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The Bond and the Beauty of Isaiah 66 and Related Contexts
Extending a Little
Isaiah 66:5-6,14-18 with 59:15-20, like Deuteronomy 32:39ff. and Micah 7 all refer to the same drastic, vengeful work of the delivering Lord, in His overpowering of His desolatory and stricken enemies, leading on to release from oppression particularly of Israel, and shortly of all His people from and then in this wandering world, which even now, is like a top running down, looking for its appointed resting place.
But here in Isaiah 65:14ff., there is no rest for its game plan, its inglorious gluttony, eating up righteousness as far as it may, in consuming the saints and acting as a megaphone for the devil. Small wonder the Lord does not pray for this world, this system of severance from God and desecration of what is holy (John 17:14-15). So the text of Isaiah 66 continues to focus on the joint work in showing His glory to the nations.
What is meant here ? (cf. Department of Bible and Spiritual Affairs Vol. 7, Ch. 2), almost infinitely different in scope, and this worldly consequences (cf. I Corinthians 15:31-34, Romans 8:35-39, I Cor. and II Cor. 4), where many must suffer amid generically horrible circumstances.
What indeed is meant in the light of this forthcoming divinely judicial action of overwhelming and thrusting power, shaming this world and letting its leaders cringe in horror and fear, in reference to the nation "born in a day" (Isaiah 66:6-9), which precedes this divine action of smiting might and devastating redress for the plight of His suffering people ? What is it that He so defends on the lead-up to manifest ruling on this earth in His kingdom (Ezekiel 37:24-28), after the return and deliverance of Israel, first to its land as also in Ezekiel 36, and then to its Lord (as again in Ezekiel 37)!
What is born TO ZION as its mother is not the Church, statedly born of the Spirit, a member of the Trinity (John 3:6), each one in it. That is the source of spiritual birth, whether en bloc in its scope, or focussing on the individual: that is what it is. It is no case of the Church forsaking its lofty source and being born from a specifically cursed nation (Isaiah 30:8-11, 65:13-15). That, instead, it is born from a sacrificed Person, not a self-condemned nation, alienated and itself requiring birth (Jeremiah 31:31ff.). The ZION which gives birth is neither the Church giving birth to itself in a horrid mixture of inestimably foolish confusion, nor Israel in its extrusion.
The matter is complementary, ZION the lost, as described in Isaiah 66 with such vigour and divine exposure of evil, is itself to be the spiritual site of its transformative resurrection as in Ezekiel 37, its bones first gathered from the nations of its exile, and then its spirit STATEDLY put back (37:1-14). There is no scope for pondering in this, that we are told. God so works in them as in Zechariah 12:19ff., and it is His own Spirit who acts transformatively, at the inward and spiritual level, so that they become a new nation, though already termed 'Israel' in Zechariah, before this conversion is scripted into the text.
Let us see it in context. It is then the defined refugees, brought back, surrounded with international interference, overcoming assault on its land as in Zechariah 12, Ezekiel 36-37, Micah 7, soon to be given new heart as in Romans 11:25ff. and Jeremiah 31:31ff., which is miraculously reborn in the very teeth of the Gentile gales which would blow it into the sea. That is the basis, the ground for its birth, the Zion which gives birth from its dead past, to its restored present, a nation dead like the lost son in the Luke 15 parable, but now sprung back to life, because of the loving reception and powerful acts of the Father.
It was to lose its nation state, in its placement in divine duress for chronically repetitive sin, as in the later phases of the Leviticus 26, then born from the womb of death, restored from the hinterland of unholiness, brought back from its world-wide dispersion, so that what was dead, becomes alive and what was lost is found, what was fouled in far away places is brought back to its operating place (Ezekiel 36-37), and this is the nature of the divine characterisation. Israel, for the divine reconstitution and eventual regeneration is put back in its land. Here is the parable of the prodigal son writ large, the stated scope for drawing back to its place ? It is many nations, the extent being expressly its world-wide dispersion. What is recovered is viewed as the dispersed tribes of Israel, with the stated result, in due course, conversion through repentance to Christ crucified.
Here is the Jerusalem addressed as such by name, before this conversion and no church may be defined as unconverted, when it is the CHRISTIAN CHURCH, by designation that is being proposed for interpretation! That would simply be a contradiction in terms, indeed an oxymoron - the Church of Christ unconverted! showing the extent to which departure from is in every phase clearly written, can lead; and indeed, it really helps when one tries to understand the spirit of the Pharisees, preferring their traditions to the word of God, and for their sake annulling it, though they did not think so. Yet Christ thought so (Mark 7:7ff., Matthew 23), and the word of God allowed no escape from His designation or indignation.
