Chapter Index: In-Page Navigation
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- 1. Analysis
- 2. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Uzziah; The Impeachment
- 3. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Uzziah; The Word of Appeal
- 4. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Uzziah; The Denunciation
- 5. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Jotham and Ahaz; The Prophet's New Vision
- 6. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: The Signs of the Prophet and his Children
- 7. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Burden of Nations; Assyria
- 8. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Burden of Nations; Philistia and Moab
- 9. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Burden of Nations; Damascus and Interlude
- 10. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Burden of Nations; Egypt
- 11. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Burden of Nations; Babylon, Dumah and Arabia
- 12. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Burden of Nations; Jerusalem and Tyre
- 13. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: The Day of the Lord; Desolation and Restoration
- 14. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Concerning the Chosen; Five Woes
- 15. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Concerning the Chosen; Woe against Assyria
- 16. Part A: Prophecies of Judgment: Concerning the World; Desolation and Restoration
- 17. Part B: Historical Interlude: Hezekiah's Trouble
- 18. Part B: Historical Interlude: Hezekiah's Prayer
- 19. Part B: Historical Interlude: Hezekiah's Sickness and Folly
- 20. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Prologue
- 21. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Majesty of Jehovah
- 22. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Manifesto of Jehovah
- 23. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Messages of Jehovah
- 24. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Might of Jehovah
- 25. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Mercy of Jehovah
- 26. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Sustained through Suffering
- 27. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Singing in Triumph
- 28. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Declaration of Conditions
- 29. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Ultimate Realization
- 30. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Principle of Discrimination
- 31. Part C: Prophecies of Peace: Epilogue
- Download Part 1 (Volume7) of the original Book in PDF format
- Download Part 2 (Volume8) of the original Book in PDF format
CHAPTER 1. ANALYSIS: ISAIAH - THE PROPHET OF THE THEOCRACY
PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGMENT - Isaiah 1:1-35:10
A.1 First Circle. Public Ministry - Isa. 1:1-7:25
A.1.1 During the Reign of Uzziah - Isa. 1:1-5:30
A.1.1.1 The Impeachment - 1:1-1:31
- The Controversy declared
- Jehovah's Complaint - The Statement
- Jehovah's Complaint - The Illustration
- Jehovah's Complaint - The Prophet's Appeal
- Jehovah's Complaint - The Description of Moral Condition
- Jehovah's Complaint - The Appeal
- Jehovah's Complaint - The The Description of Suffering Condition
- Jehovah's Complaint - Figurative
- Jehovah's Complaint - Actual
- Jehovah's Complaint - Figurative
- Jehovah's Complaint - The Hope. A Remnant
- Jehovah's Correction
- Jehovah's Correction - The Call to consider
- Jehovah's Correction - The false Approach
- Jehovah's Correction - The true Approach - Moral Cleansing
- Jehovah's Correction - The true Approach - Righteous Conduct
- Jehovah's Call
- Jehovah's Correction - The Call itself
- Jehovah's Correction - The assured Issue
- Jehovah's Correction - The Alternative
- The Judgment announced
- The Reason. The corrupt City - General Description
- The Reason. The corrupt City - Illustrations - Infidelity by Mixture
- The Reason. The corrupt City - Illustrations - Consequent Conditions
- The Twofold Process - For Restoration - The avenging Stroke
- The Twofold Process - For Restoration - Its Purpose
- The Twofold Process - For Reprobation - The avenging Stroke
- The Twofold Process - For Reprobation - Its Purpose
A.1.1.2 The Word of Appeal - 2:1-4:6
- The Vision of the latter Days - 2:1-2:4
- The Lord's House established
- The Law from Zion
- The prevalent Corruption and Judgment - 2:5-4:1
- Light upon the Darkness - The Appeal. "Walk in Light."
- Light upon the Darkness - The Darkness revealed - Contamination
- Light upon the Darkness - The Darkness revealed - Material Wealth
- Light upon the Darkness - The Darkness revealed - Idolatry
- Light upon the Darkness - The Darkness revealed - Degradation
- Light upon the Darkness - The Light of the Day - The Terror of the Lord
- Light upon the Darkness - The Light of the Day - The Subduing of Man
- Light upon the Darkness - The Light of the Day - The Destruction of Idols
- Light upon the Darkness - The Appeal. "Cease from Man."
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Rulers - The Judgment - The Destruction of true Government
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Rulers - The Judgment - The Substitution of Incompetence
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Rulers - The Judgment - The resulting Chaos
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Rulers - The Reason - In the People
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Rulers - The Reason - In Jehovah
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Women - The Reason
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Women - The Judgment - Physical Affliction
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Women - The Judgment - Loss of Luxury
- The Judgment of a corrupt Society - The Women - The Judgment - Death of Men
- The Vision of the latter Days - 4:2-4:6
- Material Prosperity
- Moral Purity
- Mighty Protection
A.1.1.3 The Denunciation - 5:1-5:30
- The Song of Accusation - 5:1-5:7
- The Song sung - Possession
- The Song sung - Care
- The Song sung - Expectation
- The Song sung - Failure
- The Song sung - Appeal
- The Song sung - Judgment
- The Application
- The Woes of Application - 5:8-5:24
- Against Monopoly - The Congestion of Wealth
- Against Monopoly - The whispered Judgment
- Against Dissipation - The Process
- Against Dissipation - The Results
- Against Dissipation - The Judgment
- Against Unbelief - The Manifestation
- Against Unbelief - The Inspiration
- Against moral Confusion
- Against Conceit
- Against Perversion of Justice
- The Instrument of Judgment - 5:25-5:30
- The Anger of Jehovah
- The Coming of the Scourge - Perfectly equipped
- The Coming of the Scourge - Terribly fierce
- The Coming of the Scourge - Overwhelmingly successful
A.1.2 During the Reigns of Jotham and Ahaz - Isa. 6:1-7:25
A.1.2.1 The Prophet's New Vision - 6:1-6:13
- The Vision - 6:1-6:7
- The Glory - The enthroned Lord
- The Glory - The Seraphim's Song
- The Glory - The Earthquake
- The Grace - The Cry of Need
- The Grace - The live Coal
- The Grace - The Expiation
- The Voice - 6:8-6:13
- The Commission - The Inquiry
- The Commission - The Answer
- The Commission - The Charge
- The Inquiry - "How long?"
