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ISAIAH 65, SUCH A GREAT MESSAGE BANK
GRACE DISPLACES FALSE CLAIMS
Having moved in Chapters 10-11 from the international to the internal in the will of man and the ways of God, we turn now to the broader yet scenes, whether in spiritual impact or spatial scope: to the cross and the cosmos, yes even to the new heavens and the new earth of Isaiah 65:17.
There are vistas, scenes, coverages, for this is like a high impact series of imprints from a lecture, but with vast echoes from its words, in the heart.
Let us here briefly watch the transitions and the sequence of images, expositions, excursions, as we move from the first to the last of this Chapter of Isaiah.
First in 65:1-2, there is what Paul cites in Romans 10:20,
"I was sought by those who did not ask for Me.
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
I said Here I am, Here I am,
to a nation that was not called by My name."
This is bringing to a screeching halt any tendency in ancient Israel to assume that its sins, its toy gods, its nature exponents, like little puppies in which the doting eye sees the projection at times, just of its own imagination, that all these items do not REALLY matter. That is just as is the case with modern man, except for this, if possible, he goes further. He wishes to strip God of any place at all in His universe, as well as the place as its author, and to invent gods out of nothing; for this is the intense lust of many.
Make it come literally from nowhere, or invent something you can fudge into being more or less nowhere, and populate this with various little nothings, that come to something, though nothing, and so progress by leaps and bounds from what is not there, fulfilling the potential of what, being nothing, had none, and move by stealth and art of propaganda into twentieth century 'life'. That us what is the flurry of coomon academic sophistry, increasingly as if endemic, philosophically and often academically when it comes to origin, destiny and power.
Here is found a sort of passionate, poetic lapse, an impious fiction, an addiction to the fanciful, set in language suggestive that they actually MEAN this! Passions can be like that, blinding and anaesthetising at once, without respect to the one infected.
So have they descended into the horror of making up things out of nowhere, and then living in a moral, aetiological, spiritual and political vacuum. We dwelt a little on this in Ch. 6 above. Israel has its own strains of proceeding in this direction, both Jew and Gentile thus living up to Romans 1:17ff., each in its way and its day. God has defined it all so zealously and in so many ways (Hosea 12:10), for so long that justice holds it long, lean finger to the temple of man, not a building, but that on his forehead, as if it were flapping freely in the wind of desire. There is a way, says (Proverbs 14:12, contrasted with 12:28), and the end of it is death.
It is not only individual. We hear talk now of the death of the cosmos but God's prediction preceded this! (Isaiah 51:6); yet it is the heart which precedes such ruin, being itself ruined in advance, It is as in Jeremiah 4:18: "Your ways and your doings have procured these things for you. This is your wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart."
Next, in Isaiah 65:2-7, God proceeds to give grounds for His intense and intensive aversion to the hypocrisy, formalism, headstrong fancifulness, to their "broth of abominable things," again a precursor of man in century 21. He will repay, what ? It is ...
"your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together."
When Christ came, a similar cumulative consequence is
found in Matthew 23:34-36. Indeed, it will be measured into the bosom. So
the iniquities to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him have
this tenacity where repentance is not to be found: the entire swamp is
progressively polluted from the poisons repetitively coming in from one end!
A RESIDUE OF GRACE AMID THE RUINS
The devastations for such spiritual revolt however will not be an entirety, for there is a remnant. Beauty and peace will yet have their place with those whom He delivers, "for My people who have sought Me."
THE CRESCENDO OF OUTRAGEOUSNESS
That however is not the current divine theme. From 65:11-12, the rampaging and rapacious idolatry is cited, a sort of multiple harlotry for a wife, in figurative language as in Jeremiah 16 and 23 - and to what utter folly did this lead ? It was fundamental:
"when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke, you did not hear,
but did evil before My eyes."
It was as
if a teacher calling the class to order for some new sweep to bring them up to
date, finds them actually playing darts in a supply room, and listening with
ear-phones to another address. It was beyond impertinence; it was a relish for
THE CULMINATION OF IRONIC CONTRASTS
Hence (65:13-16), these things growing in generations, there is to be an astonishing development from the situation, as in 65:1-2. NOT ONLY will God be found by those who did not seek Him (as if to mock those forever seeking but never listening, forever looking, but never in the assigned direction, in a sort of wanton and woeful preoccupation with whatever is spiritually daft).
Not merely will He be readily found in new territories not yet case hardened in the region of response.