Indeed one particular Church or another or a few may be dead while they live, a synagogue of Satan indeed, misled, betrayed; but to have the Christian Church itself viewed as in this position is confusion. Unbelief cannot be used as the criterion of "the Christian Church", since it a major criterion of it, that marks itself out through faith!
Israel however - and "who is blind as My servant" (Isaiah 49:18-20, cf. 49:14-20) can well be so designated, and this emphatically in the word of God; and as a nation born at the present time, this era, it MUST be accorded such a resultant as surely as the Jesus Christ whom the nation has never received, is Himself the criterion of Christianity. Calling black white does not make it so. God has other plans.
So Israel is defined, its details, character, history, nature, excursion and recovery all in place, and from God Himself ALONE comes its salvation, in terms of repentance for the crucifixion and its application in its redeeming power, two steps, recovery of statehood and spirituality in sequence. Thus this nation born in a day, an event unheard of in this world for its suddenness, but found in 1948, as in Isaiah 66, both with the match of triumph. Here is the repetitively depicted reality (cf. Jeremiah 31:21-34, his sleep indeed being 'sweet' in the contextual thrust).
In Isaiah, we see what Zechariah applies. This return and restoration proceeds there as elsewhere in this biblical scenario, not only repetitively, in the Lord's judgmental action in Himself returning to judge the earth (Acts 3:19ff., Matthew 25, Psalm 67, 98-99) as the end-time resolution brings the light of truth to a devious world, and conquers its treacherous defilements, persecutions and self-serving excursions into devilry. It appears also incisively with highly specialised scenario defining the bodies concerned.
Let us look further in Isaiah 66 (cf. Department of Bible ... Vol. 7, Ch. 7).
In His desolatory actions, demeaning the mean and degrading the spurious, all nations "will come and see His glory" - Isaiah 66:18. Indeed they will be gathered for this effective exposure as in Revelation 1:7-8, where it is placed as a destination to come for one as for all, each according to the place to be occupied. Thus "every eye shall see Him," this being no hidden arrival of the Lord, but as lightning travelling from east to west (Matthew 24:24-31), so it surges, springs, exposes, arrives, brooks no retreat (cf. Micah 7:15ff., Revelation 1:6).
Accordingly we find that "I will come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will shall come behold My glory," Isaiah 66:18. Not only, then, is there this seeing Him come as in Revelation 1, on the part of all the tribes, but there is HIS gathering of all tongues and nations to behold this divine exposure in delivering might and overturning thrust.
Since all nations beheld His glory, the work in the succeeding verses, though far from excluding missionary activity on the part of converted Jews in and from Zion, is not limited to this, but as in quick movement in Isaiah (cf. 66:24), it would sequentially include times before this, before this universal exposure of the Lord had happened.
Jew and Gentile Christians here are symbolically indicated in spontaneous and harmonious fellowship, and seen co-operating as brothers, in a new bond of togetherness (cf. Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 66:19-21), uniting in the application of the Gospel, their new joint inheritance as in Romans 11, thus another marvel as in Romans 11:33-36).
The 'sign' of Isaiah 66:19 is that of the cross of Christ, as in the metonymy of Galatians 6:14, and it is indeed seen in its Gospel ramification, both forwards and backwards, in preparation and consummation in the resurrection and that to come of His body, His people Jew and Gentile: an irremovable index of their joint work. Those who have 'escaped' (Isaiah 66:19) sooner or later, are in the same category- Isaiah 66:19, whether those at the last, or those whom in Israel their fellows had despised, since such were still caught up in the national disparagement and rejection of Christ - such as Saul, to become Paul!
These activists of Isaiah 66:19ff. come naturally as in a group, and encompass those converted amidst the Lord's latter day, faithful military deliverance of the people (as in the sequential content of Zechariah 11-13), and those who, like the apostles, had escaper earlier (as in Acts 22:1-21).
Paul himself, thus was one employed in the broadening category of converted Israelites with this clear symbol of Isaiah 66:19. In this way, the two streams culminate in the later verses of 66, a matter for delight in the wisdom of the Lord. The end-sector would reinforce and apply what had been brought to life earlier.
