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ISAIAH AND FREE, EXUBERANT SALVATION
WITH EMPHASIS ON THE EARLIER CHAPTERS OF THE PROPHECY,
BUT THE INEVITABLE MOVEMENT WITHIN THIS GLORIOUS UNITY TO WHAT CONSTANTLY ECHOES THE EARLIER IN THE LATER
The prophecy of Isaiah (cf. John 12:38-41) is a unity so glorious, so uninhibited, so internally magnetic, that it is like iron filings in the presence of a magnetic field. When the power that moves is present, they ALL tend to draw near to the source of power and to become lively, bristling and aggregating as ONE. Such things are noted, and may be pursued in the aggregate on Isaiah, in With Heart ... Chs. 4ff.. Not only is this so, but more important still, if possible, there is a cohesion internal to this generic; for the passages on the Messiah in particular, now symbolic, now direct, now physical, now theological, now practical, now all-powerful, now suffering vicariously, courageously, as man for man, saving gloriously, now overwhelming light in an overwhelmed darkness, now set forth in his historic physical lineage via David, now seen in His eternal meta-lineage, unbegotten, God the word in heaven are quite correlative to some of John's Gospel. These arise and seem all but signallers to each other, so great is their intimacy, their collegiality and the mutual complementarity. They support and interpret each other; they reveal the Messiah.
Moreover, it is practical (as in 45:22ff., 55), and its application follows from its crux in 52-53, as nearly as 54-55, where eternal security for the saints is found, along with the utter costlessness to man, of redemption. Costs do come, but not for entry: rather for grooming, sanctification. When however one is saved in this great light (Isaiah 8-9), then what is a storm or two or three or four! Does not complain at a cold wind, when drowning has been averted!
Let us look in the region first of Isaiah 7-12.
Here is found not only the beauty of the texts, each in its place, but the depth of its sequence. The words, sentences, paragraphs have message and impact; but the way theme follows theme, and impact on impact, this too, as in a duel, has an overall meaning. Sequence here does more than suggest; it declares cumulatively, like a brilliant speech.
It is to the latter, the sequence more particularly, that we now look. In Isaiah 7 you have the virgin prophecy (cf. SMR pp. 770ff.), where a word never used of a married woman (the only such word available cf. Studies in Isaiah, E.J. Young) is exposed with what would normally be a contradiction: we have a young girl in a spiritually exalted position, used in the arrival of "God with us" or "Immanuel" on this earth. She is nevertheless, in her hidden innocence, like a bud unopened, with child, without changing this status. That is the force of the Hebrew. How can this be ?
This constitutes in itself a SIGN, comparable or surpassing anything which might have been, had the King to whom deliverance was offered without limit, received it. This is the META-SIGN, over all.
It is a SIGN, we are told. It is what God, disgusted with human depravity, too devious even to receive an ultimate gift, is going to give to the nation anyway. If they won't take the vast prize He offered, above, beneath, only choose! then THIS is what HE will do. HERE is a sign from Himself, beyond any power to resist. The heights and the depths will in this be touched, though man has failed to activate the offer first made. God will do what is of HIS OWN initiative and heart. HE will send a child via this virgin. The child will bear His own name: GOD WITH US.
That is, the thought of a sullied maiden is out of the question. We have girlhood and pregnancy in the situation of an amazing event, as Machen stated it, of the order of Hezekiah's sun dial going backwards, as it did. In that case, there had to be, it would seem, and Velikovsky argues here, some re-alignment in the heavens. It is of that order. Indeed, this is surpassing all, the direct act of God without possible intervention or brake.
Here, in the initial divine offer to the King, facing possible invasion, we are dealing with the fate of nations, dual contenders massing up together in order to invade Judah. What had occurred then ?
Ahaz, King of Judah to its sorrow, is being offered in his national extremity, ANYTHING he asks; but his faith is not there, and he pretends to a piety which will not trouble the Lord, will not stress Him, one would almost be tempted to say. In fact, he simply does not believe, being relieved of faith. The sign could have been going up to heaven, or down to the depths, the prophet offering this in God's name; but it was not taken up.
God then spoke of their wearisomeness as a political entity, a religious entity indeed, and declared HE WOULD give them a sign. It would not help much, since they had rejected the currency of the case, through disfaith, but it would be the ultimate. It was this: VIRGIN WITH CHILD. That is step one. CHILD TO BE GOD WITH US. That is step 2. The association is obvious. No father since God is the Father; the child to be THEREFORE 'God with us'. It is the same 'therefore' as is met in Luke 1:35, put like this: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you: therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."
