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It is good here to consult Ezekiel 36:24-38, 37:25... no departure for the returned nation is envisaged. Nasser certainly made a nice try in 1967 and the result did indeed glorify God, as He indicated. In the course of our look in this regard at Ezekiel, let us just emphasise that 36:30 is fulfilled in the millions of trees of re-afforestation seen or heard from the media; we have noted the fulfilment to the letter of the 'rose' announcement in Isaiah 35:1, in terms of the same general theme.
Ezekiel 34:29 is literally and exactly fulfilled in a way not obvious during the gas chamber times (which also followed the predicted disasters whilst abroad, as we saw): "I will raise up for them a garden of renown and they shall be no longer consumed with hunger..." Israeli flowers (*6) and vegetables surge into Europe, and world-wide interest is taken in their advanced horticultural, irrigation methods. Nor, says the scripture here "shall they bear the shame of the Gentiles any more." Currently, such elements are admired.
The Scripture in Ezekiel highlights the fact that the Gentile or 'other' nations will take the point. They do (Ezekiel 36:36). That, by the way, is another fulfilment. Note that in 36:37 God invites Israel to approach Him to have all this done (*7). Zionism is part of their response in kind, however unwise it may at times be, in method.
In all this, we simply notice that it is all done and it is duly noted by the surrounding nations, who see the judgments on Israel and the equally remarkable deliverances, so that God is focussed as the predicting power performing all these things, and people may turn to Him. This in His mercy is a great aim (cf. Psalm 2, 37:28, Ezekiel 33:11). Reluctantly or otherwise, the nations are amazed by this performance of God's famed "blossom like the rose" restoration, of a heavily punished Israel to its place; and just as amazed at its maintenance before ferocious foes. Where the Jews were an international football, now they are kicking goals.
Now as to the method, we have more to notice. Isaiah 49 focusses on the Messiah as we see in its place (v.6 is a crux in this Chapter); and the Jewish people (see Appendix A) who were God's but disobeyed Him in precise terms, are to have restored to them, land which "will even now be too small for the inhabitants" (Isaiah 49:19). That seems already verging on fulfilment. The return of myriads of Russian Jews underlines that!
We find in Isaiah 66 a further reference to this New Covenant era return. This is to follow the New Covenant of Isaiah 65:10-13 - as elsewhere expounded in this work - with Ezekiel 36-37 and Zechariah 10-12... How devastatingly has the 'pride of Assyria' - Iraq (p. 835 infra) - been 'brought down' following this second removal and return of the Jews - Zechariah 10:9-11, the Jews who rejected their king - Zechariah 9:9, 11:10. The same post-Messiah return is noted in Isaiah 11:11, following, in 11:1-10, the detailed depiction of the power and wisdom of son of David, the Messiah -
The Lord will set His hand again the second time, to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush (Ethiopia! as recently by air), from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea.Now in this post-Isaiah 65 covenant situation, the New Covenant times, when (Isaiah 66:3-4) animal sacrifice is wholly out of place: Isaiah 66:7 makes it clear that this national Jewish restoration will have a suddenness that is truly astonishing.
Shall a nation be born at once ?we read, and
Who has heard such a thing!It was so, and we have now heard. In May 1948, in a matter of seconds from the Mandate running out for the British: the Israelis, surrounded by foes, announced their existence and proceeded in the following days to give an account of it! You gain, as we also note elsewhere, something of the vigour of this divine intervention when God "sees that their strength is gone," as Deuteronomy puts it in 32:36 ff..
Now see that I even I am He and there is no God beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand... I will render vengeance to My enemies... make My arrows drunk with blood... Rejoice O Gentiles, with His People; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries. He will provide atonement for His land and His people. (Emphasis added.)This is the long range prophecy of Moses which, with Leviticus 26, stretches out the history in large tapestries of prediction to the consummation area.
Finally, notice that in Isaiah 49, at which we have been looking, there is reference in verses 18,21,23-6 to the following elements. First, there will be an aid from the foreign nations (fulfilled as just noted). Second, there will be a multitude, present and pressing in the land, suddenly constituting it a state... of Jews! Third, this will occur in the immediate historical setting of vast Jewish losses, and it will contrast in suddenness and positive numbers with the just previously dangerous racial situation that faced the Jews (Isaiah 49:14-24, Leviticus 26:32-39). This too is fulfilled.
It is (Isaiah 49:22) specifically forecast that the Jews will receive travel assistance in coming to their land, through God's mercy, following their rejection of the Messiah - Isaiah 49:1-7, cf. 42:1-7 with 42:13-19 - (*8). I remember an account of one rather undeveloped people coming to Israel, one rather unsophisticated strain of the Jewish people. Thinking of lighting a fire in the homecoming aeroplane, apparently for comfort or cooking, they were in peril!
