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TELESCOPE TO THE JOY
Isaiah 58-66 Land of Contrasts
Terrain of Consummation
Moving from the vast exposition of Christ and His word seen so often, from Isaiah 2, 7, 9, 11-12, 22, 28, 32, 40, 42, 49, 50-55, we come now to a rich Autumnal fruitage in the visions accorded to this prophet. Let us pursue this colourful conclusion with zest, for the fruit is good, and is precisely as in the bud that preceded. Time is moving on for Israel and for the world, and in the last of Isaiah we see much of both.
Isaiah's last 9 chapters move into the realm of contrasts, not just those which appear in dells of shade near the blazing sunshine, or woodland trails bordering some mighty river: some are like this, as when we learn "your sun shall no longer go down", or "your people shall be all righteous" in Isaiah 60. Rather the contrast that counts is that between the natural plane and the supernatural, the terrestrial scene and the divine scenario, as when God Himself comes to "console those who mourn in Zion", to "proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (61:2), that DIVINE cancellation of guilt in the sacrifice of the Lord Himself in human form, the Saviour who acts when ONLY GOD is the Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11, 53:3-10).
Thus it is that even before God, the losses are restored, the redemption is achieved, the pardon is great and the acquittal complete. This contrast between human need in its intimacy and divine gift in its ultimacy, it is indeed great, like the sun compared with a torch. It meets the case, but it overflows it, like surging waters coursing down the river beds, in mid-drought.
Contrast there is, but it is benign, glorious and entrancing. It entices to joy and declares there is a consummation.
SETTING THE LIGHT AND SHADE IN ISAIAH 58-59
There are however other contrasts. Thus in Isaiah 58 we see the contrast between pitiful, self-serving 'piety' and self-affirming 'righteousness', and the blessing which God, who alone CAN bless the heart, spirit and life of man, dispenses where the spirit has a clear entrance to man, with that open door to God Himself. It has themes like that perennially, cordially detested piece of light which on various excuses, so-called Christians love to disregard, and perhaps some confused butts of propaganda disdain, as well.
You see this in 58:13-14, which refers to those who in simple sincerity do not seek to avoid the word of God, which states in Exodus 20 that the REASON for the day of rest lay in CREATION, and the obligation derives from that. We are not uncreated, nor are we unobligated, nor unblessed. This is the way proclaimed from the PAST, from the LAST on which man is made, and great is the reward for keeping close to the Lord in it, and not snaring it for selfish pursuits, as if God simply did not matter; or as if though He mattered a little, it was good enough if he gained but a little... a little rest ?
Here the blessing on its keeping is clear, spiritual; and it involves nothing less than love and zeal for the Lord which could not consider a misuse of HIS day. His day ? to be treated as if HE did not matter!
In vain to the theological cockatoos screech that ALL is rest in Christ. This is NOT SO, as you find in Galatians 5, where the spirit lusts against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit. There is a working out of your salvation to be done in fear and in trembling (Philippians 2:12), even though if you believe in Christ, it is certain that you will find Him in that final overthrow of death forever to which you course (Philippians 3:20-21). Thus, this awe-filled care, with which you seek to follow Him in all things, has nothing to do with the assurance that YOU ARE SAVED (stated so clearly in Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5-7, as in John 10:9,27-28). It is the regard of a child for his father, of a lover for his bride, and it is that of the creation for his Creator, the redeemed for the Redeemer. It is stronger than death, and needs not false enticements.
Some people, in order to preserve some kind of Pharisaic seeming 'orthdoxy' can even deny such facts of faith from the word of God, in order to preserve the power to say 'I am saved IF ...': the 'IF' being the badge of unbelief. The word of God does not say that if you enter the door you will be saved IF. This is addition to the word of God, subtraction from faith and to be condemned. It is playing God by adding to His word, deleting His open-handed donation and putting your will in the place of His word.
However, while this is so, an ugly distortion, nevertheless, the Christian life does have an aspect of war: war on sin, on evil and on seduction. That slithering spirit, the devil, has means both charming and disarming, and full of weapons, depending on the case, of seeking to subvert. RESISTING the devil, as I Peter 5 has it, is not very restful; but if you rest in spirit in the Lord, because He is adequate, while acting in valour and with vigour, then you fight the good faith, as Paul did (II Timothy 4:7). You do not however fight in your sleep, or if you do, your situation is likely to prove even more unrestful.