Since GOD HIMSELF promised to come and personally purge sin, defeat death and overcome man's massive mischief, here is the method (Hosea 13:14). Equally, since when man fell (Genesis 3), he was cursed and hunted, still-born offal from Satan's care, and yet through woman would the seed, the descendant come who would crush this same slave-driver Satan, it was apparent from the first, as to the last, what God would do, in transcending man to overcome by His own power. Yet in this He would use man, just as the Satan had caused man to be lost, by misusing him!
Let us then saviour the Isaiah 7 prospect. Now you do not have to be exceptionally brilliant to see this, that if the girl is with child, and the result if God with us, and this is a celestial sign of the most amazing proportions, then the Father is God. That of course is how this Son (remember the relationship of Father and Son is a spiritual thing first of all, since God IS a Spirit) can have as one of His names, "the everlasting Father." His is the place of grace, of eternity, word of God for ever, precise expression of the Father (Hebrews 1). It is not a discourse on the Father which is in view when we come shortly to Isaiah 9, but the name for the Son, focal point identified, and as prince of peace He is no less "mighty God", the LORD Himself as in Isaiah 10:21. In the naming of the Son, we do not have a long list of names for the Father, but guess what ? for the Son to whom the matter relates. It is the child's names and not those of the Father which are in view, and as a 'name' it is incorporated into one chain of command, where the very last name of prince of peace commands an eternal territory of lordship. This last name as the Child's implies that all that went before was ministering to this.
Thus if you say, This child will be called meritorious, capable, famous Jack, you do not look to find the words before JACK to be talking about something else. Named Jack, he has attributions to this name preceding. Suppose now it were: Great and Wise Father's Boy Jack: this would be ludicrous. Only the clearest intimations of such a proposition could be considered. Here, so far from that being the case, we have a participle that would have to be construed for such a procedure for 'counsellor' - made into 'counselling'. Why that ? Is His name to be instituted with a participle ? Is there no end to the goulash of grammatical equivocation! Is it to be counselling great things Jack, or more to the point, wonderful things is counselling great and noble father of son Jack. This is virtual gibberish, besides stealing the show in the very propounding of the name of the Lord of the universe (9:7, Daniel 7:25, Psalm 45, 72). Again, in the actual text, we have names side by side, from first to last, all of a type with no differentiation noted in standing or status.
Thus it is indeed correct to read the name by
which this Child is to be called as an ascending accolade, move from wonder (the
term is literally 'wonder'), Wonder, Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace ... The last semantic couplet, combination of like names, has only one member, so this is extended to further information. "Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end." His government is infinite, for nothing limits or removes it. To be sure, the Word of God incarnate, having done His work, as in I Corinthians 15, returns to His trinitarian glory within the Godhead; but HE is Lord for ever and ever.
Such then is the situation with the Isaiah 7 prophecy of God with us, so soon confirmed and amplified from implication to application in Isaiah 9.
Anything other is merely invented, trying to push by devious means, what is not there, into the text, as if the name would confer any type of admixture and imagination one might wish. Had the Lord wished to make a declaration, then no doubt the means for it would be present, as in Isaiah 8's cases.
The full impact of "the mighty God" indeed becomes the more apparent, between Isaiah 7 and 9, since in Isaiah 8:8, we see the further result of disfaith in Judah. The Assyrian would come (NOT the two littler nations they so feared, but a far worse one), and devastate the land. Let us hear the words of this forecast, duly of course to be fulfilled:
"He will pass through Judah,
He will overflow and pass over.
He will reach up to the neck;
And the stretching out of his wings
Will fill Your land, O Immanuel."
Now see the implications. This "God with Us" (or Immanuel, the same thing in another tongue), is now seen. Concerning this child to come, as possessor of the land of Israel, we learn that His name is on it, it is His to the point that what it suffers, is a suffering for Him, as seen in Isaiah 63:9: "In all their affliction, He was afflicted." YOUR land, O Immanuel (from Isaiah 7's promise), the land of God Himself, of Him whose it is without equivocation or ambivalence, it is this which is to be invaded. Here then is God with us, not only to be IN the land, but the Lord and owner of it! What other, in view of the realities of these texts! Nothing other is permissible linguistically or logically.
It is apparent then that Immanuel IS GOD.
