 we have the divine response, apt for that future and envisaged time*1, in terms of the substitution of GENTILES for ISRAEL as the place for His demonstration of His power and the presentation of His Gospel. Verses 13-15 give this very directly indeed. It is that to which Israel is then seen as coming, in desolation, godlessness … Through its own rejection, it is here perceived as bypassed with the Gospel, when it comes with its full force unveiled, its Saviour presented. Far from the contemporary scene, the record of coming events surges ahead some 700 years from the prophet, and we see it as happening before us (cf. I Peter 1:11-12).
In all this, we proceed from a future seen as adopted present, to action within it, and finally to a future specifically so described, further ahead still (65:17), as when a military lecturer would draw out the stages of a campaign, ‘Then you go to this site. It is that that we placed our munitions. You may feel surprised by the terrain, ‘What on earth is this!’, for it is unique. However, when the time comes, attack. It will soon be a scene of triumph and there you will stand with your fellows.’
Perhaps much of the need is simply to realise that God is speaking about matters in mastery, without room for wandering minds or listless appetites (cf. Mark 4:33-34, with ).
Thus here, we proceed from a culmination in late Isaiah 64, to a protestation, an institution (of the Gospel) and an exposure of vast future scenes expressly (65:17ff.), in this multi-stage prophetic rocketry, moving us up, up and over.
As to the Gospel, that of course was not installed as the principle of procedure until after Christ’s death; but here it is aptly and appropriately seen as NOW! It is a culmination, then, of devastation (as in Isaiah 2) followed by a culmination of presentation of the Messiah, even to the point where (as in Acts 28:26-28 cf. Acts -40,46) it is expressly announced: SINCE YOU WILL NOT HEAR, to the GENTILES the Gospel goes!
It is all conjoined. Thus although the Gospel had to await the payment of the Redeemer before AS SUCH being instituted, allowing new liberties and international procedures, it was in germ present, just as in David, the law merely facilitating the impact and impress of sin, the more readily to enable appreciation of the grace. As to the grace (cf. Psalm 32), it was always the way as expounded in Romans 4. It is just that it had to be PAID for, and its direct methods of provision PAID FOR! The principles of God did not change; they were shown in preliminary and then in consummate form (Hebrews 8-10); and in Isaiah you see the consummate prescribed for the day of the New Covenant with total expository force, before the day so much as came.
That is the message, both
in the Old Testament and in the New, then. Again, when as in both Testaments,
Let us however return to our text. In Isaiah 65, having made clear that disbelief is disjunction, and that faith is conjunction, when it is in HIM, and not another, that it finds its place, object and resort, the Lord then presents things yet further ahead.
Indeed, the Lord then moves to the new heavens and the new earth, in this chapter, so to a yet further future, before turning in Isaiah 66 to the remonstration about sacrifice (announced as effectually to be that of the Messiah, in 50-53), so that animal sacrifice is now seen (as in the time of Christ’s death) as no longer efficacious. Indeed, Gentiles are seen coming into the role of Levites, or if you will, to interpret, as the Old Covenant (to be past as in Jeremiah 31:31 and ) yields to the new.
At that, there are preliminaries to the finale. In Isaiah 66, as in the GRAPHIC PRESENT, as so often for future events in this book, we see or rather are given to hear “the sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, who fully repays His enemies.”
Ø Having been shown this future in terms of excitingly contemporary feeling,
Ø we move on to the more distant future which follows it,
Ø just as in Isaiah 64, seeing the negative development before the Gospel came,
Ø we pass on to THIS glory in Isaiah 65.
The book is as unified as my own body, differing, diverse, but in one plan, one procedure, one theme, one purpose, cohesive in contention, in invention, in collation, in promotion. Each throb of its heart, prepares by parallel, without mere uniformity, but of principle, and often of procedure, for the next step, moving like a swallow, flying low by one’s feet, yet with art and artifice of flight so deliciously nimble and daring, that one is lost in admiration for the work of the Lord by His Spirit, through the prophet (cf. I Peter 1:11, II Peter 1:21).
In Isaiah 66:10, accordingly, as if present, the nations to come are invited to rejoice with the Jews who are in their time and term, to come back, not merely in body but in spirit, and not merely to the provisions of the past, but to the Gospel then to come: as if the restoration were already present! Now Jerusalem has peace and comfort, now is the Lord as in Deuteronomy 32:43, present, having rebuked the destroyers, in peace with His own people (as in Isaiah 2, 11). Now is the Gospel in full flow (as implied in 66:18ff.), the Old Covenant replaced in this characterisable period, by the New.