If therefore you are incited in Hebrews 4, that glorious chapter, to enter into your rest, it is not in order that you should sleep. The rest in view is one parallel to that which Israel AVOIDED by not simply TRUSTING in the Lord and ENTERING the promised land, following so many and such great miracles on the way from Egypt to the promised land. But they would not, that repetitive cry for Israel, yes they refused to enter and so avoided the rest in dutiful obedience and divine power which was prepared for them. No, they would not.
By faith, out of Egypt, by faith through the desert, by faith into the promised land ... ? Alas, while God did indeed deliver them from the oppressor, the rest was not to be for that fallen generation. They would not enter where He led (Numbers 14). They should have TRUSTED Him who called them, and simply proceeded along the eminently prepared path; and eventually they did, that is, the next generation with Joshua. The first generation simply waited in the desert, in vain (cf. I Cor. 10).
The 'rest' in view here, then, in Hebrews 4, it is not to some kind of formal, far less ceremonial observance. It is not that to which this chapter of Hebrews is directed, but to a heart-rest in the God of salvation, that all that He has said, He will do, that His work of salvation is complete in Christ, and that earlier LIFE errors in FAILURE to trust Him should be avoided. To seek to distort this into some EPISODIC SYMBOL of rest is ludicrous. THAT REST is not a weekly rest from labour, but an entire rest in the Lord. The weekly rest, as prescribed from the first in Exodus 20, as a creation requirement, continues till the resurrection. Nothing abrogates it, but unbelief.
That, then, is one of the emphases in Isaiah 58, where God is plainly and with rigour, but graciously and with blessing, seeking a people who will follow Him practically, and not by confusion or rebellion, withdraw from His commandments, intended to bless, the product of faith in the life and heart of man.
So Isaiah 58, more generally, is contrasting form and fact, reality and dysfunction, words and deeds, reality in life in the Lord and fraud.
We have seen the divine exhortation here on the day of rest. It does it also concerning fasts, where you are NOT to make nice religious appearances and ignore the actual needs of those who may observe your sanctity more in your meanness than in your meaning. You are to be kind, merciful, considerate and understanding, to look for the afflicted and seek their welfare. To fast is not to have a pleasure time, but a seeking for more intimate realism in serving the Lord.
As it was with the day of rest, so it is in this dimension also. You are not to play the same game with God. It is not some appearance of rest which is in view, but heartfelt, genuine rest on the day appointed, so that the MOTIVE which is to draw near to God and the METHOD which is to draw near to God, relying on His strength, not bustling about as if you did not love Him, but drawing in the clean mountain air of His presence, untroubled for this day by "many things". Forsaking this is one of the perils of that knowledgeable Christianity too sophisticated to obey, to self-serving to follow. It abolishes the pearl in order to appreciate the glass. So be it. The blessings are here made clear, just as Christ is made clear in Isaiah 50-55, 59-66.
Similarly, if you seek ruggedly to glorify God, in fasts so that in quietness, it is not in order that you might become a professional theologian or tempestuous character, but to become more aware and alert to need which may be satisfied in His name. While each of us has his or her gift, this is to be USED with zeal and discretion. What is alive, lives, moves and acts for good, in the Lord.
Thus there are contrasts between action and pretence, spiritual zest and dying spirits, the consummation and the contemporary situation, here in Isaiah 58.
In Isaiah 59, the theme of hypocrisy, so intrusive concerning fasting and the spiritual aspect of the day of rest, becomes adamant, throbbing with pain, charged with challenge. If there it dealt not a little with the sacredness of the rest day IN THE LORD, and the need of sensibility FOR THE LORD, here the case spreads. Much greater yet is the abuse.
"No one calls for justice," we read (59:4); and "their webs will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works", though fain would they do so. Fascinated with themselves, it is their own 'works' to which they run, not the power and the purity of God Himself, whose works are perfect, and in whose works one rests.
"Their feet run to do evil," and "they have made themselves crooked paths." We see the sort of situation to which Christ referred in some of the most stinging satires even announced, the most piercing denunciations ever released, in Matthew 23. Revealing their spiritual ruin, His words were there directed against spiritual fraud, that fraud which ultimately had Him crucified for its convenience (John 11:49ff.), while they shielded themselves from His sublimity, detached themselves from His word and freed themselves from His love. They wanted their world, including their own religious world: if God had to go, so be it, seems to have been the spiritual ultimate. However shrouded in the mists of confusion, their ways were in collision with the word of the God who they professed to serve.