Let us then revert to Isaiah, after reviewing the matter, where this is so is immediately fortified. In fact, it is the transition from Isaiah 8 which is particularly enlightening. At the end of Isaiah 8, we have an emphasis on stark horror, for deprivation and loss, anguish is in view. In fact the phrase is utterly striking, that describes their writhing estate: "gloom of anguish"! (8:22). This darkness however is to be contrasted with the sudden, brilliant, exuberant provision of light, as in 9:1ff.. The prophecy continues that this is to be centred for great actions in Galilee (as of course it famously was in the life of the Immanuel, Jesus Christ). By this means, then, darkness and the shadow of death become a great light. It surpasses any military victory and indeed will at length lead to an end of that sort of thing. Thus, as to this "Prince of Peace", with unceasing lordship, it is therefore as LORD that "He makes peace to the ends of the earth" - as in Psalm 46:9, and will rule in peace. Further, as in Psalm 72, for many, it is He who will redeem their lives from deceit and violence, and as in Isaiah 11, smite the earth with the rod of His mouth (11:4); and in Him the Gentiles will find their glorious resting place (as in Psalm 2,67, Jeremiah 16, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6).
Thus is there this augmenting echo, this reverberation of concepts and emerging data, this combination with other parts of Isaiah, this movement that increases what is given and resounds with other parts of the Bible, like an orchestration of thematic recurrence and mounting cascades of meaningful sound, nursing the soul with enlightenment: but this, it is with words.
How amazing therefore, is thi CHILD who is to come and accomplish these features in LIGHT, victorious over darkness and manifest in power, making practical the name called (9:6) "the prince of peace, " and divine in conception what continuing divulgement, His kingdom will know no end (as in Daniel 7:25, when He is given all things to rule by the Ancient of Days). Not only so, to enlarge of what is given above, as you go back in 9:6, from the prince of peace, you see that the names are joined together in groups. Thus He is named wonderful, counsellor, combining splendour of being and counsel, and then, Mighty God and Everlasting Father, conjoining direct attributions of deity, and then He is prince of peace. Thus the names include that of "everlasting Father" which of course is utterly impossible unless He be God, as in Isaiah 48:16, God the Sent coming from God the sending, and the Spirit, in this divine trinitarian action.
But that! it opens up another augmentation process, or if you prefer, progressive enlightenment, divulgement, expression of content. Thus after this amazing but startling clear announcement in 48:16, we have first the confirmation that it is the LORD who speaks, and then the desolatory words of 48:18. Just as in Isaiah 7 (or for that matter, Proverbs 1), what marvels might have been given; but now ? Now they have forfeited what they have forsaken. "Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea." That, it is because "by His knowledge He will justify many" (Isaiah 53), FOR He will "bear their iniquities". Justification is all-inclusive, total coverage (as in Isaiah 45:25, 51:11).
But this is not all. This cut-out clause being noted in Isaiah 48:18, the revival reality sounds out in the ensuing chapters 49-55 (for which see Waiting for Wonder Ch. 10, and With Heart and Soul ... Ch. 7). The scope of it, its appiclations, its performance ground, its raison d'Ítre, all is exposed.
As in 53, He is to BE the payment, the Redeemer, and since only GOD is Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), once again it is necessarily the case that He is God, as in John 1:1 (cf. The Bright Light ... Ch. 10).
Indeed, let us remember that one name in Isaiah 9:6 is Mighty God, a phrase used of God soon afterwards in the prophecy of Isaiah, at 10:21. His names, which are His name - that is, there is a multiplying splendour of completeness of divine attribution and power to rule within them, making it the very name of God in action - culminate in prince of peace and everlasting kingdom (and God does NOT, repeat NOT give His glory to another - Isaiah 42:8). What more than prince of peace, He is, we find by looking back on the unimpeded and unadorned list, without intrusion of any kind, that specifying the name, as we have seen. Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, the last exhibited in what follows for Him, are conjoined inseparably, and since it is HIS name, that of this child, it is His qualities which are in view, as the terminal section makes so clear, and His include Deity and the names such as wonderful and counsellor, which are those of Deity.
It is to this deity that "the remnant will return" as in Isaiah 10:21. It is to "the mighty God". So does the word of God interpret itself.