It is forecast that even national leaders will assist them (Isaiah 49:23). In fact, U.S. Presidents have not infrequently made major efforts for the Jews; and apart from arms, often the really advanced weapons being supplied, there are literally billions of foreign aid for them from the U.S.. Current U.S. threats of withholding this, if certain things are not done, merely focus the fact and the expectation. This also is then fulfilled, and has long been so.
As for Isaiah 49:26, "I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh": this has been the unfortunate lot of Berlin in the horrid days of the Russian orgies at the end of World War II; and Arab nations taking part in the assaults on Israel... Jewish land by the Biblical mandate... these have suffered mightily: both nations and groups! They have suffered in the wars with the Jews; through war with each other, and who more than Iran and Iraq in this very period, and recently at the hand of the U.S. and Europe. (Reflect too on Assyria's famed Nineveh ruin -q.v., Babylon's demise, the Visigoth rape of Rome, Syria's ancient bondages, pogromming Russia's Communist 70 years, of excruciating horror - cf. Jeremiah 30:16...) Whatever the reasons, that is the result! Enough! God has done just what He said, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, He has (as shown in Isaiah 43 and 48) made a name for Himself in our midst, by a kind of precise prophecy **, which has no like members in its class.
It is the Bible, as we need to recall procedurally, which is being given opportunity for verificatory test; and this is confirmatory of it, to the uttermost.
This performance, in faithfulness to His word and kindness to us who are Christians, has results. It means that followers of Jesus Christ may take new heart and courage in this perilous and persecutory time (cf. II Peter 1:19). It means also that others may realise that it is not the Jews alone who have erred; but that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord. Both the Jews and their punishers are suffering punishment. It is time, high time, the message is repeated in the predictive area. This ? As we have noted, it is to repent and to return and seek the Lord, to accept the Jewish Messiah whom even His own people (as a race) did not accept... that Messiah whom in due course (in large numbers, as predicted in Romans 11:25-26), they too will accept!
Isaiah 55:6 puts the point with an urgency which has the atmosphere provided by life's delicacy and fragility, its potential for consummation and devastation, and either of these... rapidly.
Seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, For He will abundantly pardon ... (Jew, Arab, European, American, Australian, islander, on whomever: for whosoever will call uponthe name of the Lord, will be saved - Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21).
§A Messianic word: from p. 781 ... Indeed the miraculous Messianic healings and renewals are also predictively focussed in Isaiah 29:14-17 (after Isaiah 28:16's ultimate foundation ''stone'', and the ''wonderful work'' forecast of Isaiah 29:14 - cf. 28:21's ''strange work''). A third time, they are displayed in Isaiah 32:3 (in the presence of Isaiah 32:1-2's Messianic king in His spiritual beauty cf. Isaiah 4:6). Cf. pp. 827, 882 infra.
** Be the program as complex as you will, foretold for as many millenia as deemed good, the contemporary fulfilment, each part in its place - like operating through earth-bound laser, on the moon - is never too hard for the Lord. What a refinement, simultaneously to rebuke Jew-baiters, restore the disciplined Jews to their land with Gentile co-operation and riches included, and still to continue the Jews' discipline amid restoration - for their unbelief! (Cf. Zechariah 13:9.)
FORESTS, FLOWERS, THE "MUSHROOM" AND THE CROSS
As noted, millions of roses are annually exported from the land of Israel, formerly desolate and despised, to the sophisticated markets of Europe. This fulfils the concept of startling transformation of the judged land into an effusion of divine mercy, thus florally expressed - though not only so expressed, like a bouquet for the arrival and the endeavours. This prediction is found in Isaiah 35 in a setting of Messianic healing by divine power, transforming bodies similarly to the way the horticultural exploits transform the land.
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,The sheer lavishness of the profusion of Israel's garden products and exports (cf. Isaiah 27:6) is sufficiently notable to make this a direct and massive fulfilment, in fact a sign. The lavish prediction mirrors the lush exports!
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice... Isaiah 35:1-2 (cf. 51:3).
Of interest, indeed peculiar interest, is the fact that this Chapter 35 comes after the concept of world judgment (cf. Isaiah 24; here the preliminary is Isaiah 34:4), in the setting of which, in majesty and consummation, the judgment on Edom is seen. Edom with its capital Sela, now archeologically believed to be Petra, has indeed received just that judgment. Films are made to present the isolation, desolation, to emphasise the contrast of current death to the city, compared with its once glorious renown as a trade centre, the very items of the prophecy of its desolation being verified (34:13-15). The eerie circumstances of the palaces and places of the nobles (34:11-13) are duly fulfilled as if a reporter wrote from long ago. The point here is the setting.