The Messiah came in love, and in hatred, He was to go because it was "expedient". Such is the way often enough with the word, the ways and the servants of God; and such a thing happened to this author in one of his posts, for precisely that stated reason! His teaching was to include a review of scientific method, and an illustration was the effete dogma of organic evolution. Was this to stop ? But yes, and why ? Because of some academic lapse ? Not at all, no such thing was charged. It was not expedient to deal with this: that was the statement. It was perfectly acceptable until the direction of flow became manifest.
"We look for light," says the lament in Isaiah 59:9, "but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness. We grope for the wall like the blind!" It is "In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing from our God..." that they go, for "justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter."
How literally it seems to have come to pass when Simon had to bear the cross of the mutilated Christ, behind Him (Luke 23:26), after one of the most ludicrous side-shows of ecclesiastical corruption ever witnessed (though the Inquisition had much to add for the servants of Christ cf. SMR 1032ff.)!
Now comes the contrast. Just as Isaiah 59 has revealed this uttermost drop of corruption, so from the heights, the Redeemer is to come: and this, despite this miserable mêlée of spiritual fraud, fiasco and formalism. He will come to judge and also to receive those who turn to Him. Such was Isaiah 59's final prediction. The Spirit of the Lord will raise the standard and God will act. Vengeance on pretence and judgment on folly will rise like a tide, sweeping all before it. To ZION will the Redeemer come. THESE WORDS will never pass. They were guaranteed by God as you see in 59:21.
The phases of that coming are seen in Isaiah 50, 52-3, where it is in suffering as Saviour, and in 11, 59 where it incorporates judgment both condign and contemptuous on those levities which know no Lord, those pretences that know no shame. The first instalment is long past; the second hastens, the day of judgment, but it is one in which those who have loved the Lord have the Redeemer, the Ruler and the Restorer to await with delight, just as in Micah 7.
FINDING THE LIGHT IN ISAIAH 60-61
Now we see an Israel with a difference. While it is undoubtedly still the same butt of investigation which has been preceding with such indictment, yet it is transformed. Here the light is so intense, that instead of repugnance at hypocrisy, we have an attraction through sincerity, a desire because of the wonder of the light now to be found. Where is that light ? It is of course the one of Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 12, 22, 28:16, 32, 40, 42, 46, to which the Gentiles shall come. It is the Messiah, born to suffer and slay death (Hosea 13:14), and arising to confer salvation.
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!"
Now we see a converted people, and God will "glorify the house of My glory" which He did when He became flesh and acting as Temple of Truth in Himself, became the sacrifice which His own high-priestly hands offered, not once yearly, but once in the history of the universe, and He did it ALL HIMSELF (Isaiah 50-53, Hebrews 8-10, John 10); for no man either could nor should attempt to do it for Him, who is Saviour. He has no agents in this thing (I Timothy 2). The poignancy, in Isaiah's own day, of the soon to be judged people becomes the victory and triumph in His praises that comes in Christ, when at last He is received by the remnant first of the apostles, then of the believers, and last of Israel itself. Thus here we read this - "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations. You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles."
So did the Jewish people find from their midst, by the hand of God, the apostles who went surging into domains extraordinary, winning people to the Messiah whom the government of their nation crucified; and so did an eternal excellency arise, where He became as Isaiah indicated in 42:6 and 49:6, a "light to the Gentiles." It is in this setting, as the Jerusalem based church swept the globe, that "you shall call your walls salvation." This city becomes a hub of holiness, this heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26), starting from the geographic site, where the redemption was done, and moving outward with divine fire; and it is the city of God that is now founded and established before all. In this spiritual blessedness, it is not found in a site but in a soul.
No war can disturb its peace, just as Christ Himself, at death's very (though temporary) threshold, conferred on His troubled disciples, His peace, and again, on His resurrection (cf. John 14:27, 16:33, Luke 24:36). It is the same spirit which animated King David as in Psalm 27, when he said this: "Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident." He proceeds to relay his reliance on the Lord, "For in time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me: He shall set me high upon a rock." That rock is Christ (I Corinthians 10), and there is no other (Psalm 62). To know God and to see His beauty, this David statedly desired, and in this, in His Lord and Saviour, He rested.