Paul, in Romans 9:27ff., cites this area of Isaiah 20 relative to Israel, and indeed it is obvious that it is there that nation, since the name 'Jacob' is not a negotiable item but of the closest affinity to Israel, the history of which as a nation first out and then in with the Almighty, and then out again, before being brought back once more, is unique and incapable of confusion, if the word of God is not mixed. This then in Isaiah 10 at this point is an evangelical sector of Israel to return in spirit as well as body to their land, as in Zechariah 12:10-13:1, and as in the two pronged action in the potent and clear imagery of Ezekiel 37. There, it is first sprayed out bones brought back to Israel and articulated, a nation in the form and structure; then a separate command institutes the LIFE of that nation, which God being the issue, is a divine life given as in Zechariah, at the point where they see their fault in slaying the Messiah, so clearly foretold both in principle (49:7 - they 'abhorred' Him, not 'adored'!), and in practice in Isaiah 52:13ff..
Thus we dart about in the entirety of this document, the prophecy of Isaiah, as school children might dart about on a beloved ocean beach, when school holidays come: here is that rock and there is that dune, and here is the bathing beach, and there is the view from on top, of all of it ... and so on.
As we thus assemble all this, moving in sequence with Isaiah, in our minds, we come next in this survey of these lightning-like flashes in Isaiah at this stage of the prophecy, to Isaiah 11. Here we have the same amazingly beautiful action, glorious in counsel indeed, where that delicate thing, a "Rod from the stem of Jesse", that is a human being descendent on the side of flesh, from David's line, a "branch" from those "roots", is exposed to view. In this way, what is to come, the person concerned, is very carefully given its place in our race in this earth, and in the family of David for provision at the human level of body, is at last attested. The first one 'David', a man after God's own heart we read, is now to be surpassed to the point, as Jesus made so clear, that he would call THIS most special descendant of his, on the human side, "My Lord"! (Psalm 110, cf. Matthew 22:43-45).
Let us look further at Isaiah 11. The rule of this Branch, on whom shall rest the Spirit of the Lord, indeed "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might" (as in Isaiah 9:6), the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (since this is Messianic and set in human format as example as well as ruler), will be mighty. Indeed, none can resist it, because "He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth", a thing not so powerful unless it be the mouth of God, and "with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked", a thing out of the question unless to speak is to have, to act is to gain, unique to the work of God as in Genesis 1. In fact, "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," this, His rule being total in power and consequence. Moreover, "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."
Further, this Root of Jesse shall constitute in Himself a banner (just as He is the SALVATION of God, the one in focus, in 49:6, and covenant in Himself, in 42:6), being all things from God, and all things to man, the ONE MEDIATOR of I Timothy 2:6.
We move on then to Isaiah 12, where the results in basic terms are to be seen. Salvation is then imbibed like water, free and pure. "Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" just as in Zechariah 13:1, and John 4:14, 7:37, a similar theme occurring.
Indeed, to move on, in Isaiah 27, we find the
injunction to be reconciled to God, with the words:
"let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me." Here is the offer of taking a strength already provided: not offering something of strength for the thing to be acquired onself, just being ready to receive.
It is from GOD that the means of reconciliation come. Similarly, a little later, we have this: "In the LORD all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory" (45:25).THAT, it is when every knee shall bow (Isaiah 45:23) to the Lord, and when the descendants of promise, receive Him whose it is, of whom it is written in Isaiah 53, "by His knowledge, shall justify many". This means that His knowledge firstly of sin's impact, as He bears it vicariously (Isaiah 53:6). The word "FOR" which follows this shows that. THAT is how HIS knowledge justifies many. Thus it is those whose sin He bears who are given peace (53:5), who are healed. The "we" and the "us" are just those. Alas, however, Isaiah asks at the outset of Isaiah 53, WHO will believe the report (53:1). Who is it, but those of Jew and Gentile who are "Israelities indeed," Jews inwardly (Romans 2:29), or who find in HIM their resting place which is wonderful, yea glorious!
At the spiritual level, what is genuine is what counts; at the terrestrial, it is the promise that counts, and it is already largely fulfilled in Israel, now back in place amid the predicted wars (Zechariah 12), awaiting the outpouring of the Spirit so that a major portion will find the Lord crucified, the Lord who saves, mighty to save as in Isaiah 63, where He is seen active on this earth. That is an aspect of the "mighty God" which is central in all of this.