So does the prophet move in graphic thrill, in past completion, in present remonstrance, in artful exposure of coming events in current clothes, whether for good or for evil, whether in desolation, consummation or judgment (66:24), time a mere blackboard pointer, the context the control, the thrust the index, the message the metronome. Like any message it has to be read with understanding, in terms of purpose, program, principles, procedures, interpretation from context of symbols, and of course, like any biblical book, in terms of its antecedents and correlatives from the Lord (Isaiah 34:16). It all coheres as one book, as some magnificently accoutred lady in Autumn, makes of her hair, accessories, shawl, heather outfit and varied hints and glints, a summary of the season, without losing in the least, but rather accentuating her individuality.
ACTION NOT ANGST: BY GOD NOT MAN
MAN MUST SIMPLY RETURN TO HIS PLACE
BY THE SIDE OF THE SAVIOUR, NOW, AS APT
But now what of the angst*2 ? It is a mere index in Isaiah 64, a correlative to shame, to sin and desolation, to rebuke and to witness, to attestation of truth, which in this case comes with devastating force, in Isaiah 65, where the very GROUND of the answer to the searing searching of the heavens for ANSWER, is removed (as indeed, in Moses’ writings in PROSPECT, in Leviticus 26:18-19).
Thus, in this sequence, the scene moves to the Gospel time; the Gospel moves to the scene. Departing, they depart; just as the Gentiles, coming, are received. Hence their roles are to this extent, reversed; and for an interim before the coming consummation (cf. Isaiah 59:21), in which Jews in repentance will likewise figure, this proceeds in the most explicit fashion (65:13-15), but not for ever. To this in its parts, this chapter on Israel’s desolation, Christ’s coming, rejection, Gentile favour, the bond of the covenant, the sufferings of Israel, the grand newness to come for all, yet one based on a foundation immovable (Isaiah 28:16, 4:6, 32:1-4), we move as one who examines a museum of imagined past events in their series; but here it is predicted future events, each in its time, in its time slot, and in its developmental cluster.
As to the reversal of roles for a season, Israel and Gentiles (65:13-15), what is to be said ?
It is not racial; it is spiritual. Without the Messiah, the Jew is a car without an engine. Then he is merely like the Gentile who NEVER HAD an engine, the similarity being the CURRENT LACK OF ONE! (Isaiah 65:13-15 cf. Ephesians 2:1-7). WITH the Messiah, the Jew then receives the SAME NEW ENGINE as the Gentile! However, it is the One for whom, via prophets of Israel, the Lord has prepared, the gift to the race, made through one appointed race (Romans 9), and concentrated in ONE PERSON (Isaiah 50-55), even God who made us, now Himself in the format of flesh, the eternal incarnate, never to be replaced or altered, adjusted or syncretised: not for ever and ever (Isaiah 9:7, 48:16, Zephaniah 2:8, Psalm 45, Ephesians 1:10, Revelation 5, 21-22).
This same series of principles, emphasis on grace (Isaiah 55), insistence on full realization of and repentance for sin (Isaiah 59), this intensity of purity (Isaiah 1), the meaning and interpretation of symbols made clear in their fulfillment and the statements of grace from Abraham onwards, and yes, before, they all are here, like a family at dinner. The household has not changed, even though some now attend university!
What then do we find ? Anxiety and angst (Isaiah 64), desperation and exploration, persistence and insistence, relentless contrivings, strivings, virtual ‘arrivings’, these facets of flesh do not count for anything in the end, unless as rebound structures leading to due repentance and true trust in the Lord (Isaiah 65, 12), to that beautiful and clean thing, FAITH, which adopts, accepts, believing receives (Isaiah 53:1, 6), and receiving is regenerated (Isaiah 53:10), restored, ransomed (Isaiah 53:6,11), given the gift of eternal life (Isaiah 32:17, 55, 51:11, 54:9-10).
How the passion of it moves through this intensely and intensively unitary book of Isaiah, his thrusts and counter-thrusts, his presentations and appeals, like a father in a series of letters to his son, with the same features, foci, temporal presentations, chronological ingredients, massive themes, devices and procedures. They come in parallels all but unlimited, in tasks mutually interpretative for good (as for example in 4:6, 32:1-4, 11:10, 61:1-3), or for due evils (1:4-6,31, 32:12-14, 59:1-14). The one is to be fulfilled (as in 52-53, 66:5ff.), in the Messiah both in His sufferings and in His rule (Isaiah 11, 2), its beauty in His coming (40:10) and its strength in His return (Isaiah 26:19, 11:1-10); and the other, first in the total desolation of Israel, next of the world (Isaiah 1, 24, 32, 64), and then in the judgment of the world (Isaiah 59:21, 2, 66), with the restoration of His own people, a simple aspect of the whole.