- The Inquiry - "Until"
- The Inquiry - The holy Seed
A.1.2.2 The Prophet and Ahaz - 7:1-7:25
- The historic Occasion - 7:1-7:2
- The Confederacy
- The Fear
- The Comfort and Condition - 7:3-7:9
- The Promise - "Fear not"
- The Promise - "It shall not stand"
- The Condition
- The Sign - 7:10-7:16
- The Judgment - 7:17-7:25
A.2 Second Circle. Private Ministry - Isa. 8:1-27:13
A.2.1 The Signs of the Prophet and his Children - Isa. 8:1-12:6
A.2.1.1 Preliminary - 8:1-9:7
- Jehovah's Charge to the Prophet - 8:1-8:18
- The preliminary Instructions - The Tablet
- The preliminary Instructions - The Children - Spiritual
- The preliminary Instructions - The Children - Natural
- The Explanation - The Doom - The Waters of Shiloah refused
- The Explanation - The Doom - The River chosen
- The Explanation - The Hope - The Challenge of Faith
- The Explanation - The Hope - The Secret of Faith - The false Fear
- The Explanation - The Hope - The Secret of Faith - The true Fear
- The final Command - Two Words. "Bind" "Seal"
- The final Command - Patience
- The final Command - The Sign - Isaiah. Salvation of Jehovah
- The final Command - The Sign - Shear-jashub. A remnant shall return
- The final Command - The Sign - Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Speed the spoil. Hasten the prey
- The Prophet's Charge to the Children - 8:19-9:7
- Warning - The false Way
- Warning - The Result
- Hope - The Light
- Hope - The Process
- Hope - The Person - His Nature
- Hope - The Person - His Power
- Hope - The Person - His Name
- Hope - The Person - His Programme
A.2.1.2 The Interpretation of the Signs - 9:8-12:4
- Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Judgment on Israel - 9:8-10:4
- First Strophe - Pride
- First Strophe - Adversaries
- First Strophe - "For all this"
- Second Strophe - Stubbornness
- Second Strophe - Destruction of Leaders
- Second Strophe - "For all this"
- Third Strophe - Prevalent Wickedness
- Third Strophe - Civil Strife
- Third Strophe - "For all this"
- Fourth Strophe - Corruption of Judges
- Fourth Strophe - Desolation
- Fourth Strophe - "For all this"
- Parenthesis. Judgment on Assyria - 10:5-10:19
- Contrast of Intention - The Divine. A Rod
- Contrast of Intention - The Assyrian. To destroy
- The Divine Purpose - The Determination of the Lord
- The Divine Purpose - His Work on Jerusalem
- The Divine Purpose - His Purpose for Assyria - To Punish
- The Divine Purpose - His Purpose for Assyria - The Reason - What Assyria said
- The Divine Purpose - His Purpose for Assyria - The Reason - What Assyria forgot
- The Activity of Jehovah - Leanness - by Fire
- The Activity of Jehovah - Devouring - by Fire
- The Activity of Jehovah - Consuming - by Fire
- The Activity of Jehovah - A Remnant of Trees
- Shear-jashuh. The Remnant - 10:20-10:34
- The Issue foretold - Stay on Jehovah
- The Issue foretold - Only a Remnant - Unto the mighty God
- The Issue foretold - Only a Remnant - After a Consumption
- The Issue foretold - Only a Remnant - For a Consummation
- The consequent Message - "Be not afraid"
- The consequent Message - The Scourge scourged
- The consequent Message - The consequent Deliverance
- The Process of Judgment - The Assyrians' Approach
- The Process of Judgment - The Judgment on Israel
- The Process of Judgment - The Felling of the Forest
- Isaiah. Salvation by Jehovah - 11:1-12:4
- The coming One - The Branch. David's Son
- The coming One - His Coming
- The coming One - His Anointing - The Spirit of Jehovah
- The coming One - His Rule - Its Aim
- The coming One - His Rule - Its Method
- The coming One - His Rule - Negative. The Senses
- The coming One - His Rule - Positive. Spiritual Principles
- The coming One - His Kingdom - Creation at Peace
- The coming One - His Kingdom - The Child at Play
- The coming One - His Kingdom - The Secret
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Secret
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Day of the Realization of Purpose
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Gathering of the Nations
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Resting-place of Glory
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Programme of the Day
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - Recovery of Remnant
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The scattered Ones
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Nations. Israel. Judah
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Issues
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - Restoration of Unity
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - Victory over Foes
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Power
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Activity of Jehovah
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Highway
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Day of personal Praise
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - Restoration to Favour
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - Salvation in Jehovah
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The Day of relative Praise
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - Testimony to the Peoples
- The coming Day - The Root. David's Lord - The exalted Name
A.2.1.3 Final - 12:5-12:6
- The Song of Faith
- The Secret of Faith
A.2.2 The Burdens of the Nations - Isa. 13:1-23:20
A.2.2.1 Babylon (Assyria) - 13:1-14:27
- The Judgment Foretold - 13:1-13:18
- The Proximity of Judgment - Mustering the Host
- The Proximity of Judgment - Marching of the Host
- The Purpose of Judgment - The Punishment of Evil
- The Purpose of Judgment - The Destruction of Evil
- The Process of Judgment - Media against Assyria
- The Process of Judgment - The abiding Ruin
- The Restoration of Israel - 14:1-14:2
- Jehovah - Compassion
- Jehovah - Choose
- The Peoples - Submission
- The Peoples - Service