The case is much worse. Those who come to Him from the Gentiles will "sing for joy of heart" in the marvels of their salvation from the everlasting God, drawn near to them (as in Ephesians 2, I Thessalonians 5), while "you shall cry for sorrow of heart." A certain "grief of spirit" will come as these leave their name "as a curse to My chosen."
This is a profound passage, where religiosity, immorality, idolatry join as accessions to an ostensibly religious but at times frankly and rankly irreligious approach to life (Malachi 2:17, Zephaniah 1:12). Here these are given their due match. They were contemptuous ? they will be contemptible. THEY would not listen ? God will listen for the cry of those coming not in ponderous pretence, but ready reliance.
What then ? Perhaps snarling with sarcasm and bitter irony at the same time, many, as itemised in Malachi and Zephaniah, cast a disdainful mockery at God, hardened in cynicism, each impressed with his/her own dignity! It applies, this sophisticated insincerity and callow contempt, and has applied to many in many climes and times. It bears a heavy judgment for various admixtures of unholiness, unwholesomeness, arrogant self-assertion and empty-hearted, volatile headed self-indulgence.
The press will a times rejoice to print it, and its customers be paid well (cf. II Peter 2:1ff.). People from Christian homes in our era, can specialise in this, as like one I knew, finding continuation in the paths of the Lord, inconvenient. Others, sallow in unspirituality, remembering what they never understood, in callow aversion speak their stricken minds, acting like gods from nowhere, till death reminds them (cf. Ezekiel 28:9).
Verse 16 suddenly relieves the anguish by referring opening up vision of a time when sincerity and spiritual realism will replace this (literal) rot, and restoration will overtake desolation.
Now suddenly, the coming scope of this restoration, the ultra-cosmic enlargement of what is to come, bursts onto the scene like an eternal Spring (65:17-25).
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
and the former shall not be remembered or come upon the heart."
Here is the word from Isaiah 51:6: total removal of the universe, contrasted with the NON-REMOVAL of God's own righteousness and His salvation. It is as if one could (as in Psalm 46), watch the mountains move, indeed more, the cosmos collapse, and further, the whole material creation dissolve like sugar in tea, but far more noisily (as in II Peter 3), but even more certainly (as in Matthew 24:35). It is as if one could do tis and yet be untouched; for God keeps past all the moments of space-time, His own for their ultimate destiny.
In other words, in one sweep, as if one were to lift one's eyes from a microscope to the heavens, there is set before us the final and extraordinary, the utterly divine power to deal with universes as an author might deal with books. Certainly a new book is a significant event, and may be delightful to many; but it is within the scope of the author to do it. With God this kind of creation, as shown from Genesis 1 to Revelation 20-21, is the KIND of thing He does. As surgeon cuts, HE creates. As man makes artificial lakes, God makes natural wonders.
Then having startled us with the ultimate, He turns to the penultimate. Having lifted up our eyes, as before, to the heavens from the microscope, we now look around the lab.
In these verses after 17, in Isaiah 65, we find the description of the prelude, the foothills, the verification of His concern and the vindication of His patience, in this, that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14 cf. Isaiah 11, Psalms 2, 72). Now how fully DO the waters cover it ? It is their domain and whether with ripples or roaring monsters, with benignant calm or ferocious gales, yet it covers its domain. The description of those times when the products of the curse as in Genesis 3, Romans 8:17ff., and Romans 5:1-12, are made glaringly obvious, finds foil in this, that NOW they are startlingly REMOVED.
Seduction moves, reality surges, wonder abides. Oppression is rebuked, liberty expanded, and there comes that transformation through the Lamb (Isaiah 51:16, 49:1-2), that individual Israel who did not and could not fail, even the Lord Himself who came as one of them and of us (Revelation 5), for which many for long have yearned. Now the prayer which with passion might move mountains as in Mark 11, by faith, becomes habitually so closely answered as to become more like breathing!
So we proceed through these many developments to Isaiah 66, as surveyed for example in Ch. 2 above. There God clears the misconceptions of Israel, entertained by many others, as in Micah 7 and Deuteronomy 32, for now they come at last to their eternal home, convicted in spirit, converted in heart, and restored to their assigned place, not only in grace, as fitting for all believers, but millenial in site, to broadcast from the site of crucifixion and resurrection, with all Christians, the yet greater grandeur to come, when salvation has even greater premises, and this earth having finished its role, no more lingers in the liberated mind.