Chapter 34 is that in which God declares the detailed inviolability of His word (verse 16), and just in the itemisation of what is to be found metonymically in Edom, and physically in its noble heights, comes the Lord's thrust. Just as all this prediction is made meticulously to happen, so His word will be item by item: in place. The events predicted will happen in sequence; the words God gives will maintain their force in their setting, His 'book'. Why ? ... "For my mouth, it has commanded, and His Spirit, it has gathered them" - Isaiah 34:16. This is how God speaks, and it is well to savour this in looking at the verifications.
The judgments are so; the principle is so; and, turning to our present and in detail, very different floral consideration: here the flowers also are... in place, on time, meticulously fulfilling the word of God.
So much for the flowers, roses and the... bouquet setting apologetically.
Now let us look at the forests. Isaiah 55:12-13 is set once again in the Messianic area, and we have this exposited in detail elsewhere in this work. For the moment, we notice the emphasis on afforested mountains in such a way that the trees constitute a sign. This of course must require a place and the place is that of the recipient of so much discourse, Israel (see Appendix A, Vol. 3). lt is indeed Israel.
Just as Ezekiel 36-37 had prophesied the desolation of the land as a divine provision for reproof (36:1-7), before that final restoration which we have been observing in its context, so Isaiah is here expounding the features of the joyful exuberance as that phase passes. He is extending some of the features of the return, as also noted by Ezekiel (e.g. 36:30,35) in the "not for your sakes" passages of God's merciful intervention. This is to be done 'at long last' (Ezekiel 38:8), in the "dry bones" regathering era for the nation, for His name's sake.
As the desolation was to be (and was) profound, so the luxuriance, the bouquet is profuse (cf. Isaiah 41:17-19, 60:13). Trees feature here abundantly.
J.H. Hunting in his Israel - A Modern Miracle, pp. 11 ff., provides the estimate that 200,000,000 trees had by that date been planted in reafforestation programs. These, one would feel, would be rather hard to miss. So too is the publicity. It strikes the popular imagination that those not swallowed up by some of the most systematic slaughter, of modern times should be so richly endowed so suddenly. It is just this striking contrast which constitutes the sign. Trees ? This is the term used of them in Isaiah 55:13, amidst an equally striking gospel passage, focussing the Saviour, the covenanted son of David. Here is the crux and criterion, the encompassing call, apt for all, commended to all.
The afforestation, noted in Isaiah 41 and 55: A sign it was to be; a sign it is!
The floral sign is present; the trees sign is present, and indeed - but we pass from it now to the sign of the Cross.
Next, then, there is the Cross, and the magnificent focus of Isaiah 66. Following the repudiation - pending repentance - of Israel, from their functional covenant co-operation with Himself (Isaiah 65:13-16), and the demarcation of the New Covenant times (66:3 - anima1 sacrifice is finished, just as the Messiah's sacrifice has come - Isaiah 53:10); and after the institution of the nation "in one day" or "at once" (as occurred in the famous radio announcement of the institution, the rebirth of the nation, as the British withdrew from their protectorate in 1948 - May 14): following all this, there comes the 'sign' (Isaiah 66:19). There is seen to be a divine world-wide judgment impending (Isaiah 66:15), one which will reveal to the world - "all nations and tongues", universally, the glory of God (Isaiah 66:18).
Meanwhile, therefore, prior to this revelatory dénouement, and in preparation for it, in a way certainly extending to this latter days phase, those who find the Lord and escape (66:19) the wrath of God, both current and to come, will act as missionaries throughout the whole earth (as we do, in the members so used, of the body), attesting the glory of the Lord to those "who have not heard" (66:19).
They will see, even if to distraction (66:18); but before this inevitable light, there is a spreading of the theme to those who were yet in darkness, that they should not be overtaken by the light in its fury, but still rather find it, with its sign, while there is yet time. Though all nations will statedly see it (66:18), there are those afar off, who must have it presented before that day of painful exposure and express judgment.
It is therefore in the face of this announced and coming declaration to all nations, that the missionary activity must proceed, and in the knowledge of it (cf. II Corinthians 5:10-11). This sharing was not foreseen as it is to be felt, in practice (Ephesians 3:5-6), the event surpassing the prospect in its fulness: but the Gospel was indeed in these Scriptures, as Paul proclaims in such exactitude and truth, in Romans 16:25. The Gospel, for which there is criterion of neither Jew nor Gentile, was one "kept secret" since the world began, but nevertheless made manifest in two ways: 1) "bythe prophetic scriptures", and 2) by the proclamation of such as Paul. At this point, we are examining 1) in terms of its fulfilment in 2).