- The Parable of Israel - 14:3-14:21
- First Strophe - The Earth set free
- Second Strophe - Sheol troubled
- Third Strophe - The Sin described
- Fourth Strophe - The Destruction
- Fifth Strophe - Extermination
- Summary of Sentence - 14:22-14:23
- Jehovah's Act
- Assyria's Doom
- Direct Application - 14:24-14:27
- The Oath of Jehovah - The Destruction of Assyria
- The Oath of Jehovah - The Freeing of His People
- The Certainty - Purpose and Power
- The Certainty - Irrevocable
A.2.2.2 Philistia - 14:28-14:32
- The Warning - 14:28-14:29
- The Prophecy - 14:30-14:32
- Contrast. Israel and Philistia
- The Smoke out of the North
- Zion founded
A.2.2.3 Moab - 15:1-16:14
- The ancient Prophecy - 15:1-16:12
- Her Desolation - The Catastrophe
- Her Desolation - The Desolation - The Mourning
- Her Desolation - The Desolation - The Scattering
- Her Helplessness - The Plea to Judah for Sanctuary
- Her Helplessness - The Plea refused
- Her Helplessness - The Howling of Moab
- Her Helplessness - The Prophet's Lamentation
- The new Prophecy - 16:13-16:14
- The ancient Prophecy
- To be fulfilled
A.2.2.4 Damascus - 17:1-17:11
- The Doom of Damascus - 17:1-17:3
- The Effect on Ephraim
- The Judgment on Ephraim - 17:4-17:6
- Olives (A Remnant)
- The Effect - 17:7-17:8
- Return to God
- From Idols
- The Reason of Judgment - 17:9-17:11
- The Sentence repeated
- The Sin
A.2.2.5 Interlude - Prophet's Sololoquy - 17:12-18:7
- The Prophet's Consciousness - 17:12-17:14
- Of the opposing Peoples
- Of Jehovah as Defence
- The Prophet's Proclamation - 18:1-18:7
- To the coming Ambassadors - Description
- To the coming Ambassadors - The Message - Back to your People
- To the coming Ambassadors - The Message - Wait for Jehovah
- Jehovah's Message - His Waiting - Watching
- Jehovah's Message - His Waiting - Preparing
- Jehovah's Message - His Activity - At the right Moment
- Jehovah's Message - His Activity - Judgment
- Jehovah's Message - The Result
- The Issue - The Subjection of the opposing Peoples
A.2.2.6 Egypt - 19:1-20:6
- The Doom of Egypt - 19:1-19:15
- Jehovah's Advent - Destruction of Idols
- Jehovah's Advent - Civil War
- Jehovah's Advent - Failure in Counsel
- Jehovah's Advent - Oppression
- Physical Catastrophe - The Failure of the Nile
- Physical Catastrophe - The Failure of Industry - Fishing
- Physical Catastrophe - The Failure of Industry - Weaving
- Physical Catastrophe - The Failure of Industry - Building
- National Failure - The Rulers
- National Failure - The People
- National Failure - The Enterprises
- The Hope of Egypt - 19:16-19:25
- The Process - Fear
- The Process - Submission
- The Process - Healing
- The Issue - Egypt and Assyria
- The Issue - Israel, Egypt, and Assyria
- The Doom of Egypt - 20:1-20:6
- The Process - Fear
- The Process - Submission
- The Process - Healing
- The Issue - Egypt and Assyria
- The Issue - Israel, Egypt, and Assyria
A.2.2.7 Babylon - 21:1-21:10
- The Vision of the Whirlwind
- The Prophet's Horror
- Babylon's Carousal
- The Process of the Vision
- The Warning to His own People
A.2.2.8 Dumah - 21:11-21:12
- The Cry from Seir
- The Answer - Morning
- The Answer - Night
- The Answer - A Call
A.2.2.9 Arabia - 21:13-21:17
- The Vision
- The Interpretation
A.2.2.10 Jerusalem - 22:1-22:25
- The Sin of Jerusalem - 22:1-22:14
- The Malady of Joy. "What aileth thee?"
- The gathering Armies
- The Siege
- The Sin of Joy
- The Change of Rulers - 22:15-22:25
- Shebna - His Pride
- Shebna - His Punishment
- Eliakim - His Appointment
- Eliakim - His Administration
- Eliakim - His Fall
A.2.2.11 Tyre - 23:1-23:18
- The Doom of Tyre - 23:1-23:14
- The Catastrophe - Her Harbours closed
- The Catastrophe - Her Borders desolate
- The Catastrophe - Her Sea abandoned
- The Catastrophe - Her Ally affrighted
- The Cause - The Desolation
- The Cause - The Act of Jehovah
- The Completeness - Described
- The Completeness - Mourned
- The Future - 23:15-23:18
- Seventy Years
- After seventy Years
A.2.3 The Vision of the Day of the Lord - Isa. 24:1-27:13
A.2.3.1 The Vision of Desolation - 24:1-24:20
- The Word of the Lord. Devastation determined - 24:1-24:3
- The Land and the Inhabitants
- The People
- The Land
- The Work of the Word. Devastation described - 24:4-24:20
- The Blighted Earth - The Working of the Curse
- The Blighted Earth - The Reason
- The Blighted Earth - The Despair resulting
- The Blighted City - Desertion
- The Blighted City - Despair
- The Blighted City - Desolation
- The Gleam of Hope - The Remnant
- The Gleam of Hope - Their Testimony
- The Gleam of Hope - Their Songs
- The Prophet's Despair - The Sense of Sin
- The Prophet's Despair - The Sense of Judgment
- The Prophet's Despair - The Vision of Judgment
A.2.3.2 The Vision of Restoration - 24:21-27:13
- The Causes - 24:21-25:12
- The Reign of Jehovah - Victory over Oppressors - Visitation
- The Reign of Jehovah - Victory over Oppressors - Victory
- The Reign of Jehovah - Deliverance of the Oppressed - The Procedure
- The Reign of Jehovah - Deliverance of the Oppressed - The Results
- The Reign of Jehovah - The new Order - The Feast
- The Reign of Jehovah - The new Order - The Light
- The Reign of Jehovah - The new Order - The Comfort
- The Recognition by His People - The Confession
- The Recognition by His People - The Evidences
- The Characteristics - 26:1-27:11
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The new Order
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The new City - Its Strength
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The new City - Its Inhabitants
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The new City - Its Security
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The old City - Its People humbled
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The old City - Its Humbling
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The old City - Its Destruction
