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THE CLEAR LINE OF ISAIAH 49
Cf. Department of Bible ...
see also Ch. 10,
Vol. 3, of the series, Ch. 10, and
Ch. 8, above.
In Isaiah 48:15ff., we see the Lord speaking and indicating His sublime, divine intent to call a coming King named Cyrus to send Israel back from its captivity and exile. He plans to "make his way prosper" in this deliverance from a then defeated Babylon, when the coming Empire takes over from it. This has been expounded at large in Isaiah 44-45, the sequence of Empires in Daniel 7.
The Lord then indicates that it has not been His way to co-operate with gnosticism, that is to say, to speak in secret, but rather openly. He then divulges that from all time, He, the speaker, the living word of God, "has been there", even from the beginning. He has pre-existed history and been there at all times (as in Proverbs 8, John 17, John 8:58), being God.
Now we find that within the Godhead there is Sender and Sent, in the form of Messianic mission (48:16). The One sent, as for example in John 6, 8, 14-17, so often, is the One speaking a this point in Isaiah. His sending is one in a triune function, with the Spirit likewise sending. He then laments in Isaiah 48:18ff., just as in Jerusalem as are recorded in Luke 19:42ff.; for God does not change, and His nature is always the same, not clearing unrepented iniquity, but swift to pardon the penitent (as in Nahum 1:1-15), who by faith seek and trust in Him, being redeemed by the One who, as in Isaiah 48:16, was sent, and as in Isaiah 52-53, paid the price for that redemption, to cover as many as would come (cf. Isaiah 53:2-6), those "healed" by "His stripes."
God then issues vast praise to the Sent One (Isaiah 49:7), whom man "despised" and whom the nation "abhorred", predicting that many will praise Him, including kings. Indeed, this Sent One is Himself to become "a covenant to the people," as fulfilled in Matthew 26:28, at the last Supper. In due course, He is to be a Shepherd for His people, who will come from afar and many directions (Isaiah 49:12).
To what however is this boon to His people to be given ? So far there has been a directional notation, but is there a destination, and does it include the forsaken and stricken nation of Israel in any way ?
First we find that the Lord has comforted His people and "will have mercy on His afflicted," Isaiah 49:13.
He attributes to Zion the conviction
that "the Lord has forsaken me!", 49:14, and yes,
forgotten. But how do you forsake what you did not differentially take up, or
how can you forget what you showed no signal of knowing in order to forget!
Such a proposition, to forget or forsake the people whom He had exquisitely known, only Israel qualifying here, is unthinkable. Indeed, says the Lord, "I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands." Further, "your walls are continually before Me," 49:16. It is apparent that the appurtenances of His people thus include being intimately known and then lost, so that it is unthinkable He should forget them, on the one hand, and a sustaining regard for the defence and containment of their WALLS, their long known and affectionately regarded means of definition and defence. These things the Lord will do.
Relative to their enemies, apt since it was such that destroyed Jerusalem as in Isaiah 38-40, so that they might be comforted, not only will they overcome them, but "you shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament..." You do not clothe yourself with sins, but you do with the forsaken enemies, their once punitive names now emblems of overthrow, without admixture.
Further as a land, as one desolate, that lay desolate, it will now, in this predicted recovery, "even be too small for inhabitants," not at all true of the kingdom of heaven! (cf. Luke 14:22).
As captives, such as those to be delivered by Cyrus, in time to come (cf. Isaiah 49:21.25), there will international collaboration in their restoration (as when Germany made such a vast gift in reparations, and the USA under its then President made so magnificent an effort to overcome the sudden invasion of 1973). Thus what had been close to God, then became far, what had been well-known and then became outcast, what had vivid memories of its time with the Lord, now came to find once more He had not forgotten all that, but was restoring them the land, and as seen later, to Himself, with all other sinners who repented and received pardon through faith, based on the Lord's sacrifice by those who "abhorred" Him.