It is thus the same chosen city which is a site both for His death and His regality, but it is the world which is site for His sovereignty, the Gospel the place for any peace, and there is no other place for this (Isaiah 66:22-24, 2:17, 28:16, 29:13ff., 24:19-23, 60:14, 44:6-8,24ff.,61:11, 65:13-15, 66:18, Psalm 96).
Just as Isaiah is intensively cumulative, culminative and cohesive, so is the Gospel intensely and intensively defined in it, declared in advance as if even then present (in line with declared desolations and presentations, as if present already, even the Christ, though His coming is defined by Daniel as to time, and as distant from Isaiah 7). The Lord is on record that there is NOTHING but the MESSIAH and the GOSPEL of His grace (as in 52-53, 55, 27:5, 61:10, 32:17), and history says AMEN! The Bible is ONE BOOK, as Isaiah is one component.
v In these books is
over all time,
expressing Himself at any time,
for times of peace or war,
deliverance or doom,
direction or purging.
v But it is always to one emphatic end,
to grace in glory
or else to disgrace in contempt:
and as to this,
deserved for the intractable,
ineluctable in shame,
indefeasible in dereliction,
their courage their destruction,
in angst their hope,
or in thrust their travail.
v Yet for such, it is not in the Lord
v That they have put their trust.
It is He who IS the truth,
and HAS spoken,
so that in terms of His own words ALONE,
all the world sees just what He says,
about history, Messiah, temporary judgment, opportunity,
while these all come in precisely as the terms set,
like concrete left a while …
Nothing varies. It is always the same. Its wonder, its sheer immutability is like that of multitudes of high mountains, similar but composed in character, vast in face, magnificent in interface, soaring to the skies, penetrating the storm, resisting the wind, smiling on the blue brooks in Spring, massive in contentment, content in their massivity.
Where however His word is opposed, as history makes haste to show and never more than now, there is only shame. Shame is the result of sham. Sham becomes shambles because it is not true, and hence it way do not work.
The world works but its workings do not work, because the work of the Lord is despised by it (Romans 2 with 3:23-28, Ephesians 2:1-12). The glory of God however is simply requisitioning faith in HIM, in HIS WORD, in HIS WAYS, in HIS WITNESS and in HIS DEATH, sacrificial and sufficient, defiant of shame, irresistible in cover, because of His incorruptible life breaching as in a birth, the very grasp of destruction, leaving Him as always, Master of all regions and dispositions, the Word of God now incarnate: providing the invariable, vicarious and victorious entry to life.
You may wish to consult other files on Isaiah in general, or on specific chapters, or overviews of collections of chapters. For this, see especially
*1 TIME, Gentlemen, TIME!
These things Isaiah suffered, in his reign.
What then ? Some of the spoilage and ruin of the temple was for money raising to help get Assyria interested in protecting them, some for alienated heart-satisfaction, using idols from Syria, which itself had not prevailed, in further engineering of ruin for Jerusalem (II Kings 16).
Isaiah prophesied (1:1) in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah and what a gamut of gyration he had to live through, as kings good or bad, addled or flawed, or indeed magnificently zealous on occasion, ruled in the land. Almost anything was in the kaleidoscopic proportions of his experience!
Nevertheless, he takes time-plateaux as the Spirit moves him, platforms for expression, scenes as from a play, a drama, for exposition. In Isaiah 66:6, accordingly, a “voice from the temple” is in a settled architectural environment, seen as present, but the actual scene is also one approaching the end as the Lord returns. His vision has moved to that phase, just as in Isaiah 42:6, we learn of the Messiah not to come for generations, that “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,” and in 49:3, “He said to Me, You are My servant, an Israel in whom I will be glorified.” This future event, seen in its setting and presented in graphic present, is in rather stark contrast to the performance of Israel the nation (‘prince of God’ the title) as seen in 41:28-20, an introduction to the Messiah in 42:1, by means of utter CONTRAST! The one, the nation, is a failure, ineffectual, the other, the Messiah in 42:1, is a ravishing delight!
It is black and white.
The same occurs in 51:21-22 in contrast to 52:13-53:12. In 42 and 49, alike, the Servant is a Light to the Gentiles, and pronounced in utter contrast to the nation Israel, which failed in the personal example of its commission, and hence in power.
