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The Destiny of Man
First let us consider an evocative part of the Bible, to lead us into the realities facing man.
In Micah 6, we see the remonstration of the Lord, His pleas, pleading, His survey and His zeal, grace and kindness, but that which being truth, is denied only for the ultimate devastation and ignored only for the sadness of pity.
"Hear now what the Lord says:
'Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
And let the hills hear your voice.
'Hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint,
And you strong foundations of the earth;
For the Lord has a complaint against His people,
And He will contend with Israel.
'O My people, what have I done to you?
And how have I wearied you?
Testify against Me.
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
I redeemed you from the house of bondage;
And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
'O My people, remember now
What Balak king of Moab counseled,
And what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
From Acacia Grove to Gilgal,
That you may know the righteousness of the Lord.
'With what shall I come before the Lord,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
'Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
'He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?'
What destiny for man ? What is the outcome of these incomes ? Where does the future lie for man, when, stripped of his princely pre-occupations and prowling roars, seeking prey for vanity and to avoid the truth and love, the mercy and the sacrificial splendour of the heart of his Creator, he appears before God ?
Where does he fly from his Creator when his
assessment falls due ? Is it to this or that work of
his ? But it is the spirit which counts, for God IS a Spirit (John 4). Will he then appeal to his nice spirit, and consider the more amiable ambit of certain times or deeds of his life and hope this will do ? Do what!
When he has fled from truth, how will he face it ? When he has substituted the working of what God instituted in and for him, for the knowledge of God, and been his own prince over his own kingdom, be it ever so small, and when he has finished, quite finished with his wilful and pseudo- autonomous, disposition of the divinely granted assets which constitute his life, what then ?
What is and where lies the destiny of man ?
Is it to pretend to love what he has despised, or to delight in what he has lightly esteemed ? Will it be like the sawney pretences of the specious wife or husband who professes to the spouse an undying fidelity, while carrying on an affair outside marriage ? Whatever is in mind, if it is not true it is irrelevant, for NOTHING is hidden from God.
Is it to seek mercy from the God to whose mercy he has not yielded, or to deviate a while from his alienation from the Lord, in order to put on a good face, becoming two-faced as well as double-minded ?
Is it to this he will look in that great day of judgment, when the Creator of liberty and the donor and exemplar of love and sacrificial compassion looks upon him, as he in fact is ? For judgment is according to truth (Romans 2), as God is the God of all truth, whose realms exhibit it, whose mouth utters it and whose way is in the generosity accorded to His own creations, effusions of His own creative imagination and divine wisdom. Judgment ultimately is the searing light of what, having preferred darkness, scarcely knows the truth, and has no more defence or option against it. It is unanswerable because true, when truth like the sun in the sky, has no more cloud from which the deviating can be covered.
It is the last word to the wilfully derelict (John 3:19), the final exposure from Him whose are all things, and who needs nothing, expressing in creation of which man is part, as He will, offering to man the peace of His own perfection. It is the final communication of Him who has given love whereby all things receive their place and opportunities, and liberty whereby love may be shown or smashed in tantrum or ambition!
You see in Micah 6 just that combination of appeal, exhortation, imputation of guilt, delineation with appealing clarity of the simplicity of the godly life - the sincerity, the wisdom of it, that learning from examples (here that of King Balak), just that reflection on their basic history, just that reasoning and relish for realism, which so often comes in the invitations and imputations of the Lord. Moreover, what is appealing clarity becomes when chronic refusal become even more growth in spiritual callouses of the heart, becomes appalling clarity! In Africa, in Tanganyka to be particular, Dr Paul White in his fascinating book, Doctor of Tanganyka, shows a photagraph of a man whose abdomen seemed almost a trailer, separate, enormous like a baby apart, but delicately related to the body as its own!
This was a case of tuberculous peritonitis. The evacuation of the fluid amounted to 16 gallons! When he was better, he walked away, thankful to the doctor, but not to God, quite explicitly, declaring :I want to live - and live I shall. I want nothing of God." He died in an orgy of drinking, not long afterwards. He was given his desire; but it was a worthless one, the mere abuse of organs in order to secure a seductive pleasure, intoxication and ease. We cannot, said the doctor, force them to believe.
Some try to sate God, as if He were some kind of hedonist, with vast sacrifices, but as we see below from I Corinthians 13, this is quite pointless. Sacrifice is of two basic kinds: TO God, in order to cover various deficiences, as in the Old Testament sin offerings, trespass offerings, peace offerings and so on; or FOR God, by offering oneself as a living sacrifice to serve Him out of love (Romans 12:1 gives the picture). The former is long covered by Christ, for more than a millenium predicted as fulfilling all that the other such sacrifices portended. The latter is in all spiritual simplicity, a reasonable service, the heart's desire for the God of wonders, a fealty and a faithfulness to Him. It needs no parade.