So in Isaiah 60, do we proceed in the contrast from colossal formalistic, insincere wickedness which needed to be reminded even of the sanctity of the Lord's perennial day of rest, in 58, a day resting on creation itself, and enticed back to its beauty, and from the hideous moral breaches of Israel, to the atonement and the action in power in the name of the Lord, which this brought to those who received Him. They had to be brought out of reliance on a city, to reliance on the King, and to find in Him their peace and their power, their light and their love (cf. Isaiah 33:15ff., 27:5, 32:17). In that city, ALL are righteous (Isaiah 60:21). Thus here for the subject, Israel, there is traced the way of salvation, moving from the deep abyss of selfish unspirituality, to the Messiah, so that from this centre would go forth the light of life to the whole world.
In Isaiah 61, we find a new contrast. Now it is the Messiah Himself who comes into focus, the action site, the centre, the cynosure, the Master of the masterpiece. Stating His mission to deliver from sin, to provide liberty to those whose lives are lost, freedom without cost to those whose days are constrained with sin, beauty for ashes, He exposes that this is an individual business in which each person reclaimed will be like a tree set in a ground which endures, "the planting of the LORD"! (61:3).
Now a desolated lair of hypocrisy is to be surmounted through a new building on an old foundation, with action nothing less than a restoration of "the desolations of many generations." Jew and Gentile will come together in this Church which Jewish people set about to spread from the first (cf. Acts 2, 12), and "everlasting joy shall be theirs." Isaiah 61 proceeds to that highly individual utterance in verse 10, where the individual Christian on the one hand, and the representative of the remnant on the other, now is seen in a new image. No more is this one depicted as a tree planted in righteousness, that of Christ, but as a bride who waits for Him, declaring, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God: For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness."
MEANWHILE IN THE INTERSTICES OF HISTORY
Now we move back to the lapsing people in this realm of contrasts, in Isaiah 62. Vast as appears the gulf between this coming gladness - now epochally consummated in Jesus Christ, but then predictively traced by Isaiah the prophet, and the fallen state of the nation, so poignantly and indeed excoriatingly exposed in 59: yet it is not some an-historical thing. Action is needed. Action will come.
God declares that it is HE who will act (62:1). "I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem. They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes, and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth ... Surely," says the Lord, "I will no longer giver your grain as food for your enemies..."
Will God then simply dump Israel
(contrary to Romans 11 cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 1, *3 and
Ch. 3, *1) ? Of course not. He did not go to the trouble to come in the flesh so that "by His stripes we are healed" who believe, in order to show that history is something He forgot about!
Far from it. Jerusalem is itself to become changed in its time, however long the process. Its very walls are to be not merely usable for symbol for salvation, but as ground for plea, that here, even here, even in this place where the Lord was crucified, even here the day will come when they shall say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!" which once they said, though they changed their tune when trouble arose (though some then believed). Such we see in Matthew 23:37-39. A day is surely coming even for the recalcitrant, even for the city which disowned Him, for we are to "say to the daughter of Zion, 'Surely your salvation is coming, Behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him." This city will yet be "sought out," and "A City Not Forsaken." The contrast with its fallen estate, its defiled condition, its hopeless seeming and cursed condition, it is to be complete: what it lacked, it will receive, and from where it went, it is to be drawn back. Its past history becomes its future transformation basis.
As it had been, so the day comes when thus it shall not be, and the contrast will be complete, so that precisely where the evil was, there the good shall rule.
As if emphasise the dire divine determination to secure this aim, we now proceed in Isaiah 63 to one of the most sanguinarily realistic excerpts, blood-reeking tableaux, for the Lord is moving by tableaux.
We are asked to determine who it is that we see, someone who "comes from Edom... travelling in the greatness of His strength." His apparel is ... RED! It was necessary for direct divine action, we learn, for "I looked but there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold ..."; and now it is revealed that "I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury," in a way wholly parallel to Deuteronomy 32:40ff., even to the point of the language used in that overview of the history of the nation, from Moses.
Thus in the historical setting there is to be a vast divine excursion, not unlike in practicality, that of the Exodus: and Micah 7:15ff. is explicit in denoting as comparison.
Moving now from this turning point of intervention (the same as in Isaiah 59:20-21, with the same power as in Isaiah 11 in its depiction of the Messiah's coming rule, and that of Isaiah 2 in the humbling of human pride when God acts once more definitively in history), we find a reflection on the compassions of the Lord. It was after all compassion which worked from God to Moses in leading them out of the slavery of Egypt long before, and now again it is so, in their latter years, such as both Moses and Isaiah depict in unison of thought, speech and language.