Accordingly, some - though they be of these Gentiles, - will God Himself "take for priests and Levites" (Isaiah 66:20 - cf. 65:1-13) in the New Covenant, and these will show the glory of the Lord till the time comes when it is inescapable "to all nations and tongues" (Isaiah 66:18 cf. 24:5, 13 ff.).
All nations will see His glory (v.18); but those enabled will show it first where it may be found, in (metonymically speaking) the cross: as Paul indicates in Galatians 6:14:
God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.This of course refers to the entire sovereignly planned, executed and implemented salvation of Christ - incarnated, redeeming, righteous, crucified and resurrected, a fact Professor John Murray expounded so well, at Westminster Theological Seminary, in the 50's.
Cardinal 'sign' scriptures such as Isaiah 7, Luke 2:12 and Matthew 12:39-40, highlighted and distinctive in presentation and content, jointly indicate moreover the unique incarnation, death and sacrifice for salvation, and resurrection in power, of the Lord, Himself operative in person. It is sovereignly sealed in the splendour of the Cross (Philippians 2:8), a new sign better than that earlier one of the rainbow (Genesis 9:16). That was a celestial signal instituted earlier, just as is this a terrestrial one now, for remembrance.
Our current point however is that there is a sign predicted (Isaiah 66:19) to be characteristically associated with this world-wide missionary activity, one in which indeed the old covenant with its tribal priestly requirements is no longer in view (66:1-4,20-21), one in which Gentiles will preach and attest the glory of the Lord, replacing the former priesthood! This has happened, for none could doubt that the cross (a new theological symbol, made such by an actuality of magnificence in the humble work of the Lord Jesus Christ - a symbol of vast impact however often misused), is so associated with Christian witness and missionary endeavour.
It is associated as a memorial, as a reference point of divine reality, an arrow of love in the heart of theology, a focus of preaching in its deepest sense. It depicts a deed of divine dynamic, symbolised significantly in Communion Services, and a name used in scripture for the locale of suffering to dwarf all human suffering, because of the One who did it, and His purity of heart and wonder of life.
With that inimitable facility of Paul, we find accordingly, in Romans 15:16, an acute reference to Isaiah 66:20. Here in Romans the apostle, referring to himself as a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, speaks of his purpose that the "offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." Thus when Isaiah in Chapter 66 says "they shall declare my glory to the Gentiles", proceeding, "then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations", adding amazingly (for the Jew), "and I will also take some of them for priests and Levites": he is speaking the exact terminology which was used by Paul in describing his ministry.
Grace is given Paul by God, he says in Romans 15:16. In this respect, why ? It is so that, as a minister of Jesus Christ (the focus of Isaiah 53, indirectly picked up in Isaiah 66:2-3, in terms of the passé and anachronistic character of any residual animal sacrifices, following the sacrifice of Christ the Messiah)... "to the Gentiles", he might find this result. What result ? "That the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable" : that is, the offering consisting of the Gentiles, might be acceptable.
This then is the prediction of Isaiah, noted by Paul, and it is in two phases, here. First, many Gentiles will become believers in the Jewish Christ (rejected by His own nation); and second, from among these Gentiles you will have in this new covenant (Isaiah 65:13-16, Jeremiah 31:31) Ministers, people fulfilling in a new way what full-time priests once did in the symbolic preliminaries. These Ministers would be included, said Isaiah, in the new name servants of the Messiah who would glorify Him.
Imagine that not merely would Gentiles act as an (international) people of the Lord while Jews, for a time (as a nation) forsook their own strength (which latter, Moses also foretold - Deuteronomy 32:18,21,29-30 - of "a nation void of understanding", and "children in whom is no faith", v. 20). More than this: Gentile Ministers, full-time functionaries of the Lord, would replace the priests in a new vocation, fitting for a new covenant in which animal sacrifices were a 'dead' thing, and a crucified and resurrected Messiah (Isaiah 53:12, Psalm 16, Hosea 13) would be the focus.
In fulfilment of this extraordinary prediction is your present writer, and are thousands like him. It was not, after all, a Jewish phenomenon, this faith, this covenantal connection with God: they were used, as others are used. Nor is it the case that either group, Jew or Gentile, is merely incidental; as Paul shows in Romans 11, as the chapter ends. It is a whole comprehensive plan of exciting scope, directing veneration to the all-knowing God. That plan is, in these matters, clearly visible in Isaiah 40, 42, 49, 50, 52-5, 65-66 and so on. That concerns us because now it is verified in all these respects; and in terms of verification theory in scientific method, as we have noted, it is a high case of verification, where the case is intrinsically contrary to all normal expectation. It is verification of a scope and a kind that is most potent, logically.