Have your own body burnt as a sacrifice to impress Him, but unless the love of God is the criterion, it can even be a vanity, or self-glorification. God is a spirit: you do not need to try to impress Him: He knows. He desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51), a humble and a contrite heart (Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 51), and this He does not despise. His is the gift, ours is the reception, but it is a transforming reception, an awakening which includes the new equipment of a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17ff.), made freely available because God made Christ to be a sin offering for us, that we might be made, through a transfer of spiritual righteousness, the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:21).
Thus rivers of blood in sacrifice is not to the point. It is not a wealth of sacrifice display that is needed. You see this in Micah 6:7, followed in 6:8 with the simplicity of reality, the word of the tender-hearted Father, the goodly teacher, the profound mentor, His heart in His voice and His admonition with gravity and grace. It is this to which one grows accustomed in the prophets.
'He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?'
It is as in the day of Moses, as in the day of Christ on earth, where that same truthful tenderness and burning exposure of shame worked into the tenderness of truth, if need be, the truculence of warning, while invitation comes with the appealingly divine and divinely appealing voice, which in His discretion He may and often does supplement through healing miracles, manifest power over all the invasions and alien investments which afflict mankind.
This same voice of divine truth moved into deeds of grace and rebuke (as in Matthew 23), as here we see such in Micah 6:11-14.
As in Matthew 23, where He who IS the TRUTH spoke direct, we come to the earlier climax of wantonry in the blood from righteous Zechariah, who was slain between the temple and the altar, where kindness of Jehoidada to the murderous king responsible, when young, was repaid by the murder of the king's son, warning the king wisely. Thus accumulating, all these misuses and abuses of the Lord's sent servants, their blood stood ready to come upon that generation where the Messiah Himself, having come, was rejected.
What was offered, not that the world might be condemned, but to save it, became through its miserable rejection, the climax of horror, and the indictment of guilt itself. Thus, through Calvary, His own blood of mercy, came to crest all in His own slaughter. To be sure, it was planned, it was gracious in its manner and glorious in its meaning, the vicarious victory and the victorious cover for sin that salvation might be free and full: yet its means remained murder and its effect could not be hidden for the impenitent. Christ cried long, Father forgiven them, for they do not know what they are doing! and even for these, faith in Him, though from the heart which had participated in the murder, would even then grant mercy and peace. Christ's love however did not preclude judgment where its peace offering was despised, ignored or in the heart of the wanderers, discredited!
How beautiful, as always, then was His Spirit even there, where when it came to the point, as He cried out with forgiving atmosphere, Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing! - the ultimate in kindly perseverance. Yet as He had declared (Luke 13:3), "Except you repent you will all likewise perish", relative to the amazing falling of a tower on some passing or nearby people, so it would be.
This then is the nature of the judgment for mankind. At the outset, there is the basis of it.
It comes from the One who has done all, wrought all, sought all, is ready to forgive any and delights to do it, who receives the infinitely costly means for it. Judgment then comes from God in the very face of His magnificent presentation for peace and comfort, restoration and even regeneration. It comes literallly over His dead body, which being resurrected, is so no longer!
It comes from this Being, who is
|firstly, the God of creation (Colossians 1:15, John 1:1-3),|
|secondly, the God of all kindness and love (Titus 2-3),|
|thirdly, the God of all patience and entreaty, exhortation and heart,|
|fourthly, the Lord as teacher and mentor,|
|fifthly, the God
who reasoned, who sought to simplify the way, essentialise the path,
remove barriers and difficulties, make the way plain for man.
This is the nature of the appeal, the approach, the rehearsal and the insistences before there is any judgment. It is this which gives to it its peculiar, its special feature, focus and character.
It is more than evident, indeed against God, it would be a libel liable indeed, to hint or even suggest that there was anything but a horror and sense of incredible shame in the sham of man, and the most fiery and persistent, flaming and insistent desire to have him avoid judgment.
Micah 5 has shown how He rendered even Himself vulnerable, though the JUDGE HIMSELF, to be judged by man, for they "shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek," and in this horror and folly, Himself the butt by His own initiative, born in Bethlehem in particular by judicious and assignable grace, He proceeds to indicate WHO He is who so voluntarily suffers. It is (Micah 5:3) He "whose goings have been from of old, from eternity," as Isaiah 48:16 similarly shows, when God the Sender moves with God the sent and God the Spirit, all one, to accomplish this death as it is articulated in Luke 9:31 (cf. SMR pp. 532ff., The True God has Go, Gives Grace and Glory Ch. 5; The Bright Light and the Uncormprehending Darkness Ch. 10).
It is only when this has been exposed, the exhortation and rumination, the disrelish and the appeal, the enlistment on every side of the fruits of pity and the necessities of truth, that judgment at last comes into being; and even then, as one finds in Micah 6 and 7, there is the delighted anticipation of the deliverance to come, when awakening as from a sleep, many in the nation will recall and discover truth, muse and find faith.