The divine affection, consolation and hope for them is contrasted with their recalcitrance, rebellion, insensitivity and stumbling. A prophetic plea goes up, "Return for Your servants' sake, the tribes of Your inheritance. You holy people have possessed but a little while; our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary." Here is the tableau of desolation which obtained long enough, both in preliminary incursions, loss of sacred objects, royal renegacies aplenty, and in the later exile and still later exodus for nearly two millenia. Restoration without the mediation of the rejected Messiah is hopeless, however long it takes before they return to that Redeemer. The rejection of mere rebellion in His people is adamant, and it mounts as we move from 64 to 65.
Thus in 64, we find that a concentrated cry goes up, from the foreseen realms of history as from the past periods of ruin. Will not the Lord hear ?
In Isaiah 64 it comes to the prophet's lips: "Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence ..." Isaiah is led to look back to the mighty works of divine deliverance in the past, and to consider the continuing consistency of divine favour to those who, unlike those in Isaiah 59, have hearts that are sincere, who truly love Him, who do not seek to disdain His provision or limit His gifts. This last we see in Isaiah 64:3-5, where he looks to the Lord who "acts for the one who waits for Him," adding this truly, that it is He who will "meet him who rejoices and does righteousness." It is a willing heart that matters, not a lodged stone that heaves its burdens about. Cast your burden on the Lord, and REJOICE! Yes, and while you are about it, TRUST HIM who indeed acts for the one who waits for Him!
Exposing the human heart as no fit lair for the Lord, indeed to be such that all the so much acclaimed "righteousnesses" of the flesh, of man in his own right and way and efforts, are like so many "filthy rags" (64:6), to be contrasted with the DIVINELY GIVEN WEDDING GARMENTS which are not only delightful in divinely donated righteousness, which they symbolise (61:10), but NECESSARY if one is to appear in His presence (as in Matthew 22:11-14), Isaiah ponders the pollution of his people. Indeed, the prophet dwells on the phase of divine retribution which can seize, does seize and will seize the land. As he sees the coming Messiah, he sees no less the coming mess, symbolised in one sense by the mess they made of His face (Isaiah 52:13ff.). While repentance does not issue in faith and faith in truth, the answer of the Lord remains negative. Indeed, more is to come in Isaiah 65.
The divine answer is a contrast again to the clamour of the prophet's entreaties, reminding one of Moses' intercession.
"I was sought of those who did not ask for Me, I was found by those who did not seek Me." That is what the Lord says to the people who have despised His word for so long, in the hearts of so many, in so many idolatries and impurities, twistings and turnings.
Why ever did such an amazing thing happen ? Had not the Jew in all his ways and wiles been seeking and talking and wondering and rebelling and considering, and regressing, and progressing, and deceiving even himself for long, entrammelled in pictorial symbols and seeking in this way and that, this lord and that: and yet with it all, had they not also been using, often enough, the very name of the Lord ? Could not something better be done, that His becoming available to those who did not even seek Him ?
Far from it. As to Israel, it is a "nation called by My name", but He has stretched out divine hands (as seen in Matthew 23:37) so often, only to find they walk in a way which "is not good" (65:2). They walk "according to their own thoughts" precisely like the Liberals, the Neo-Orthodox and now increasingly the Neo-evangelical formalistic heresy, which last says anything sound seeming, but baulks at doing what is commanded, increasingly either in separation or creation, in work or in walk, using this world and its ways as if it were in some sense holy.
It is a "people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face..." the Lord declares, then, of Israel. In other words, all the nearness becomes nauseous, for it is a face without heart that draws close to the divine countenance: this is the exposure through Isaiah in Ch. 65. Holy in their own sight, they do not bother with the word of the Lord, to do it as if it were prize and precious. Idols of combination with God afflict their apparent religion (65:5).
It is not as if God had not told them before (as in Leviticus 26, or for that matter in Isaiah 30:8ff.). "Behold it is written before Me..." (65:6), He declares, that it is a rebellious people. No accommodation on the basis of doing a little better here or there is available, let alone on that Pharisaic and contemptible pride basis of works, works and more works: for these in which they tend to trust, they are the works of man, not God. To try to adorn the filth with the faith is past being unspeakable. It is mere mockery. You TAKE what the Lord gives and LIVE it by faith. Is this so hard ?