- The Song in the Land of Judah - The Process - The Way of Uprightness
- The Song in the Land of Judah - The Process - The Way of Judgments
- The Song in the Land of Judah - The Process - The Way of Waiting
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Jehovah - Judgment to Peace
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Jehovah - The Triumph of Jehovah
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - The Failure of the Nation
- The Song in the Land of Judah - Praise for Deliverance - Deliverance by Resurrection
- The Song in the Land of Judah - A Call to Patience - The Attitude of Patience
- The Song in the Land of Judah - A Call to Patience - The Procedure of Judgment
- The Judgment of evil Forces - The swift Serpent
- The Judgment of evil Forces - The crooked Serpent
- The Judgment of evil Forces - The Dragon
- The Restoration of the Vineyard - The glorious Picture - The Care of Jehovah
- The Restoration of the Vineyard - The glorious Picture - Thorns and Briers
- The Restoration of the Vineyard - The glorious Picture - The overflowing Fruitage
- The governmental Process - The Restraint of Judgment
- The governmental Process - The Purpose of Judgment
- The governmental Process - The Picture of Judgment
- The Consummation - 27:12-27:13
- The Gathering
- The Worship
A.3 Third Circle. Public Ministry - Isa. 28:1-35:10
A.3.1 Concerning the Chosen - Isa. 28:1-33:24
A.3.1.1 Five Woes against the Chosen - 28:1-32:20
- A false Hope - 28:1-28:29
- An Illustration. Ephraim - The False judged
- An Illustration. Ephraim - The True established
- The Application. "These also" - The Conflict with the Scorners - The Carousal
- The Application. "These also" - The Conflict with the Scorners - The Taunt
- The Application. "These also" - The Conflict with the Scorners - The Prophet's Answer
- The Application. "These also" - The Folly of the Scorners - The Carousal
- The Application. "These also" - The false Covenant - The Answer of the Mighty God
- The Application. "These also" - The false Covenant - The Warning
- The Application. "These also" - The Method of Judgment - Illustrations. Plowing
- The Application. "These also" - The Method of Judgment - Illustrations. Sowing
- The Application. "These also" - The Method of Judgment - Illustrations. Threshing
- The Application. "These also" - The Method of Judgment - Principle
- A false Religion - 29:1-29:14
- The Judgment of the City of Religion - Its Process - The indifferent City
- The Judgment of the City of Religion - Its Process - The Judgment
- The Judgment of the City of Religion - Its Process - The Distress
- The Judgment of the City of Religion - Its Passing - The Defeat of the Foes
- The Judgment of the City of Religion - Its Passing - Their Discomfiture
- The Judgment of the City of Religion - Its Passing - Their Distress
- The Judgment of the People of Religion - Blindness from Jehovah
- The Judgment of the People of Religion - Vision as a sealed Book
- The Reason. False Religion
- A false Intrigue - 29:15-29:24
- The Conspirators - The Attempt at Secrecy
- The Conspirators - Its real Meaning
- The Coming Deliverance - Restoration of Sensibility
- The Coming Deliverance - Restoration of Order
- The Coming Deliverance - Restoration of Religion
- A false Treaty - 30:1-30:33
- Its Uselessness - The secret Treaty - Its Rebellion
- Its Uselessness - The secret Treaty - Its Shame
- (Parenthesis. The Journey of the Ambassadors)
- Its Uselessness - The secret Treaty - Its Uselessness
- Its Uselessness - The manifest Failure - Conceived in Rebellion
- Its Uselessness - The manifest Failure - Issuing in Confusion
- Its Needlessness - The Secrets of Safety - Waiting on God
- (Parenthesis. The Result of Failure)
- Its Needlessness - The Secrets of Safety - The Waiting of Jehovah
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - The restored People
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - The End of Sorrow
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - Renewed Vision
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - Definite Guidance
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - The Cessation of Idolatry
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - The restored Land
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - Harvests
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - Pastures and Cattle
- Its Needlessness - The Blessings of Salvation - Light
- Its Needlessness - The Method of Deliverance - The Activity of Jehovah
- Its Needlessness - The Method of Deliverance - The Song of His People
- Its Needlessness - The Method of Deliverance - The Destruction of Assyria
- A false Trust - 31:1-32:20
- An Unveiling of Weakness. A Vision of Vanity
- - The Prophet's Argument - The false Trust. Egypt
- - The Prophet's Argument - The Folly of it
- - The Prophet's Argument - The Contrast. Jehovah and Egypt
- - The Prophet's Argument - Jehovah in Judgment
- - The Prophet's Argument - Jehovah in Deliverance
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The Call to Repentance
- - The Prophet's Appeal - Jehovah against Assyria
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The false Trust. Egypt
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The false Trust. Egypt
- An Unveiling of Strength. A Vision of Virtue
- - The Prophet's Argument - The true Trust. The King
- - The Prophet's Argument - The Wisdom of it
- - The Prophet's Argument - Restoration of Conscience
- - The Prophet's Argument - Recognition of Character
- - The Prophet's Argument - (Parenthesis of Contrast)
- - The Prophet's Appeal - To the Women
- - The Prophet's Appeal - Their Ease and Carelessness
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The Call to Mourning
- - The Prophet's Appeal - On Account of Judgment
- - The Prophet's Appeal - Jehovah and His People
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The outpoured Spirit