What is true for mankind, in the "O man" in Micah 6, is found in Israel in abundance, in the coming time of His mercy, which will flow into hearts made ready (Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 33:15-17, Micah 7:2-8) when the wonder of return to the Lord is at last realised, when godliness becomes a fact in spirit and not in mere form.
Thus in Micah 7, we read the solemnity of conviction of sin, and the radical recognition of truth:
"The faithful man has perished from the earth,
And there is no one upright among men.
They all lie in wait for blood;
Every man hunts his brother with a net.
"That they may successfully do evil with both hands—
The prince asks for gifts,
The judge seeks a bribe,
And the great man utters his evil desire;
So they scheme together.
"The best of them is like a brier;
The most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge;
The day of your watchman and your punishment comes;
Now shall be their perplexity.
"Do not trust in a friend;
Do not put your confidence in a companion;
Guard the doors of your mouth
From her who lies in your bosom.
For son dishonors father,
Daughter rises against her mother,
Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.
"Therefore I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
My God will hear me."
It is the last part which shows the change, just as Zechariah 12:10 -13:1 specifies it in sequence and time, depth and individuality.
The realisation of sin and folly on their part, the looking for and trusting in Him at last will come through, and it is seen as a prelude to a work of momentous proportions to wreak havoc on their chronic enemies and to deliver them from their JUSTLY arriving woes. After all, they were most rigorously and vigorously and in great detail, WARNED, but did not heed.
Yet for all that, God in His infinite patience indicates that there IS a terminus to their troubles, there is to be a time "when the Spirit is poured out from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field." It is the same patience which one sees in Hosea 5:15:
"I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face:
in their affliction they will seek me early."
To revert to the "Doctor of Tanganyka", there was at that time an appalling practice concerning infants. Some - indeed many - of the mothers had acquired as wisdom, the practice of stuffing - yes, even with fingers into the baby's throats, porridge into their mouths (and the condition of the fingers might not be helpful), long before the infants were ready for solid food. Hence an incredible death rate, from this and allied causes, was found in one survey, over 80%!
God does not STUFF the truth with His own fingers into the rebellious maws of the ungodly. In Hosea 14, we see however what happens when in His own foreknowledge and disposition of events - for He works all things after the counsel of His own will, knowing, not forcing, but understanding and true (Ephesians 1:11) - a change has come. THEN, there is response to His invitation,
"Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him:
Take away all iniquity:
Receive us graciously..."
Patience does nothing to delete or compromise the divine pity: there is that same zeal for truth, passion for them to receive mercy, and this in enormous and flowing abundance, despite the time of His neglected entreaties, shown in Micah 6.
You see the intense desire in Micah 7:19: "He will turn again; He will have compassion on us; He will subdue our iniquities; and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." Indeed, "You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which You sore to our fathers from the days of old."
There no less comes the delight in mercy, transparent, truthful, untedious, passionate, which is His: "Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage ? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy."
After those words, it proceeds to show HOW this is done, in 7:19 as above; and it is a thorough purge, wrought in realism, pursued in grace, provided in peace, accomplished in transformation of those who come to Him (as in Jeremiah 31:31-32, Ezekiel 36:26, Titus 3:3-5).
JUDGMENT ? this is the destiny for man, when he moves without God, despite this love, universal in disposition (John 3:16, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2:1ff., Ezekiel 33:11, Micah 6), and always of such a scope, though specific in realisation and hence in redemption (cf. Romans 8:32). This love has the impact and thrust of tender majesty; for it is that of the God who finds it TOO SMALL a thing to redeem in Israel, but must bring forth the pardon with His peace, in His prince of life, the Saviour, to the GENTILES as well (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6), branding the offer from His own heart, with a glorious light as in Colossians 1:19ff., for there is no limit like lightning, to its illuminating streak, its passionate offer, the intense and immense sincerity of its seeking. If identification with sin becomes at last for some, like wilfully pursued leprosy, all else forgotten, yet this is not the domain of the love, but of judgment without it, darkness preferred (John 3:19).
Thus does He make the spiritual covenant of unlimited offer, with illimitable passion and universal thrust of the love which reaches, outreaches, seeks and yearns to provide solace. It is so in Luke 19:42ff., where expressly and explicitly, Christ is bemoaning their failure to REALISE what an opportunity they had in HIM: for the failure to notice what a wonderful day of opportunity they had, meant the onset of JUDGMENT, ruinous and total to their city. It is so in I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33, Colossians 1:19ff., II Corinthians 5:17ff., where in this way or that, the passion of purity in seeking the lost extends to earth and heaven alike, embracive in the scope of its delight, of all.