Only a remnant will ever come to the Lord (Isaiah 65:9), but for the unbelieving intellectual or ceremonial formalists,
whose faith is in their own products,
who seem unwilling and disenable themselves totally,
so that they do not even understand the knowledge of the Lord, of His holiness, of the beauty of His holiness,
that it is HE and not they in point,
that it is HE who KNOWS, and whose word is most precious to DO:
what is to come ?
It is this, poignant as it is: it did not come easily; it was asked for over centuries; and it came indeed.
servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry."
That is merely a beginning:
Nor is this all.
"You shall leave
your name as a curse to My chosen, for the Lord GOD will slay you, and
call His servants by another name, so that he who blesses himself in the
Isaiah is led at once to proceed (cf. I Peter 1:10ff., II Peter 1:16-21), borne along by the Spirit of God (cf. Isaiah 59:21) to depict a new heavens and a new earth, where "I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people"; and here, "the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard". At this time, "The sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed", while the child shall die one hundred years old. Living long will be natural.
It is not heaven, since sin and curse have no place there. It is a new heavens and a new earth. It is normally called the millenium in view of John's inspired depiction in Revelation 20. You see it in Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Habakkuk 2-3, and of course in Isaiah 59 at the outset (cf. Sparkling Life in Jesus Christ, Ch. 10), SMR pp. 508ff.).
Now "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together" (Isaiah 65:25), and why some people try to say that this is so now when quite manifestly it is not the characterisable case: this is one of the mysteries of the mind of man, but not of the word of God. It says the exact opposite. It is coming. It is not yet.
God WILL NOT ALLOW (cf. Zechariah 14:5), this world, the history of this world, to engulf the Cross in its stomach of wickedness and digest it away. It happened in Jerusalem, so it can re-happen in Jerusalem. What ? This, that the Lord will come and will manifest His might and power and majesty, where HE was rejected and in being rejected, and crucified, wrought redemption for man, for as many as would receive Him. Thus will the Lord reign gloriously with His ancients. What does Isaiah declare (in 24:23, where the dismantling of the world is in view) ? This: "Then the moon will be disgraced, and the sun ashamed: for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders, gloriously."
When God speaks, it is well to listen. When therefore He stated that Jerusalem would not see His face again UNTIL they said, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, He was not declaring that the until would never be found! (Matthew 23:39). When Paul says, Until He comes! (I Corinthians 11), he was not indicating that He would not come. When God says that He will personally rule on earth as Messiah (as in Isaiah 11), He is not on record as indicating that this will not be so. Indeed, on the Mount of Olives, that place of spiritual agony, His feet will come (Zechariah 14:5).
When the earth has indeed been filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14), then when He is satisfied, He will burn up and remove this world and all its works (II Peter 3, Matthew 24:35).
When He is ready, He will return (Matthew 24:43ff.). Not before; not later (II Peter 3:9).
THE FASHIONING OF
The Lord now essentialises the matter. What does He want ?
"On this man will I look, on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at y word" (66:2).
Sacrifice PER SE, mere sacrifice is horrible (cf. Isaiah 1). Its only value is symbolic in the temple, and it is spirit which it is to symbolise, the workings of God's spirit, His requirements for man. Indeed, in coming to earth as in Isaiah 9, 11, 50-55, God is making it clear that even the sacrifice HE will carry out, and in the priestly function HE will officiate, indeed He will do so ALSO AS the sacrfice, HE will appear whose purity alone, poured out to death in ransoming love, is sufficient as a basis for divine company, and whose eternity alone can be a gift for ever.
However as they delight in abominations, so they may continue to do so, whose way is so (Isaiah 66:4).
How powerful they seemed in their little ways, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the scribes, the bombasts and the theological arbiters of the day, who killed the Christ as described in 52-55 in the foregoing chapters of Isaiah! Yet it is those who "tremble at His word" on whom He looks, not those who invent it and place it with horrendous arrogance, into His divine mouth! (cf. II Corinthians 11).