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The Results
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The Prophet's Soliloquy
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The Judgment imminent
- - The Prophet's Appeal - The Peace beyond
A.3.1.2 The Woe against Assyria - 33:1-33:24
- The Judgment of Assyria - 33:1-33:13
- The Doom declared - The Method of Assyria
- The Doom declared - The Judgment in kind
- The Confidence of the Prophet - Its Inspiration. Prayer
- The Confidence of the Prophet - Its Expression. Toward God
- The Confidence of the Prophet - Its Expression. Toward Israel
- The Confidence of the Prophet - Its Assurance
- The Doom described - The Conditions - The opposing Forces - Assyria's valiant Ones
- The Doom described - The Conditions - The opposing Forces - Israel's Ambassadors
- The Doom described - The Conditions - The Desolation
- The Doom described - The Judgment - Jehovah
- The Doom described - The Judgment - The consuming Fire
- The Doom described - The Challenge
- The Peace of Israel - 33:14-33:24
- Purity - The Questions of Conviction
- Purity - The Answers - Holinesss
- Purity - The Answers - Righteousness
- Purity - The Answers - Salvation
- Peace - Centre and Circumference - The King
- Peace - Centre and Circumference - The Country
- Peace - The vanished Foes
- Peace - The established City - Worship
- Peace - The established City - Quietness
- Peace - The established City - Strength
- The comprehensive Unveiling - The all-sufficient Jehovah - Defence
- The comprehensive Unveiling - The all-sufficient Jehovah - Government
- The comprehensive Unveiling - The insufficient Policy - The Failure of Policy
- The comprehensive Unveiling - The insufficient Policy - The Victory of the Lame
- The comprehensive Unveiling - The all-sufficient Restoration - Material
- The comprehensive Unveiling - The all-sufficient Restoration - Spiritual
A.3.2 Concerning the World - Isa. 34:1-35:10
A.3.2.1 Desolation - 34:1-34:17
- Universal Judgment - 34:1-34:4
- On Earth - The Summons
- On Earth - The Sentence
- In the Heavens
- Edom as Illustration - 34:5-34:17
- The Doom - From Heaven to Earth
- The Doom - The Activity on Earth
- The Day - Vengeance
- The Day - Recompense
- The Description - Destruction
- The Description - Desolation
A.3.2.2 Restoration - 35:1-35:10
- The Fact affirmed - 35:1-35:2
- Restoration of Nature
- Revelation of God
- The Method revealed - 35:3-35:4
- The Call to Courage
- The Coming of God
- The Process described - 35:5-35:10
- The Renewal of spiritual Discernment - Sensibility instead of Dulness
- The Renewal of spiritual Discernment - Ability in place of Disability
- The Restoration of Material Blessing - Water instead of Mirage
- The Restoration of Material Blessing - Highway in place of Confusion
- The Return of the Ransomed - The Positive. Gladness and Joy
- The Return of the Ransomed - The Negative. Sorrow and Sighing
PART B: HISTORICAL INTERLUDE - Isaiah 36:1-39:8
B.1 Hezekiah's Trouble - Isa. 36:1-36:22
B.1.1 Sennacherib's Invasion - Isa. 36:1-36:3
B.1.2 Rabshaheh's Taunt of the Rulers - Isa. 36:4-36:10
- Trust in Egypy Useless
- Trust in Jehovah Useless
- The Wager
- Their Weakness
- Jehovah's Commission
B.1.3 The Fear of Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah - Isa. 36:11
B.1.4 Rabshaheh's Address to the People - Isa. 36:12-36:20
- Against Hezekiah
- The Promise
- Against Jehovah
B.1.5 The Silence of the People - Isa. 36:21
B.1.6 The Fear of Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah - Isa. 36:22
B.2 Hezekiah's Prayer - Isa. 37:1-37:38
B.2.1 Hezekiah and Isaiah - Isa. 37:1-37:7
- Hezekiah's Repentence
- Messengers to Isaiah
- Isaiah's Answer
B.2.2 Hezekiah and the Letter - Isa. 37:8-37:20
- The Letter - The Occasion
- The Letter - The Attempt
- The Prayer - The Act
- The Prayer - The Invocation
- The Prayer - The Petitions
B.2.3 Isaiah's Message - Isa. 37:21-37:35
- Sennacherib's Sin - Against God
- Sennacherib's Sin - Under God
- Sign to Hezekiah - Continuous. The three Years
- Sign to Hezekiah - Immediate. Departure of Sennacherib
- The Prayer - The Petitions
B.2.4 The Judgment on Sennacherib - Isa. 37:36-37:38
- His Army
B.3 Hezekiah's Sickness - Isa. 38:1-38:22
B.3.1 The Deliverance - Isa. 38:1-38:8
- The Sickness
- Isaiah's First Message
- The Prayer
- Isaiah's Second Message
- The Sign
B.3.2 The Psalm - Isa. 38:9-38:20
- The Title
- The Mourning - Cut off at Noonday
- The Mourning - Cut off from the Processes of History
- The Mourning - Cut off from Strength
- The Mourning - Cut off from Peace
- The Rejoicing - The Gains of Suffering - Dignity
- The Rejoicing - The Gains of Suffering - Spirituality
- The Rejoicing - The Gains of Suffering - Peace
- The Rejoicing - The Gains of Suffering - Testimony
- The Rejoicing - The Limit of the Outlook
B.3.3 A Postscript - Isa. 38:21-38:22
- As to the Remedy
- As to the Sign
B.4 Hezekiah's Folly - Isa. 39:1-39:8
B.4.1 The Embassy from Babylon - Isa. 39:1-39:2
- The Coming
- The Exposure of Possession
B.4.2 The Coming of Isaiah - Isa. 39:3-39:7
- The Inquiry
- The Prophecy
B.4.3 Hezekiah's Answer - Isa. 39:8
PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE - Isaiah 40:1-66:24
C.1 The Purpose of Peace - Isa. 40:1-48:22
C.1.1 Prologue - Isa. 40:1-40:11
C.1.1.1 The Burden - Isa. 40:1-40:2
- The Message of God
- The Message of Comfort
- Warfare accomplished
- Iniquity pardoned
- Double for all her sins
C.1.1.2 The Highway - Isa. 40:3-40:8
- The first Voice - 40:3-40:5
- The Preparation
- The Result - Glory revealed
- The Result - All Flesh shall see
- The Result - Certainty
- The second Voice - 40:6-40:8
- The Call and Response
- The Message - Frailty of Opposition
- The Message - Certainty
C.1.1.3 The Commission - Isa. 40:9-40:11
- The Prophet's Commision - 40:9
- Elevation. "Get thee up"
- Proclamation. "Lift up thy voice"
- The Message. "Behold your God."