As with cancer, there is immense desire in the medical staff to remove it by all good means; but when this opportunity is detached from the heart, misread in the mind and misused in practice, so that all their good offices are set at nought, then the last rites and the pathological wrongs must be faced; for they WILL then occur! That is the parallel.
In this way is judgment to be conceived for one and for all in the world to whom it will come; for indeed He did not come in order that He might condemn the world (John 3:17), nor was this His purpose. What may come when His coming is discountenanced, despised, ignored, rubbished, put aside, this is not the ground of His coming or the tenor of His light.
He was not sent to judge this poor world, but in order that through Him the world might be saved. THAT is the biblical scope of His mission, there are the parameters of His concern. Thus does He declare, and thus does He ask,
"He has shown you O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you,
but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
For MAN, what is required, for
all things in heaven or on earth who are in sin, what is the
requisite ? It is this, to yield to the passion for universal reconciliation so presented and NOT THEREFORE to require the judgment which the Lord for one and for all, in the scope of His outgoing love, has sought to avoid.
Though the many do not come to Him, yet He is not frustrated, for love does not compel; but He has done all, shown all, called all, sought all, wrought all, and appeals to the end from the first. He accomplishes that which was His desire, but it was not done in a corner, in some room, but in the open before all, none able to escape the wonders of His life, but those who despite His uttermost effort and illimitable grace, are found not to be His.
As John 3:19 shows with singular simplicity, in the very face of a love so defined, there is only one condemnation: it is a preference for darkness. Not in some recondite oddity is the ground for grace's triumph or sin's final perfidy to be found; it is as in God's own knowledge (Romans 8:29ff., I Timothy 2), His foreknowledge, past all work, past all merit, past everything distinctive that sin can bring. It is in Himself as this love travels in His understanding and meets this defined barrier. It is not in Himself that the ultimate breach resides, but in man, as known by God. He does not tamper with the truth, but IS the truth. He does not stretch the realities, for He made them. Yet He does to the uttermost stretch His actions to meet the case for any, for all (I John 2:2).
Thus does He know, even in the light His own probing, past all power of diseased human will, in the reaches of reality itself. He knows it before time (II Timothy 1:8-9), and apart from all human performance or elevation: He knows who are His (II Timothy 2:19).
The concept that He is less than love (denied in I John 4:7ff.), or other than passionate in His all covering scope of love, is a hideous caricature indeed, as Spurgeon was not slow to point out in his Romans 9 sermon, touching Jacob and Esau (Predestination and Freewill, Section 2, A Time to Praise God Appendix I).
It is in the face of SUCH love, and in this way ALONE, that man can have freedom; for otherwise he is as one wrought on selectively, with THIS relevant love excluded, or not. Some in the search to avoid the noxious human autonomy that many love to exult in, have wrought the opposite error in failing to realise that any limitation of man's RELEVANT freedom is as contrary to the word of God, as is the exaltation of his pathological state as if he were the final determinant. Neither extreme of philosophic intrusion is true, apt or workable. Unworkable towards God, man's freedom has indeed become (I Corinthians 2:14), but not unworkable by God. The sovereign knows what He is doing, and fulfils all His word in every part, and needs no help in summary contradictions of any one of His words, let alone concerning the nature and scope of His own love!
It is IN HIMSELF that the Lord makes the determination, having foreknow whom He will predestinate, and having DESIRED NOT to condemn that world which He so loved as so to come with such a mission. He has done so, in such terms as He has continually throughout the entire Bible, in illustrations all but innumerable, episdoes continual, revealed (cf. Hosea 12:10) .
ONLY when you realise this, is judgment not something at which to shrivel in the concept; for perfect love casts out fear, and mercy triumphs over judgment, as James points out. Final judgment is something poignant in grief and persisting past all patience; for in the end, as the Lord points out, the flesh would fail before Him (Isaiah 57:15) if He should "contend for ever".
He does nevertheless
"dwell in the high and holy place,
with the one also who is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
This He does in truth, and He knows His ways.
In truth, it cannot be other, for sin distorts and iniquities disenable, and life cannot be lived where this is uncovered, uncorrected and unpardoned; for it is then that the love of God brings a revitalising dynamic to the soul and a life immutable to the man who receives Him
THEN you realise that judgment is the refuse relic, the occasion of inveterate neglect, and that while God does indeed initiate by grace the salvation of man, without which no one could be saved, and does indeed grant this salvation freely, and in return for no superior discernment coming from any man, or better deeds (Romans 3, 9, Ephesians 2, Micah 5), and it is indeed not not by the will of man that it comes, for this is too pathological to act in this transmutative domain: yet nothing is left out in His divine passion and none of its universality is void in its composure from such a heart with such power and such complete knowledge and foreknowledge, who would have ALL to come to a knowledge of the truth. If some, being foreknown, come into odious domains, then God knows this also. Leprosy of the soul, not witlessly but obstinately protracted, is different indeed from leprosy merely contracted!