What then ? What is to be said of the remnant who do indeed believe (cf. Isaiah 11:10), whom His hand will a SECOND TIME bring back, following the advent of the Messiah ? There is to be yet another contrast. Though these are despised, the Christians in Israel, yes and from it, as pariahs in the land, yet the hypocritical judgments against them will not stand. There is to be a new nation, born in a day (as happened in May, 1948), and it is this which is the Lord's response for Israel. He will not bring up a series of circumstances (as He did in the nineteenth century, then still to come) and yet fail in His ancient promise to GIVE this land to the Jew! (cf. Galloping Events Ch. 4)! Not at all: "Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery ?" says the LORD!
No He will not; and now we can say, HE DID NOT! In the twentieth century He accomplished what He had long begun. Israel was born.
Her future is peace, but not BY peace! No it is not the Gospel which is in view here, for what Gospel ever saw the LORD "come with fire, and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire..." The Gospel is RECONCILIATION, not DESTRUCTION; and it is PEACE and not FURY! It does not have chariots of destruction as its emblem, but chastening in peace. Many will He slay in anger, in fury, in retribution, as in Joel 3, in Habakkuk 3, in Micah 7, in Deuteronomy 32.
"The Lord will judge all flesh" in this way, whereas the Gospel (John 3:17) is such that "He did not come to judge the world, but that the world through Him should be saved."
That people should toy with such manifest contradiction is to see the depths of depravity to which sin can lead the human spirit. It is to HIS WORD that one comes, at this that one trembles, not mistaking fury for faith, or peace for slaughter in fury.
Yes, in the end, He reclaims the land Himself as He has so often declared, so that "I will comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (cf. the intense locational emphasis in the parallel in Zechariah 12:6 which reveals assault and repulse). It is there that the fountain for sin and uncleanness will at last be opened (Zechariah 13;1) for the remnant, after the eyes of faith for this people are at last opened (Zech. 12:10, Romans 11:25). It is then that they SEE, see Him with whom they have to do, repenting of ever having pierced Him!
So may the Gentiles rejoice WITH HIS PEOPLE (Deuteronomy 32:39-43), and so will He AVENGE the blood slain, He there declares (cf. Romans 11).
In this, all the nations shall see His glory (Isaiah 66:18, as in Ezekiel 39:27-29 explicitly), after His military assault on those who have for so long used force to subvert, and society to strangle, yes and arms to control.
Now a new tableau indeed, is to be seen in the text of Isaiah. Indeed, there are two tableaux. First, you now see a commission with which God "will set a sign" among them, notoriously that of the Cross of Christ (as in Galatians 6:14, Isaiah 53:1), and with patient process of missionary activity (Isaiah 52:7 cf. SMR pp. 582ff.), the escapees of wrath (cf. Hebrews 2:1-3) proceed thus: and as it is here depicted by the prophet, so we see and almost share their actions. These are now made to appear BEFORE all have seen His glory in this, that it is to be DECLARED (Isaiah 66:20) to those who "have not heard My fame nor seen My glory" (66:19). So there went the slow feet, before the final confrontation; but now has come the vast action of God, and so does the world receive the impact of generations in one instalment. In all this, Gentiles will appear as ministers of God (66:20 cf. Romans 15:16 which confirms the Church Age setting for this passage in Isaiah 66), and all will be one, even those who appallingly rejected the Lord, and those who now receive the One whom, in repentance, Israel itself will come to seek at last, in truth.
Then, this first surge of apostolic declaration, and the final confrontation past, ALL nations (as in Psalm 67) will now worship Him, and hell itself, here topographically represented in the final tableau, will be an object of intensive loathing as the axle of destiny turns to the times of eternity (Isaiah 66:23-24).
The joy that is coming is to be found in comfort, as for straying Israel on its remnant's return (66:5,13), for He knows what the disciples have suffered, and this joy is everlasting (Isaiah 51:11), even on their heads. There is a pure joy which nothing tarnishes, nor does any take it away (John 16:22). It is found past all symbol in Christ, in spirit, and in heart, and it is a friend of His word, in which it delights as one who finds great treasure (Psalm 119:18,14,47,72,103, 20 cf. Matthew 7:24ff., John 12:48-50); and in that word, it finds the Lord whose it is (John 5:39-40). It is HIS JOY which endures, like the gleaming light on the distant hills, that anoints them, and they respond in their colours, which it brings to light. As to heaven, the LORD is its light! (cf. Revelation 22).
As to hell, it is the site of the deliberate denigration of the light of life, unfunded by mercy, preferring pollution to purity and the way of flesh to the flight to truth, and the rock of salvation.