The sign, the Gentiles and the removal of animal sacrifices, with the proclamation of the sacrifice of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:1), to whoever will believe, the glory of the Lord being in this focus on the Saviour; and the ministry by Gentile ambassadors concerning the Jewish Messiah - to distant nations: all this is predicted, fulfilled, verified.
These signs are high impact visual fulfilments. There is one more that is of vast impact, in more ways than one, which smites this generation with a force which almost reminds one of the cane for obsessive talkers in Class: something to wake them up, shake them up, who will not heed. That sign ?
Our final sign here is that of the vapour column... now associated with radioactivity implicit in the form and the substance, and deemed with something less than radiance, 'the mushroom cloud'. One could indeed almost put it: Which symbol do you want? The cross or the column ? The symbol - indeed symptom - of destruction or that of sacrifice leading to reconstruction... for individuals ? Reality and radiance, or ruin and radiation: there is no détente with God, able to be proclaimed in scripture: only repentance and faith or rebellion.
(For this sign, see *5, p. 803 infra; and under SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS, in Ch. 8, pp. 676-683 supra.)
In Isaiah 49, we have the fascinating correlation of the Messiah placarded (vv. 1-6), and this time talking in the first person ("in the shadow of His hand has He hidden me"), whereas in Isaiah 42 the paragon to whom no man can approach (41:28-42:7) is so declared in the very midst of the divine refusal to share glory with what is not God (42:8). This personal expression of God's words (42:6), the Messiah, is however as 49:7 shows us, despised by His own people, His own nation.
Our present point in this short review of matters expounded elsewhere, is this. In the very face of rejection (49:7) by a blind 'servant' (42:19) who is presented like a blind donkey, aloof, arrogant or imperceptive - to the ultimate degree - of the divine reality (and Jesus Himself thus applied this text at 42:19-20), there is the same divine determination in zealous honour and love as we noted in Ezekiel Ch.'s 36-7. And what is this ?
Not merely will God bring those who are in fact blind (42:16), but also those who are in an all but incorrigibly blind state (v.19). Despite this, and not in the immediate cited presence of His cure, He will bring them (v.16). He will chastise them with force (42:15), as it were excavating them from their predicament - a force which does not stop at destruction (v.15) and is certainly not merely blessing ("I will dry up the pools"). It is reminiscent of Isaiah 66 where the same sense of judgment, climacteric judgment indeed is present (66:15-16) in the very act of divine blessing being spread abroad. This is a day of judgment of physical kind, of violence following the restoration of the Jewish State (66:7-14). And this ? it follows the rejection of animal sacrifice (Isaiah 66:3) just as Isaiah 52-53 so painstakingly predicts and explains in its place.
The language in Isaiah 66 just noted - not unlike that in Isaiah 59:15-21 (*9), echoed in Romans 11:26 - resembles in judicial force and devastating impact, that of II Thessalonians 1, where the Lord returns with His saints and destruction awaits His enemies. It is necessary rightly to divide the word of truth and not to confuse and produce a sort of theological equivalent of nuclear fusion: this time in confusion with the text. We must receive its blast, not blast it. Gloriously, it remains perpetually fresh as if 50 generations had not so persistently marred it more than any 'writing'...! (cf. Isaiah 52:12-15). Indeed, there is no book so insulted and assaulted and with so little result, since the world began; just as its Author, the Messiah, was so assaulted more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men. It is not the fact of judgment, but the patience before it, that amazes.
In Isaiah 49:25-26 (cf. 66:14-15, Micah 7:11-20), we see the same emphasis on retribution and rejoicing in the midst of the Jewish return, and succeeding it. Judgment is activated not intimated; in fact, it is fulfilled in force and with fervour in this, the day of the Lord, a day of mourning in the end (Revelation 1:7), for many.
As in Ezekiel 36-37, there is enormous emphasis on the impact on the world at large of these dynamic, divinely declared events, on their significance and on their implications. Indeed, here we read (Isaiah 49:26 NASB): "And all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob", an impact highly correlative with the finale of Zechariah 12:10 when Israel turns to the Lord, when "the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high," as Isaiah 32:15 presents it. These end-time cataclysmic, and increasingly consummatory events are not done in a corner, and the very hinges of history groan with the weight of the happenings. The world will listen: it will have to, though it may not indeed repent! (Cf. Revelation 9:19-21.)