- The Prophet's Message - 40:10-40:11
- Jehovah. The Mighty One
- Jehovah. The Shepherd
C.1.2 The Majesty of Jehovah - Isa. 40:12-40:31
C.1.2.1 Essential - Isa. 40:12-40:17
- Might - 40:12
- Perfect Adjustment
- Perfect Ease
- Wisdom - 40:13-40:14
- Without Instruction
- Without Advice
- Government - 40:15-40:17
- The Littleness of the Great
- The Greatness of Jehovah
C.1.2.2 By Comparison - Isa. 40:18-40:20
- Comparison Impossible - 40:18
- Of Persons. To Whom?
- Of Ideas. What Likeness?
- Illustrations - 40:19-40:20
- The Image of Metal
- The Image of Wood
C.1.2.3 Demonstrated - Isa. 40:21-40:31
- Creation - 40:21
- From the Beginning
- From the Foundations
- Government - 40:22-40:26
- On Earth - Enthroned above
- On Earth - Encompassing
- On Earth - Actively reigning
- In the Heavens - The Heavens - Origin
- In the Heavens - The Heavens - Government
- In the Heavens - The Heavens - Strength
- Grace - 40:27-40:31
- Inherent Strength
- Strength given - The Declaration
- Strength given - The Comparison
- Strength given - The Description - Condition. "They that wait"
- Strength given - The Description - Experience. "Renew their Strength" - They shall mount
- Strength given - The Description - Experience. "Renew their Strength" - They shall run
- Strength given - The Description - Experience. "Renew their Strength" - They shall walk
C.1.3 The Manifesto of Jehovah - Isa. 41:1-42:25
C.1.3.1 The Introductory Challenge - Isa. 41:1-41:29
- The Challenge of Jehovah as to Cyrus - 40:1-40:7
- The Call to the Peoples
- The Challenge - The Inquiries. "Who?" "Who?"
- The Challenge - The Campaign of Cyrus - The "Who" as Worker
- The Challenge - The Campaign of Cyrus - The Victories of Cyrus
- The Challenge - The Answer. "I"
- The Confederacy - The Fear
- The Confederacy - The Confederacy
- The Confederacy - The making of Gods
- The Purpose of Peace for Israel - 40:8-40:20
- Chosen and kept - The Past. Chosen
- Chosen and kept - The Present. Not cast off
- Chosen and kept - The Future. "I am" "I will"
- Delivered from Foes - The Discomfiture of Enemies
- Delivered from Foes - The Experience of Israel
- Delivered from Foes - The Secret. "I will"
- Restored - To Strength
- Restored - To Prosperity
- Restored - To Witness
- The Challenge repeated - 40:21-40:24
- The Call to the Idols
- The Challenge - Explain the Past
- The Challenge - Foretell the Future
- The Challenge - Do something! Good or bad!
- The Contempt - No being
- The Contempt - No doing
- The Contempt - The Wickedness of the Worshipper
- Jehovah's Answer to His own Challenge - 40:25-40:29
- The Claim
- The Comparison - The Inquiry. "Who?"
- The Comparison - The Answer. "There is none"
- The Comparison - The Answer. "I"
- The Conclusion - The Silence of the Gods
- The Conclusion - The Vanity of Idolatry
C.1.3.2 The Central Proclamation - Isa. 42:1-42:9
- The Servant of Jehovah - 42:1-42:4
- His Manifestation - Himself. Servant of Jehovah
- His Manifestation - Himself. Upheld by Jehovah
- His Manifestation - Personal relation to Jehovah. My Elect
- His Manifestation - Personal relation to Jehovah. My Delight
- His Manifestation - Equipment. Anointed by Jehovah
- His Manifestation - Equipment. The Spirit of Jehovah
- His Mission - Fulfilment of Israel's Purpose
- His Mission - Judgment to Gentiles
- His Method - Grace - Quietness
- His Method - Grace - Patience
- His Method - Judgment
- His Might - Not burn Dimly
- His Might - Not be Bruised
- His Might - The waiting Isles
- Jehovah and His Servant - 42:5-42:9
- Jehovah Himself
- Jehovah and His Servant - Called
- Jehovah and His Servant - Sustained. Held and Kept
- Jehovah and His Servant - Appointed. Given
- Jehovah and His Glory - The Claim
- Jehovah and His Glory - The Evidence
C.1.3.3 The Resultant Appeal - Isa. 42:10-42:25
- The Song of Confidence - 42:10-42:13
- The Whole Earth
- Glory to Jehovah
- The Purpose of Jehovah - 42:14-42:17
- The Passion - Long restrained in Patience
- The Passion - Now Active in Power
- The Peace - The Succour of the Needy
- The Peace - The Confusion of the Idolaters
- The Prophet's Appeal - 42:18-42:25
- The Failure of the People - The Appeal
- The Failure of the People - The Description - Blind
- The Failure of the People - The Description - Deaf
- The Failure of the People - The Purpose of the Law
- The Failure of the People - The Effect of Disobedience
- The Central Appeal
- The Meaning of Jacob's Suffering - The Punishment of Sin
- The Meaning of Jacob's Suffering - Yet still Unresponsive
C.1.4 The Messages of Jehovah - Isa. 43:1-45:25
C.1.4.1 His Perpetual Purpose for His People - Isa. 43:1-43:13
- His Perpetual Attitude - 43:1-43:7
- Past merging into Present - First Movement - "I have..."
- Past merging into Present - First Movement - "I will..."
- Past merging into Present - Second Movement - "I have..."
- Past merging into Present - Second Movement - "I will..."
- Present assuring the Future - "I am..."
- Present assuring the Future - "I will..."
- Future depending on Past - "I will..."
- Future depending on Past - "I have..."
- His Present Purpose - 43:8-43:13
- Salvation - The original Purpose - Israel the Instrument
- Salvation - The original Purpose - The Testimony
- Salvation - The determined Purpose - The Testimony
- Salvation - The determined Purpose - The Testimony
- Future depending on Past - "I am..."
- Future depending on Past - "I will..."