Judgment is then in NO sense tyrannical, in no way selective in such a way that there comes to be some kind of short-circuit of love: it is the result for the irremediable, for the marsh lands of the parable of Ezekiel 47. It is indeed utterly, and entirely and without limit, the fault of those who insist on it, even in the presence of the love with which God SO loved the WORLD that it MIGHT NOT be condemned, so that what IS condemned justly has this to its name, that it PREFERRED to light, darkness.
This it eventually gets. Where however is to be found the soul where the light of His love alights, where in His profundity of omniscience, a soul may be won, the love finds it, knows it, indeed brings to shrouds of darkness the initiative of light, knowing His own, not as if to disdain the rest, but as to know whose is the rest which He seeks to provide for all, and has done all to provide.
Judgment then, it is not only in the FACE of a practical, passionate, persistent, insistent and relished desire for the opposite; and it is not only because of a confrontation with the PRICE paid to cover whosoever comes, as if it were too small, or tantalisingly withheld: but it is solemnly and divinely set in one court. It is the preference for the defaced, which inherits it, a thing known to God in His own illimitable wisdom and enacted in His own unblemished truth. Darkness knows its own, and God knows who are His own.
In the realm of judgment, then, there is one part that awaits in the field of the destiny of man, and this present world will receive it to the full (II Peter 3 giving details of its departure, in a way now reminiscent of what became of the Challenger spacecraft!).
From eternity comes the eternal shame (Daniel 12). It is beyond time, a thing of eternity.
You see in Micah something of this part, which includes the exposure of truth, of merciless conduct and impenitent parades of power and persecution.
In the case of Israel, Micah 7 shows the movement from the day of Israel's profound repentance, to the judgment on the persecutors who know neither mercy nor change of heart:
"Do not rejoice over me, my enemy;
When I fall, I will arise;
When I sit in darkness,
The Lord will be a light to me.
"I will bear the indignation of the Lord,
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case
And executes justice for me.
He will bring me forth to the light;
I will see His righteousness.
"Then she who is my enemy will see,
And shame will cover her who said to me,
'Where is the Lord your God? "
Notice the realisation of the power and pity of God, of the necessity of being ready, of the Lord's own action in history, which means that
"As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
I will show them wonders.
"The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
They shall put their hand over their mouth;
Their ears shall be deaf.
They shall lick the dust like a serpent;
They shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth.
"They shall be afraid of the Lord our God,
And shall fear because of You."
The gaunt heroics of persecutory powers, incapable of relenting, immune to repentance, will meet solemn judgment. This is going to be on the scale of the actions which the Lord took, in pity for His persecuted people, centuries before Micah, in the Exodus from Egypt!
"As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
I will show them wonders."
In that period of judgment, as Isaiah 2 declares, when the judgment is fully unleashed at length,
"For the day of the Lord of hosts
Shall come upon everything proud and lofty,
Upon everything lifted up—
And it shall be brought low—
Upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up,
And upon all the oaks of Bashan;
Upon all the high mountains,
And upon all the hills that are lifted up;
Upon every high tower,
And upon every fortified wall;
Upon all the ships of Tarshish,
And upon all the beautiful sloops.
"The loftiness of man shall be bowed down,
And the haughtiness of men shall be brought low;
The Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
But the idols He shall utterly abolish.
"They shall go into the holes of the rocks,
And into the caves of the earth,
From the terror of the Lord
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily."
In Isaiah 24 also, we see the reluctant but imposing judgment, no more impending.
"Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste,
Distorts its surface
And scatters abroad its inhabitants.
"And it shall be:
As with the people, so with the priest;
As with the servant, so with his master;
As with the maid, so with her mistress;
As with the buyer, so with the seller;
As with the lender, so with the borrower;
As with the creditor, so with the debtor.
"The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered,
For the Lord has spoken this word.
"The earth mourns and fades away,
The world languishes and fades away;
The haughty people of the earth languish.
The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants,
Because they have transgressed the laws,
Changed the ordinance,
the everlasting covenant*1.
"Therefore the curse*2 has devoured the earth,
And those who dwell in it are desolate.
Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned,
men are left."
Later in this Chapter, the Lord declares this:
"In the city desolation is left,
And the gate is stricken with destruction.
When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people,
It shall be like the shaking of an olive tree,
Like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done.
They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing;
For the majesty of the Lord
They shall cry aloud from the sea."
In fact, Isaiah 24 goes on, in this vein, even as judgment is beginning to mount to its finale:
"Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light,
The name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea.
From the ends of the earth we have heard songs:
'Glory to the righteous!' "
Here in the teeth of a judgment which mounts like a storm, we see this glimpse of the security of those delivered by faith, glorifying God in the growing tempest. These are soon to be removed from the maelstrom, waiting in faith amid the rising tribulation.