Thus in Isaiah 49:3, we see intimations as if present in time, as the LORD speaks to His Servant in current commission. So does time serve: and as in a play where we are bodily transported to this or that phase of the story, and then live it, so here. Sometimes the graphic present is intense and all but momentary, sometimes it endures for a vision: Isaiah 24:16, 52 being two examples, one of each. In the latter, “Jerusalem, the holy city” is told to “put on your beautiful garments”, to dress up at her very best, like a child bathed, and preparing for a party. She is ready to do so, being intact and prepared, called and appropriatedly summoned to ‘dress up’. In this chapter 49, again, the present is seen in vv. 7ff., where it is as if we are watching on TV the victorious work of an army, here a man victorious and glorious in the anointed and anointing embassage from the Lord.
As in Isaiah 66, we are caused to see the scene graphically, so that we read “How beautiful are the feet…” as in 66, “A sound of noise from the city! A voice of the LORD who fully repays His enemies.” Thus her friends are told, in view of this seen happening, to rejoice. So does the prophet move with the agility of a lynx, the stride of a leopard, and the eye of a tiger, deploying and restoring, or showing in ruin, or enhanced beauty, as the case requires.
In parallel with these developments, one finds in Isaiah 21:8-10, as in the present tense, a dramatic dialogue, in which a watchman sees a lion which is shown to symbolise Babylon, and the interchange shows its devastation, “Babylon is fallen, and all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.” In delightful intimacy, the prophet exclaims after being witness to these things, “O my threshing and the grain of my floor! That which I have heard from the LORD of hosts, I have declared to you.” In this way, he announces the fall of Babylon, as more prosaically in Isaiah 13, though even there, in terms of the time-line shuttle, it is present in presentation: ”The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like that of many people! A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts musters the army for battle. They come from a far country…”
Already, in Isaiah 1:8, the “daughter of Zion” is left as a ”booth in a vineyard.” The eye of the prophet is shown the case, the culmination, the deliverance or the doom, and roves on a series of tapestries, if you will, arrayed on the wall of vision, to which, each in its setting, he turns with ease, assurance and deep intimate and empathetic involvement.
Future scenes may be provided with apt future settings, as in any play, or dramatic presentation by players, and so we find, with various occasional if slight references back to the actual time of the composition, if and where the case seems apt. Occasionally this too is stark.
In Ch. 6, Jerusalem is to be left as stump, in Ch. 1, as “a garden that has no water”; while at other times, we SEE the stump, or else the Messiah (chronologically, delayed greatly, as in Isaiah 7), or the return, or the command to return, or the advent of the Lord to make final retribution, with delight on the part of Zion’s friends (66), or the end of the entire series in heaven or hell (51, 66), with the Redeemer focused as imminent and coming (40, 52), or long delayed, or een gloriously reigning (Isaiah 11, 32, 6019, 62:11, 59:21, 66:12-13), according to the setting, the scenario, the point of take-off and landing. In 61:1ff., quoted by Christ Himself, you even see a progression in terse solemnity, from the evangelical delight to the coming doom, the one as in John 3:16-19, progressing most naturally. It was so when Christ Himself came, as in John 15:21ff., where the poignancy, the appeal, the judgment and the very presence of the Lord all are collated, the tempest and the truth, the mercy and the folly of man, the immense intimacy of the Lord’s presence and the stern rebuke.
But there is great fluency, as in some vast reconstructed theatre, built as in England in the 19th century, with enormous provision for effects, screens, change and variety, expression and ingenious architecture.
Again, it is rather like a military exposition, and you can hear the pre-D-Day Colonel saying, “So you see, there we are, landing at Normanby, and the barges are sinking in some cases, for the fire you see is strong, but with these plans in hand, we assemble on the beach…” and so on. At other times, he announces, “When the day comes, we shall assemble …”, or “the prime preparation of course is the bomb, although it is not yet ready…” or again, “Settle on your rump, Hitler, for we are coming…” and this could be said, in the height of adversity, at the outset of invasion, or as it is busily preparing, always as the context and the situation in rule before us, is in view.
The alert Lieutenant watches the scenes, the Colonel and soon becomes used to his modes of communication, never failing to assess the nature of any given meeting with some care, from the preliminaries, the indications and the outcomes. It is no use trying to impose on the Colonel the mode of his discourse; you must intelligently watch for the meaning of what is presented, assured that it is there, and that he is assuming you are not asleep.
*2 See Chapter 4 for a look at angst.