C.1.4.2 His Present Purpose of Deliverance - Isa. 43:14-44:5
- Destruction of Foes - 43:14-43:21
- Affirmed - Jehovah and His Purpose
- Affirmed - Jehovah Himself
- Affirmed - Jehovah and His Power
- Appeal to History
- Appeal to Israel - 43:22-43:28
- Their Sin described - Forgetfulness
- Their Sin described - Neglect
- Their Sin described - Injury
- His Pardon promised
- Their Punishment explained
- The Promise - 44:1-44:5
- The outpoured Spirit - Israel and Jehovah
- The outpoured Spirit - "Fear not"
- The outpoured Spirit - The Spirit
- The Blessing to Israel
- The Blessing to Others
C.1.4.3 His Power compared with that of Idols - Isa. 44:6-44:23
- Jehovah the only God - 44:6-44:8
- First and Last
- Knowing and Declaring
- The Appeal
- The Folly of Idolatry - 44:9-44:20
- The Makers. Vanity
- The Idols. Unprofitable
- The Process - The Manufacture
- The Process - The Material
- The Process - The Madness
- The Appeal to Israel - 44:21-44:23
- The Process - The Manufacture
- The Process - The Material
- The Song of Redemption
C.1.4.4 His Power compared with that of Idols - Isa. 44:24-44:28
- The backward Look - 44:24
- The Relation to Israel
- The Might of Creation
- In Loneliness
- The continuous Fact - 44:25-44:27
- Frustrating Evil
- Confirming Good
- Accomplishing Purpose
- The immediate Action - 44:28
- Of Cyrus
- Of Jerusalem
- Of the Temple
C.1.4.5 His Charge to Cyrus - Isa. 45:1-45:13
- Introduction - 45:1
- The Man
- His Relation to Jehovah
- The Purpose - To subdue Nations
- The Purpose - To subdue Nations
- The Charge - 45:2-45:8
- The Promise - The "I wills"
- The Promise - The Purpose
- The Purpose - For Israel
- The Purpose - For the World
- The Power - The Ability
- The Power - The Activity
- Protest against Objections - 45:9-45:13
- The Folly of it - The Clay
- The Folly of it - The Child
- The Folly of it - Israel
- The Uselessness of it - Original Right
- The Uselessness of it - Present Action
C.1.4.6 His Ultimate Purpose for Israel - Isa. 45:14-45:17
- The Submission of the Peoples - 45:14-45:15
- Through Israel
- To God
- Parenthesis — Confession
- The Shame of Idol-makers - 45:16
- The Salvation of Israel - 45:17
C.1.4.7 His Purpose for the Ends of the Earth - Isa. 45:18-45:25
- The Purpose of Creation - 45:18
- Not a Waste
- To he inhabited
- The Purpose of the Seed of Jacob - 45:19
- Not a Waste
- In Righteousness
- The Call to the Peoples - 45:20-45:25
- To compare Jehovah with Idols - The Ignorance of Idolaters
- To compare Jehovah with Idols - The only God
- To submit for Salvation - The Invitation
- To submit for Salvation - The Determination
- To submit for Salvation - The Acceptation
- The Final Word
C.1.5 The Might of Jehovah - Isa. 46:1-47:15
C.1.5.1 The Fall of Babylon Determined - Isa. 46:1-46:13
- The Contrast - 46:1-46:4
- The Falling Gods Carried - The Idols on the Beasts
- The Falling Gods Carried - The Gods into Captivity
- Jehovah carrying - From Birth
- Jehovah carrying - To Old Age
- The Challenge - 46:5-46:7
- The Inquiry
- The Idol - Made
- The Idol - Carried
- The Idol - Helpless
- The Counsel - 46:8-46:13
- To the Transgressors - Remember I am God - "Declaring"
- To the Transgressors - Remember I am God - "Saying"
- To the Transgressors - Remember I am God - "Calling"
- To the Transgressors - Affirmation - "I have" "I will"
- To the Enemies - Hearken
- To the Enemies - Affirmation - "I bring near..."
- To the Enemies - Affirmation - "I will plan"
C.1.5.2 The Fall of Babylon Described - Isa. 47:1-47:15
- Degradation - 47:1-47:4
- The Fall - In the Dust
- The Fall - Without a Throne
- The Slavery - Slavery
- The Slavery - Shame
- The Agent
- Disgrace - 47:5-47:7
- The Fall - Silent in Darkness
- The Fall - No more the Lady of Kingdoms
- The Sin - No Mercy
- The Sin - The Yoke
- The Pride
- Desolation - 47:8-47:11
- The Pride - "I am..."
- The Pride - "I shall not..."
- The Punishment - The two Evils
- The Punishment - In spite of
- The Relation - "For..."
- The Relation - "Therefore"
- Destruction - 47:12-47:15
- The Challenge - "Stand now..."
- The Challenge - "Let now..."
- The Helplessness - As Stubble
- The Helplessness - No Help
- The End - "Thus"
- The End - "None to save"
C.1.6 The Mercy of Jehovah - Isa. 48:1-48:22
C.1.6.1 Jehovah's Methods - Isa. 48:1-48:11
- With a failing People - 48:1-48:2
- Prophecy and Performance - 48:3
- Because of Obstinacy - 48:4-48:8
- For His Name's Sake - 48:9-48:11
C.1.6.2 An Illustration - Isa. 48:12-48:16
- "I am He" - 48:12-48:13
- The Instrument - Cyrus and Another - 48:14-48:15
- Because of Obstinacy - 48:4-48:8
- The Fact - 48:16
C.1.6.3 Jehovah's Purpose - Isa. 48:17-48:21
- Their Peace - 48:17-48:19
- Their Redemption - 48:20-48:21
C.1.6.4 Final Word - Isa. 48:22
- No Peace to Wicked
C.2 The Prince of Peace - Isa. 49:1-57:21
C.2.1 Sustained through Suffering - Isa. 49:1-53:12
C.2.1.1 Jehovah's Call - Isa. 49:1-50:3
- As to His Servant - 49:1-49:13
- The Call
- The Reply
- The Confirmation - The first Purpose
- The Confirmation - The larger Purpose
- The Confirmation - The despised and exalted One
- The Confirmation - His Mission
- As to Zion - 49:14-49:21
- The Complaint
- The Reply - Unfailing Love
- The Reply - The certain Deliverance
- As to Jehovah - 49:22-50:3
- The Determination
- The Challenge
- The Answer - The real Reason
- The Answer - The Power of God.