We see at once after this, the GROUND for such deliverance!
Thus in this same verse 16, where the rhapsodic singing is heard, we find this amazing fact: the the LORD Himself is seen crying, "I am ruined, I am ruined,"
as in Psalm 22:1, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!",.
How is this ? It is because of the vicarious work of the Lord, for anguish borne for others, is anguish no less! In fact, the Lord of hosts sent the Lord to this mission for this purpose, to bear the judgment (Isaiah 48:16); and it in the predictive Psalm 22 as here in Isaiah 24, that this payment is seen in its effects. Here is the focus of what then were to become the historic events, that now Easter recalls!
Indeed, we even see as in Psalm 41, 55, 109, the treachery of the betrayal of Christ in this tableau!
"The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously.
Indeed the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously"
This treachery, focussed in Judas, is also an attitude and spirit in many.
Only judgment remains in this situation:
"Fear and the pit and the snare are upon you,
O inhabitant of the earth ...
The foundations of the earth are shaken."
You see more of this in Hebrews
12:25-29, using it to remind the people of the Lord
of what they escape, and what judgment requires, while leading them with security:
"See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.
"For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth,
much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying,
'Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.'
"Now this, 'Yet once more,'
indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken,
as of things that are made,
that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken,
let us have grace,
by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
"For our God is a consuming fire."
Thus in Isaiah 24, the anguish of the suffering of the Lord on the Cross appears, like an emblem maintained to the end, while judgment, never apart from the mercy proffered to man, mounts ONLY because of the refusal not by God, but by man. In the knowledge of God, is the price already paid (Isaiah 53:11), adapted to all, sufficient for all (I John 2:2), but rendered only to those to whom it belonged in the grace of God, who forces nothing and knows all.
On this earth there is a cloud of witness for the truth over history, of the love over time; and on this same earth, as the end of the times of Gospel patience come, and there is another cloud, and it is black:
"Fear and the pit and the snare
Are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth.
And it shall be
That he who flees from the noise of the fear
Shall fall into the pit,
And he who comes up from the midst of the pit
Shall be caught in the snare;
For the windows from on high are open,
And the foundations of the earth are shaken.
"The earth is violently broken,
The earth is split open,
The earth is shaken exceedingly.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,
And shall totter like a hut;
Its transgression shall be heavy upon it,
And it will fall, and not rise again."
There then is the judgment itself. It did not come, and is not to come, lightly.
THE OTHER PART:
THE LORD WHO DELIGHTS IN
TO THE VERY BRINK OF ETERNITY
In fact, it will be as in Isaiah 51:4-6, but even here, as in Revelation 22:17, where judgment is seen and deliverance alike, the latter like showers now on distant parts of the ocean overlooked from a high cliff, majestic in wonder, glorious in tenderness. If in the end, it comes, like an operation, how long, for how many centuries, through how many prophets, through what passion in Christ, was the gentle rain of mercy offered!
Indeed, in Revelation 22 in particular, as the entire Bible comes to its final resting point, the case resting pending judgment: there you see as late as verse 17, reference the water of life as STILL freely offered. Thus, there is reference to the Gospel's gift, refusal of which, as of any other gift, leaves ... the gap, even as the abyss looms.
God has made up this awesome gap; but when it is grace that is in the gap, what is left on its refusal, it is but judgment!:
"Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation:
For law will proceed from Me,
And I will make My justice rest
As a light of the peoples.
My righteousness is near,
My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait upon Me,
And on My arm they will trust.
"Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever..."
Thus this other part of the consummation which is lively and awaits in the destiny before man: it is the delicious relish of the One who LOVES mercy and DELIGHTS in it, and goes about the appeal and entreaties to man with an abundance of means and ways over time, so that it is now some two millenia that THIS GOSPEL has been preached, and breached. Long before that it was shown and displayed, its freedom of grace, man's salvation (cf. TMR Ch. 3, Barbs ... 17).
This grace is seen in the provision at the end of Micah's prophecy in Ch. 7, and we need to keep it in mind, where it belongs, as in the heart of the Lord, who without denying truth, has made an amplitude of mercy which is of unspeakable dimension.
"He will turn again; He will have compassion on us; He will subdue our iniquities; and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
Indeed, "You will perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham,
which You showed to our fathers from the days of old."
Here, can it be said too often ? here is that delight in mercy, measurable in the ends to which the Lord went on the Cross, and in the preceding years of humiliation and vulnerability, in order to show it: transparent, truthful, untedious, passionate, which is His:
"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity,
and passes by the trangression of the remnant of His heritage ?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy."