Of peculiar interest in this consummatory context is the reference to the land of the Jews on their return to their so suddenly instituted State, this political entity arising as by miracle, from the dust to full functionality, in a moment. So fast and remarkable is this re-institution of the State of the Jews (cf. Isaiah 66, p. 803 infra) that it provides people with amazement (Isaiah 66:7-15). That amazement, that too, has happened and is an independent prophetic verification!
Not only however is the political construction to be fast, but the population will explode... as we read in Isaiah 49:19-21:
For your waste and desolate places, and your destroyed land -It is as always, in history and in practice even so. What is said by the Lord is done and as He says, He "does not retract His words..." (Isaiah 31:2 NASB). Thus the suddenness of the rebirth of Israel has been amazing to the world, not in some small measure of surprise, but utterly so, as represented in Isaiah 66:6-10:
Surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants,
And those who swallowed you will be far away.
The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears,
'The place is too cramped for me;
Make room for me that I may live here.'
Then you will say in your heart,
'Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have been bereaved of my children,
And am barren, an exile and a wanderer ?
And who has reared these ?
Behold, I was left alone;
From where did these come ?'
Before she travailed, she brought forth;Not only has this sudden political creation occurred (cf. pp. 787,791 supra) amidst the multinational return to Israel, of millions of Jews (Isaiah 42:15, 49:13); but the rebirth of Israel has become notoriously associated with something crimping or cramping as they pack in the millions of milling Jews (with their problems, and cramped partly because of their problems with Arabs, of whom they have over one million, while they themselves still await that repentance noted in Zechariah 12:10 and Isaiah 32:15).
Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.
Who has heard such a thing ? Who has seen such things ?
Can a land be born in one day ?
Can a nation be brought forth all at once ?
As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.
Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery ? says the Lord. Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb ? says your God.
Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her;
Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her ...
Their extraordinary wars and victories as set forth in Zechariah 12 and 14, post-crucifixion (Zechariah 9:9, 11:12) have been covered earlier in this chapter. It is the total assemblage, unique in history as an event, and even in some of its parts that is spectacular. It is all predicted with endearing charm and sweetness, just as it is happening: with predicted emotions!
Indeed, to this aspect, we may add in verification; for not alone is it the case that Jerusalem will be a ''burdensome stone'' generally to nations attacking her in this epoch (Zechariah 12:1-2), as so elaborately and abundantly verified in recent history upon her return to nationhood, following her mistreatment of her Messiah. It is also specific (Isaiah 19:16-17) that Israel will be a ''terror to Egypt'' - something seemingly all but ludicrous in appearance when the prophecy was made, and continuing to appear so when Josiah was killed in a venturesome collision with Egypt. However, all throughout Isaiah, it is made perspicuously clear that it is the mercy of the Messiah which will make the difference; and as Ezekiel is so adamant, this will preveniently prevail. That is, God will act even before they return to Him (Ezekiel 36-37). Indeed, Zechariah makes the same point highly dramatic in Chapter 12. Here their returned status following the murder of the Messiah is under a challenge which God meets, even as they are turning to repent of the piercing of the Messiah.
Isaiah in Chapter 19 is set in the classic last times of new relations and interchange to come (v. 25), after severe trials, upon the nations surrounding Israel, when, following the vehemence and in the presence of the Prince of Peace (cf. Micah 7), Israel will be "third with Egypt" (Isaiah 19:24)... Here Isaiah predicts the course leading to this consummation.
This course will be far from peaceful! Indeed, here again as in Zechariah, there is to be the 'mighty mouse' phase of Jewish action towards Egypt. Isaiah adds (19:16) that in this context, the Egyptians will be ''like women'' (i. e. in battle as if they put women to meet men in combat).
How justly and precisely was this fulfilled, even this also, in the 1967 classic and notorious war, the 6-day debacle wherein the Egyptian Air Force was smashed on the ground, the Israelis skimming the waves in an early morning air dash that held real dynamic and ended in massive destruction of the Egyptian hi-tech assemblage, intended not least as support and cover for their tanks, no doubt, which Israel thereby was able to knock out or disrupt or capture! So did the massive Nasser invasion of Israel, so vaunted, and preceded by a lordly seeming dismissal of U.N. buffer troops, find itself the able instrument of fulfilment of this prediction concerning Egypt in the milieu of this period.
How well fulfilled was this prediction of being a 'terror to Egypt' also in the 1973 war, when an Egyptian army was surrounded in a Jewish noose, beyond and bordering the Suez Canal, with Cairo, exposed, ahead... only international super-power action and interchange, relaxing the tension, and the noose. How assuredly was this terror to Egypt prophecy fulfilled; and with what amplitude!