The critical time for all this ? It is this which is the chief burden of the passage: it is that which revolves around the coming Messiah, as a Merry-Go-Round about its stationary centre. Not only is He at work crucially at this time, but He will serve as "a light to the Gentiles," and it is at this distance of time, when Israel at last comes back to Him, that the action is fulfilled.
Once more Israel will occupy a position of respect and acceptance, to which many peoples not only of some Islamic kinds but others also, are opposed, so placing themselves in perilous confrontation not with Israel, but with God. Accordingly, the results are to come (as in Ezekiel 38-39, Micah 7, Deuteronomy 32).
Prominent in the results of the divine deliverance will be this:
that those captives to the
mighty, against all expectation, will be so no more,
that the divine cup of trembling
which was a horror to Israel
that what was a terror will
become a subdued foe,
It is not that Israel suffered and then did not; it is that those who made her suffer, specific entities, the nations themselves (Micah 7:15), will be made to suffer in an overthrust of Israel's deliverance, those peoples now made wholly incompetent to continue their oppression, reduced to a matter of trinkets, subducted from glory to shame, from superiority to triviality.
Indeed, the "land of your destruction" (49:49:19), where their sins found them out and removed the divine solace from their shores, will, so defined, be too small, for such is the grand augmentation that even their past in its flower is too little; and "after you have lost the other," the children so brutally slain by so many for so long with such infamy, together with former place of glory and populace, the new population will be larger still, a restoration with multiplication attached. The Lord takes zest in this quest, even to the point of dealing with recalcitrant former bullies, whom He will "feed with their own flesh," Isaiah 49:26.
And in parallel with the other nearby Messianic passage before, Isaiah 42 (49 enclosed between this Messianic prophecy, and that body of it continuing in Isaiah 50-55), in a poignant and prevailing love, the Lord is exuberant in mercy. Indeed, He indicates that in returning them to their former land, and even dealing militantly with His enemies (now that they are being changed, these are no longer only theirs, but those of God), it is as if He has "held My peace too long," that is, with vast restraint.
Now, the time has come, and He will prevail in incandescent zest with the enemies. As to Israel, deaf are they (not those who hear, the people of the Lord), and blind also (not those who have the light of Christ. - 49:25), as He brings them to their mixture of conversion and deliverance (as in Zechariah 12-14, and Ezekiel 36-39). Understanding is still aat first missing, as the Lord initiates the finale, and bringing Israel back, prepares to open its understanding also (as in Zechariah 12:10), in a long movement of restoration leading to redemption and consolidation.
Indeed, as in Isaiah 49:26, "all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am your Saviour, and your Redeemer the Mighty One of Jacob." It is in Isaiah 51:8,11, that now as ransomed they come as in Micah 7:9-20, at last as in Ezekiel 39:27-29 and in the Messianic rule of 37:24, "they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore ..."
Here is the unique face of Israel, the nation. There in their rebellion is the unique cause of their dispersion; there again is the confusion in many Gentile minds, as if there were bits and pieces of religion, and not a clear thrust of divine self-identification followed by the raising of Israel to be His servant, and their ignominious failure, despite wonderful times, in due course, and this by the predicted price of apostasy (as in Leviticus 26). There is one predicted path, one coherent symphony, one explanation, one definition of terms, and it is in the end as obvious as history, as clear and the D-day victory and as iron-clad as the German surrender when Hitler's day was up. They had been defiled by unbelief, as was Germany by the Nazi movement, and having paid, they were restored. But this, it was not any nation; it was one specifically called by God (Isaiah 43:21), whose coming paths were predicted and fulfilled, and the end of it likewise.
Then it will be as in Romans 11, that one can marvel with Paul that the cast out Israel, is re-grafted into the tree of faith, and the severed people who first had been its main branch, take once more their place, along with many brethren. Then the world will see the divine rule as in Psalm 2 in one domain, and in Psalm 72 in another, and the wonder of the glory of God, as in Isaiah 65-66.