Here in the love of mercy and the mercy of truth,
in the broken remains of a judgment borne by Christ Himself out of kindness, is
that OTHER DESTINY. Instead of ETERNAL DESTRUCTION, there is ETERNAL LIFE. If
you love life, this then is your destiny, to find it at the fountain, at the
spring which leaps up in vigour so great and intimate, that it is now found in
your own HEART so that you never thirst again, while it even leaps outward, flowing
from you to others (John 4:14, 7:37). Here is the preliminary; then when He
comes, as He soon will (Answers to Questions
Ch. 5), you have that scope of delightful knowledge of God that He has prepared. Then you see Him face to face and know as you are known (I Corinthians 13, Revelation 22).
In conclusion of this volume, let us consider this in due detail, as presented, briefly, in the sermon notes on the latter part of I Corinthians.
I Corinthians 13:8-13 ...
BETTER A PART THAN A PARTITION
BETTER SET ALIGHT THAN SATELLITE
BETTER A FLAME FROM THIS FIRE
THAN A BLAZE FROM ANY OTHER
"Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will come to an end;
whether there are tongues, they will cease;
whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when
that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child,
I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I THE MEANING OF PART - 8-9
Having shown the method of working, the class of categories, the ways of life of love, the Lord through Paul then moves to its eternity, immoveability, sheer splendour. What more wonderful than the written word of God, but God Himself! Indeed, it shows WHO He is, WHAT He wants and the WAY of life. Yet, like a train approaching a station, as dawn first arises, and the night lights fade before the splendour of the day, so when the fulfilment of this life, in heaven, at the coming of Christ for His elect, will come, then even the written word of God will yield to the day's direct vision, just as one treasures a fine photograph until one MEETS its subject! If a wife treasures her husband's photograph while he is away at war, she will still treasure its faithful depiction when he returns; but then, then she will no more need its outlines because the MAN HIMSELF is there!
II THE WONDER OF PART - 10-11
So at the return of Christ, the Man of Sorrows, the One Acquainted with Grief (Isaiah 53) will come in the robes of royalty, and in that sense, the depiction yields to His own face. Tongues of praise by faith will become tongues of praise by sight! Knowledge, so precious, as it is a barrier between light and darkness now, the knowledge of spiritual things, it will yield to open-faced and direct observation!
Paul then uses the illustration of a child becoming, in time, a full-grown man. When a child, did not one's thought have a certain ... simplicity, being clear and sharp, yet not comprehending as it now is at maturity ? Manhood, maturity, however, meant that the preliminary clarity becomes a broader awareness, a surer understanding and while the sheer extravagant wonder of BEING A CHILD was a joy, yet the strength and sagacity, if the Lord will, of being capable of the rounded orb of thought is rather like moving from some bush waterfall to the Victoria Falls. One looks aghast in wonder at the sheer power and magnificence of it all. One does not disdain what went before; but now sees its perfection.
III BEING PARTIAL TO THE WHOLE - 12
The other day as I shaved, there was a degree of misting of the mirror. Hence there was, certainly a clear outline of my face and adequate access to it with the blade, yet a certain obscuration, or diminution. When however the mist was wiped away, how clear! So now it is as in a mirror that one sees; but then, when the COMPLETED and FINAL (the Greek term is of this kind) is come, the flower is at full bloom, the day is at noon, perfection has arrived in realisation. When we know the Lord, see God FACE TO FACE, then the limits of the mirror become the glory of the personal majesty of God, complete, unmoved, not as in a vision, coming and leaving, but permanent and manifest! Then, says Paul, I will know as I am known. No satellite, you become established in heaven itself as a child of God!
The stores of reality will be opened up; whereas before there were tins of sound nourishment, now the eye roves and the feeding is full, for manifest on all sides is the startling splendour of God Himself, and person to person communication is unsullied, unlimited, undimmed. As the depth of a chasm appals by its going downward, so the glory of God exhilarates by its supernal heights that do not end.
As Paul explains in I Corinthians 15, then as in a moment, when the resurrection occurs, we are changed, this corruptible putting on incorruption, like a raincoat to cover the body, this mortality finding the gift of immortality. Victory over sin, death and the limitations of discipline will be permanently expressed; and as in the spectacular rejoicing in Melbourne, that one remembers after WW II was over, so there is coming for Christians the climax of liberty, joy and triumph flowing to its finale from the work of faith in the Crucified Christ. The Cross was the crucial, central and the first instalment, His resulting resurrection the final exhibit while His coming brings the recognition of the redeemed, Himself their sure passport into heaven itself (Hebrews 6:19, John 10:9,27-28, Romans 5:1-12), as previously into the kingdom of heaven, in which many have worked for many years.
Who would not be partial to that! But first, be partial to Christ, whose it is (cf. John 16:13-15), and in the power of His Spirit, operate NOW as a child should, of such a Father as that. You are not alone! He has not left you an orphan! (John 14:18).
IV JOURNEYING INSTRUCTIONS - 13
So now, abide in Him, with faith to receive Him, His power, His Spirit, with hope to look for this glorious transition to come, like that of a dragon fly from its pupal stage, to the shimmering new wings and wonderful eyes that see so much with hundreds of lenses!