While then it seems indicated that all nations having seen His glory, the text at once moving to those who had not seen it being evangelised, we have here a verbal ensemble, meaning that we naturally move back to the apostolic-Gentile phase of what had been preparing for just such a day as this. That became a foretaste in its apostolic-Gentile jointness of what was to come, the immediate follow on the culmination. This early and later Jewish-Gentile co-operation would thus flow on to any yet to be born, after the judgmental work of the Lord, or any amid the nations, as pockets of the categories of nations and tongues, not yet aware, those who as such might yet need reaching. It is after all the 'nations which are brought to see; but since also 'every eye' will see Him, 'so that we have a strong ground for this as a review. Individuals may or may not have taken in the implicit challenge to faith, though this is merely a possibility.
Certainly, we cannot exclude the immediate rush on of the text, moving in sequence from every nation being brought to Him, by Him in His glory, to others seeking those who had not seen it, as if the more obvious meaning were to be forgotten. We cannot afford to ignore this direct, verbal stimulus to thought. The matter must then be left open, and we cannot exclude either the straightforward evangelisation at the end, or the jolt back to the earlier joint evangelisation: the two having a beautiful scope for cohesion, as both being involved. When God leaves things open, it is best not to close them.
In Isaiah, the Lord often chooses to expand horizons, topics, at a given place, whether in "judgment" as in Isaiah 66, at its end, or in 60 as it proceeds, in the latter, the scope becoming apparent as we speak of the walls being salvation. Similarly in the Psalms, extension and application may come suddenly as in Psalm 22, 40, 69, 102. In Isaiah 66:14-20, then, we see in swift sequence the sins of Israel specifically, the drastic deliverance of the issuing Lord who overwhelms the pervasive, invasive forces of evil with that ultimate might which kills and thrusts till opposition is made contemptible, crushed, His fury the motif; and it moves to His gathering of all nations to see His glory thus exposed, for it is HE who does these things.
It is a whole category in His works, as Micah 7:14ff. puts it, as in the days of the Exodus, perhaps in case even then there be some who STILL do not understand. Then there is the startling contrast, He BRINGS all nations to come and see His glory. Next we find His servants sent out to tell those who have NOT (for all that) yet seen His glory. In doing so, we find that He brings on a collegiate status for Jew and Gentile servants, and this in a Chapter which in verse three shows, in view of what has gone before as in 49-55, only scorn for sacrifice now, a lamb's breach like that of a dog's neck. That regime, regimen is past (as in Hebrews 8:13).
Because, then, of the identical language concerning those BROUGHT to see His glory, by HIMSELF, and those SOUGHT to see His glory, there is a natural trend to consider this as sequential simply, so that those not yet born and those who NOT nations as groups, not tongues as groups, but pockets and parts of smaller measure, may be reached right down to fine level, so that the whole world is exposed to the uttermost. This excludes exclusion of the simple onward thrust in the text. It cannot safely be ruled out. It has ground for acceptance.
Nor can the concept that at this point the Lord moves back to the entire concept, like a suddenly exposed container unit on a ship, which also includes your own segment, the idea of Jew-Gentile consorting in the Gospel, seen from first to last, from Paul's Jewish background and Gentile commission to the present: seen as one unit, it comes in a thrust. In another image, it is like going for a rose from a beautiful bush, and not failing as you do so, to see the flora on the entire bush, blooming in profusion. On this view, the exposure of all nations to His glory and the seeking for such exposure for any who have not found it becomes a jolt to bring reversion to the entire process of such discovery by joint Jew-Gentile proclamation.
These two things being well backed, in terms then of normal procedure, where the open-door is available from the text, we close nothing, simply following its prompts. Both concepts, the merely sequential and the categorical are retained. It is God who instructs us FROM His word, not we who make our own concepts of selection the determinant.
These developments in no way alter the sad results of informed refusal of the Gospel impact NOW (John 15:22ff., Luke 9:24-27). The principles appointed in the word of God must be applied, one and all, nothing exempted where the content warrants, nothing included or excluded for preference or taste, the word itself doing the work, and this to be perceived. Such an approach makes all interpretation much easier than otherwise it might be, since it gives to the Lord the glory due to His name, even His who has exalted His word above all His name. It is immensely and intensely reliable, just like Him who spoke it! It must be consulted, not our own thoughts, in the eventual determination of meaning: it declares itself, and what is more or less is invalid.
Praise God for the sheer joy of its provision, and of His own!