It is indeed to HIS strength that they look for salvation, since it was by this strength that He could bear sin and be resurrected, glorious in innocence, illimitable in power, concerned to the point of bearing the cross, human to the point of being susceptible to torture, effectual in bearing it instead of those to whom it might rightly be placed as their due. Moreover, as in Isaiah 32:17: "The work of righteousness" - His - "shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever." When it is HIS righteousness (cf. Psalm 71:14-17), it is irremovable, and it is therefore for ever (as in I John 3:9). When it is GOD who saves you and is your Saviour, and not illicitly a chummy 'you and me' partnership: it is then that there is no room for failure: HE never fails! (Zephaniah 3:5). The work is His!
Hence Ephesians 1:11: and as to those who believe in Him, by faith recipients of His righteousness, redemption, freely (2:1-12), through grace, what does it say ? It is this: these HAVE OBTAINED everlasting inheritance. That is as in I Peter 1:1-5, and it is accompanied with great joy as in I Peter 1:5-8. Joy is the inevitable ebullience of the Lord, springing up even in the midst of suffering, and indeed not least when one is persecuted for His sake! (I Peter 4:14, Isaiah 51:11). As to sorrow and sighing, declares the prophet there, they will "flee away". How intimately does all scripture, the Bible, hold together; and indeed it is like the human body, very diversified but obviously united in concept, commission, meaning and capacity as one.
How free is this gift of the Lord and of His Spirit which He sends from the Father (John 15:26). Consider what Isaiah has to declare at 44:1-5.
"Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
Thus says the LORD who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground:
I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon your offspring:
And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
One shall say, I am the LORDíS; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall write with his hand 'The LORD's' and name himself by the name of Israel."
Thus is the consistent liberty in Isaiah, constantly focussing the Messiah, His fragility as man, His omnipotence as God, His work as Saviour, His transmission of salvation to Jew and to Gentile alike, His deity and His self-discipline as in heaven. Here we see the heart, so that "in all their affliction He was afflicted" (Isaiah 63:9). There in Isaiah 53, we see it so on earth, for "On Him, was laid the iniquity of us all."
Accordingly we find in Isaiah 53, that the "we" who by His stripes many are healed, are those who on whom the iniquity is placed: it is for that reason that those justified are 'many' and not 'all'. To have your iniquities so placed (v. 6), you have to be one 'healed' by His stripes, converted, regenerated, restored to spiritual life. It is those who have BELIEVED the report, Jew or Gentile. In fact, the tone of the verse 1 of Isaiah 53 strongly indicates that these, though they be many, will not be substantial! In accord with this is Christ's word not only in Matthew 7:15ff., about narrowness of way, and few who come, but in 7:21ff., about many who imagine things that are mere spiritual fraud and are rejected.
Great is His desire which led to that strait-jacket of suffering (cf. Luke 9:51, 22:41ff.), and great is the love which establishes that desire (John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff.), in both Father and Son who are One (John 10:30ff.).
Let us then revert to the Isaiah 44 passage which has occupied us. There it is the Israel section (as in Revelation 7) of the Christian Church which is in view in this one Saviour, Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. It is He, whether in the waters of Isaiah 12 or 44, in the pageantry of Isaiah 22:22ff, where the pictured symbols of meaning are cut off, as from a nail, and the glory is stricken, or in the symbolism of Isaiah 4:6, where the Lord is as a tabernacle, or in 32:1ff. where it is seen that this is a man, this hiding place, this shadow cast by a mighty rock: it is the Rock in which man can take comfort and courage, providing deliverance in Himself. Now the Israel sector is seen in specific context, now the Gentile, now it is undifferentiated. The gift is the same, the past of those receiving it has been individual, nation or person.
But what of the gift ? It is indeed as in Isaiah 25:8-9:
"He will swallow death forever" (as in Hosea 13:14), "and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears form all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.
"And it will be said in that day: 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.' "
Free as ever, awaiting access through faith, this grand God in His greatness constantly moves to our smallness and still more startling, to cover our sinfulness, and pouring out the water that washes, made effectual by His blood (Isaiah 53:10), to faith He grants a freedom from guilt, disgrace, shame and exclusion, with a mercy which is as ebullient as His creation and as splendid as His grace and love (Micah 7:19ff.). From different backgrounds many will associate with Him, freely saying, I am the Lord's: for the one God for man became man, the one Gospel for many became paid-up, offered to all, effectual for some, and the liberties of the Spirit is found wonderful in the channels of the word, poured out from on high (Isaiah 32:17ff.), so that the work of righteousness becomes peace (Ephesians 2:14-22).