Further, the Egyptian "altar to the Lord" (Isaiah 19:19) is noted, and as the News Brief of "Open Doors with Brother Andrew" for April 1991 notes of contemporary Egypt (p. 3): "It is estimated that 10 per cent of the population of more than 50 million is Christian". Thus this salient but limited (Isaiah 19:19) testimony to the Lord in that land at this time, is also fulfilled. Here as always in the environs of Isaiah, it is the Lord's hand which does these things in terms of His loving faithfulness, so that though He disciplines, yet He remains steadfast in all that He has said (cf. Isaiah 63:14, 29:22-24, 30:8-18). Thus a kaleidoscope of components, set in an absorbing pattern of brilliant geometry and colour is predicted, with all the effortless seeming panache of multi-coloured parrots, soaring resplendent in the sunshine. That sunshine is here a coming humbling after deliverance, association after conflict, with a focus on Christ (Isaiah 11, 42, 49, 61, 52-53), the inevitable and essential Prince of Peace, on whose shoulder is to be - despite Marx, despite Darwin, despite Freud - and on His alone, the government. Nothing else works; nor is anything else authorised, nor is man made for anything else, who, created in the image of God, will soar, yes, but never simply settle on the earth without his divine connection intact. As he is now: that means redemption, and that, the Redeemer1.
The force and ferment for the Middle East, is Biblically set till that time, after these preliminaries; and this turmoil, tension and trouble continues to fulfil that analysis, that chronology, that divine dictum as well. (Cf. Isaiah 55:1-5.) Nor is this all that is predicted! Not war alone, not discipline merely, but creativity and construction is also predicted; nor is this limited to the horticultural and forested predictions elsewhere considered.
One of the elements that has helped Jewish unity, strengthening their co-operation, as they have poured in from many cultures, languages and civilisations vastly diverse throughout the world - with levels of education incredibly different, facing immediate wars, sometimes as they come (literally): has been a remarkable work. It is one begun long ago begun, in the last century, by Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who while insisting his own family spoke only Hebrew, constructed a multi-volume modern Hebrew dictionary, now used in the Army and for the instruction and linguistic levelling and inspiration of newcomers to the land. It gives a sense, no doubt, of cultural conformity, traditional vistas, contemporary collaboration and sharing. There is a reason other than historical interest for these observations. It is that yet another prophecy is fulfilled thereby: for in Zephaniah 3:8-15, in a passage of ultimate restoration and joy, the Lord speaks of the return to their King, in their midst, with a pure language included in the situation. And this ? Obviously, after the multiply declared exile, there would be a language problem and an assimilation obstruction in many tongues.
This language is ultimately to enable them to call on the name of the Lord and serve Him with one accord (Zephaniah 3:9). Since the context at once proceeds to note the distant places from which Jews will return, as so often, including that famed Ethiopia (Zephaniah 3:10, cf. Isaiah 11:11) which has so recently figured in the Jewish exploit basket, for a racial airlift of Jews from that land, back to Israel (another fulfilment): it is clear that divisive effects of diverse languages are in view, and a solution is being propounded with this pure language.
It is the 'dispersed ones' who will thus have a pure language and be enabled to serve the Lord together. That consequence of prolonged, penal exile will be removed. How amazing that the rigour of Eliezer Ben Yehuda created a medium for just this, with his massive dictionary work of Hebrew for modern usage. It was one of his children, a daughter, who wrote a best-seller concerning the difficulties of life in such a setting as their father induced for his language-purity passion, before it was popular to return to the Hebrew language for modern life, as an embracive base for all immigrants to Israel. At least, Ben Yehuda made it workable.
What then has happened in this regard ? God said it. Yehuda worked at it; then Israel as a nation did it, implemented the program thus made practical. Strong and long is their teaching of this language for the Army and others, developing and exploiting their ancient language as a basis for ready comprehension and action, among all Israelis. So does the Lord do the 'impossible', often as a matter of course, when He has spoken. That, and not merely the fact of verification, is one of our purposes to exhibit; and of course, it is its style which constitutes another verification. After all, when you are dealing with the word of a King, the regality is one of the criteria... as well as the effect! Together, they have the atmosphere of royalty. When the King's enemies cannot break that word, you have one of the specifics of God!