Especially however, abide in and with LOVE. It is the greatest,
and it is this which led to your redemption if you know Him,
and points to it, if you do not.
It is not just human love, which is an index of its source, any more than a waterfall IS the stream, but simply its mighty work at one juncture.
Many may confuse drains with waterfalls, so great is their confusion and limitation. When however you know God, the source and original of life, from whom all human love takes its meaning, there is that immediacy and purity, that inspiration with majesty and delight in His design, there is that sheer appreciation in all the vitality He gives (Isaiah 40:26-31) and that desire to maximise your service for HIM who so served YOU.
There is that delight in being kind and not seeking your own fulfilment, power, excitement, dream, but pleasing Him: there is that blessedness in abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ that becomes as natural as breathing. Just as that at times may be difficult, however (James 1:12, I Peter 1:4-7 4:12-13), let this appear as a small thing, in the light of His cross: therefore maintain your spiritual lungs with much deep breathing of pure air, the environment of God, the grace of His Spirit, the Gospel of His grace, the prayer of depth.
FILL the spiritual lungs, for rendering more exuberant the life which serves Him and seeks the good of His body, His Church: and this, not by pretending it is pure when it is not, nor carping, but by being charitable and involved, fearless in function, intractably for truth, merciful to the fallen, considerate towards all.
As a member of His body, however, remember at all times your Head; the headless or heedless alike are disfigured, and lack the life of God. If the parts of your body are mutually pleased, good; but it is the head which directs. Remember then that it is HE, whose word is truth and written, whose Spirit is good, who leads into the 'land of uprightness' whom you revere, above all, for all, despite any. It is for HIM that you live (Colossians 3:1-4).
Here the curse in view clearly incorporates the entire condition of mankind, which here reaches a climax into which judgment obtrudes like a flash of dark lightening, not making bright but deepening the shadow upon the earth.
The everlasting covenant is in this context of "the world" may be understood in three complementary ways. Firstly, it may be thought of as the covenant of the Old Testament, as in Hebrews 8, which grows obsolete, but which was what was then in operation, for the listeners who would seek to construe the writing.
Since this 'Old Covenant' is as a bud to the bloom, relative to the New Testament, the New Covenant, where the blood of Christ, and not the blood of bulls (Hebrews 9) is in view, when once, in the end of all preliminaries, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, it is the actual item in view. Since moreover in Isaiah there is abundant and extensive focus on this same Covenant in the Messiah to come (Isaiah 53:5-10, for example, with Isaiah 4:6, 32:1-4), it also is in the final focus for this age-ending crisis to which Isaiah 24 refers, one which brings us even to the shaking of the earth as in Hebrews 12. Isaiah himself provides in his prophecy abundant ground for an understanding of this covenant: it is full of it, and for the end of the Age, the understanding must therefore likewise be full of it.
Some might not have realised it, and have seen it through the Old Covenant, but this does not alter the meaning. It is only in that sense that one raises the matter here of the Old Covenant at all.
Finally, it needs to be realised that there is a broader sense of 'covenant' which may be applicable. It is what one might refer to as the covenant of creation, of the creation in God's image, in relation to the Maker, the Creator.
In this sense, there is an obligation imposed upon man to respond just because he is so created, and the evidence is so overpowering that to ignore or discard it takes a devious struggle even to bring a surreptitious relief. This phrase, covenant of creation, suggests itself from the overview implicit in Romans 10:18, 1:17-18. It is not an explicit covenant relationship, that seems involved at this third level. Yet it is as real as the blood vessels, the nerve endings, the synapses, the DNA, the organisation and brilliant adaptability of brain cells, the lungs for air and the air for lungs, the stars for their light and beauty and the eyes to see them, the conscience to appeal and the mind to listen.
It is true that this cannot be viewed as in ANY sense an alternative to the actual covenants, which are formal, explicit and definitive between God and man, and suffer no alternative. Yet there is an obligation even of those uninformed, to respond to the implicit covenant of being a creature, of seeking the Creator and of acting with Him in view, one written into the very nature of man, and again closely related to Romans in 2:15.
This is best seen as background, to fortify the situation of man's responsibility; and in this light, the operation of rejecting the blood of Christ, for those who wittingly do it, or bypassing it, becomes the more spiritually salacious, lustfully lost, an even more astounding and withering woe.
The curse is seen in Genesis 3, Romans 5 and Romans 8:18-21, for example. In all three cases the blight to come to the Messiah is implicit or explicit, in order that He might in love and wisdom remove it from those who know and follow Him.
See on this area, Beyond the Curse, and with it News 74. The curse started at the Fall and continues in various expressions, more sharply defined to any, as the grounds are expanded in man’s continual breaches of covenant, to the uttermost point.