Nor is this all. Just as in Isaiah 12, you have the taste of joy in the Lord, in drawing water from the wells of His salvation (focussed in Christ in the preceding Chapter, cf. the prophetic emphasis on joy found in Isaiah 61:3, 51:11, 61:10), so in the parallel in Zephaniah, instead of those who "rejoice in your pride" (3:11), will be those who find this, in the Messiah:
The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you in His love, He will rejoice over you with singing," (Zephaniah 3:17).They are instructed for this very time, to "be glad and rejoice with all your heart," (Zephaniah 3:14).
The fame and name (Zephaniah 3:20) which they are predicted to gain upon their national return (Zephaniah 3:10,19) - already obvious in the fields of warfare, medicine, science, agriculture, horticulture, technology is yet not all. There is more to come... their hearts to Christ the Lord! (Zephaniah 3:17-18, cf. v.12). This makes up the full complement, still awaiting its finale. The preliminaries purr.
Meanwhile, as Zechariah 12 shows so well, they are surrounded, in a seething cauldron, like a bud infested with insects: taunted by Arabs, cautioned by the world, still unaccepting towards their own Messiah, to whom, as predicted so many multitudes of Gentiles have meanwhile come. The main piece of their felicity awaits their drawing water out of the wells of salvation, as prescribed and prophesied (12:1-3).
This caution and this scenario makes for the poignant sense of both fulfilment and expectancy in the Middle East; for so much good is to come, and so much devastation to so many, for different reasons, all however centring on the relation to that same Christ, who there was crucified.
How like so many Gentiles are the Israelis in their confrontation and trouble pending their turning, amidst all the other fulfilled prophecies, to the One whose they are, whose city their capital is, whose the temple, whose the burden, and all the ornaments of their symbols, who shouldered them all (cf. Isaiah 22:24-25)! Just as the Jews played and lost their innings, so the Gentiles in the world as a whole, lost their innings also. The reward ? they are placed in a seething and wanton spinning world, even their heads turning with it, from which, exactly as predicted, there is no response effective or acceptable, but this: turning to the Lord. The "joy unspeakable" (1 Peter 1:8) is that which, by its wilfully secured absence, brings not least this weakness to the nations (Nehemiah 8:10): it is a joy also in each other (Philemon 7, 111 John 4), and involves the resident Lord, the King Jesus (Zephaniah 3:16-17), now internal, by His Spirit, who then will become external by His rule. There is a fulfilment of divine love which is in the most acute contrast to the dynamic of desperados, crushingly being gathered for judgment in their pangs and their global palpitations. It is this latter process which continues visibly before our eyes, as if through the attraction of magnets, as the word of God says. The Middle East is an absorbing focus of world powers and thrusts.
Here is the beginning of this other assemblage to come (Zephaniah 3:8). "My assembly of kingdoms" ... The first is to re-assemble Israel (done, and prospering exceedingly, as in the fall of the U.S.S.R. with its prison- like containment of Jews, its fall one more fulfilment of the needs of prediction, in that if it did not fall, they could not come!). This second assemblage of 3:8, that of nations, what is its purpose? It is this. "To pour out my indignation" ... that is the divinely stated purpose, and this will be fulfilled as has been the loosing of the bonds of Jews from many nations.
What an assembly, what a 'school' to assemble! an assembly of nations, of kingdoms... How divergent from the rest which is accorded, also in fulfilment of prophecy, to the repentant who receive the Lord, presented here in Zephaniah in such stark contrast; and it is this which Isaiah portrays so indelibly in 63:1-7, where is seen the Lord in terrible judgment, even amidst the appeal of His lovingkindness. As with Israel, once, so it is with the world, now; and all of it is covered with that mathematical precision, atmospheric poignancy, historical elegance and utter contempt for opposition to the plans and programs of His grace and of His judgment, which is the Lord's (cf. Isaiah 40:12-16). It is covered in His word (Isaiah 55:10-11, 34:16), the prompter to history!
Meanwhile, the measure of His own awe-ful pangs (Isaiah 63:9, 52:13-53:12), is the portrayal of the just judgment for man; and the constant theme of Isaiah is this: where the purchase price of redemption is rejected, so the wrath which Christ endured - in His offering of Himself for all who come to draw water from Him, both for refreshment and for cleansing - remains like an inferno in a house, when fire-extinguishers are scorned.
Where however this redemption is received by faith, the Lord's Christ as purchaser, there is formed the third and greatest Assembly - commenced (Acts 7:53) in the Old Covenant, consummated at His coming - The Christian Church (Matthew 24:45-51, 7:15-29, Rev.11:12, Isaiah 65:13-16, 61:1-2,10, 55:1-4).
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1. That blessing though national in scope, comes to individuals (cf. Zechariah 12:10-14, John 3:16-21,29-36).
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