C.2.1.2 His Servant's Answer - Isa. 50:4-53:12
- Consecration to Suffering - 50:4-50:9
- His Consecration - Taught of God
- His Consecration - Consecrated by God
- His Consecration - Consent to Suffering
- His Courage - Purpose with God
- His Courage - Conflict with God
- His Courage - Victory with God
- Ministry of Suffering - 50:10-52:12
- His Separation - The true People in Darkness
- His Separation - The Wicked in their own Firelight
- Messages to the Faithful - The Call to Courage - Look back. "Abraham"
- Messages to the Faithful - The Call to Courage - Look on. "My Righteousness"
- Messages to the Faithful - The Call to Courage - Look around. "Fear not"
- Messages to the Faithful - The Cry of Courage - Looking up
- Messages to the Faithful - The Cry of Courage - Looking back
- Messages to the Faithful - The Cry of Courage - Looking on
- Messages to the Faithful - The Cause of Courage - Look up. "I, even I"
- Messages to the Faithful - The Cause of Courage - Look around. "I am"
- Messages to the Faithful - The Cause of Courage - Look on. " I have ... that I may"
- Messages to the Afflicted - The End of Suffering - The Declaration
- Messages to the Afflicted - The End of Suffering - A Picture of the Past
- Messages to the Afflicted - The End of Suffering - The Cup removed
- Messages to the Afflicted - The Beginning of Strength - The Call
- Messages to the Afflicted - The Beginning of Strength - The Redemption
- Messages to the Afflicted - The Beginning of Strength - The Knowledge of Jehovah
- Messages to the Afflicted - The Return of Jehovah - The Announcement
- Messages to the Afflicted - The Return of Jehovah - The Song
- Messages to the Afflicted - The Return of Jehovah - The Call
- The Completion of Suffering - 52:13-53:12
- The Ultimate Triumph - General Declaration
- The Ultimate Triumph - The Issue. "As ... So"
- The Pathway of Suffering - The rejected Ministry
- The Pathway of Suffering - The vicarious Suffering
- The Pathway of Suffering - The atoning Death
- The Ultimate Triumph - Through Pain to Prosperity
- The Ultimate Triumph - Through Travail to Triumph
- The Ultimate Triumph - Exaltation through Humbling
C.2.2 Singing in Triumph - Isa. 54:1-57:21
C.2.2.1 The Song of Assurance - Isa. 54:1-54:17
- The Grace of Restoration - 54:1-54:10
- The Enlargement
- The Restoration
- The End of Forsaking
- The Glory of Restoration - 54:11-54:17
- Material Magnificence
- Moral Rectitude
- Mighty Defence
C.2.2.2 The Great Appeal - Isa. 55:1-55:13
- The Need and the Appeal - 55:1-55:5
- The Need - The inferred Need - Thirst
- The Need - The inferred Need - Hunger
- The Need - The inferred Need - No money
- The Need - The perfect Provision - Waters
- The Need - The perfect Provision - Bread
- The Need - The perfect Provision - Wine
- The Need - The perfect Provision - Milk
- The Argument - The Folly of the False. "Wherefore"
- The Argument - The Corrective. "Hearken"
- The Appeal - The Covenant
- The Appeal - The uplifted One
- The Appeal - The Blessing
- The Appeal and the Resource - 55:6-55:13
- The Appeal - General
- The Appeal - Particular - Human Responsibility
- The Appeal - Particular - Divine Promise
- The Argument - The Contrast. "My" "Your"
- The Argument - The Difference. "Heaven." "Earth"
- The Resources - The perfect Law - The Figure
- The Resources - The perfect Law - The Fact
- The Resources - The perfect Life - Liberty and Joy
- The Resources - The perfect Life - Blessing to the Earth
- The Resources - The perfect Life - Glory to God
C.2.2.3 The Administration - Isa. 56:1-57:21
- The Welcome to Strangers - 56:1-56:8
- The Call to the Chosen - The Responsibility
- The Call to the Chosen - The Resource
- The Call to the Chosen - The Realization
- The Comfort of the Desponding - The forbidden Laments - The Stranger
- The Comfort of the Desponding - The forbidden Laments - The Eunuch
- The Comfort of the Desponding - The Comfort - Of the Eunuchs
- The Comfort of the Desponding - The Comfort - Of the Strangers
- The final Word
- The Judgment of Evil - 56:9-57:14
- The spiritual Leaders - The Judgment
- The spiritual Leaders - The Reason - Pollution of the Leaders - Ignorant
- The spiritual Leaders - The Reason - Pollution of the Leaders - Indolent
- The spiritual Leaders - The Reason - Pollution of the Leaders - Greedy
- The spiritual Leaders - The Reason - Pollution of the Leaders - Sensual
- The spiritual Leaders - The Reason - Neglect of the Righteous - The Suffering of the Godly
- The spiritual Leaders - The Reason - Neglect of the Righteous - The Indifference of the Godless
- The apostate People - The Summons
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Insolence
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Idolatries - In the Valleys
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Idolatries - In the Mountain
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Idolatries - In the Household
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Idolatries - In the Policies
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Infatuation - Wearied yet persistent
- The apostate People - The Charge - Their Infatuation - Their false Fear
- The Judgment - Exposure
- The Judgment - Vengeance
- The Judgment - Discrimination
- The Restoration of the Contrite - 57:15-57:19
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The essential Glories - The high and lofty One
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The essential Glories - Inhabiteth Eternity
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The essential Glories - Whose Name is Holy
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The Activities of Grace - The Bases. The high and holy Place
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The Activities of Grace - The Bases. With him of a contrite and humble spirit
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The Activities of Grace - The Purposes. To revive
- The Speaker. Jehovah - The Activities of Grace - The Purposes. To renew
- The Proclamation - The Limitation of Wrath
- The Proclamation - The Reason of Wrath
- The Proclamation - The Activity of Grace - Restoration
- The Proclamation - The Activity of Grace - Proclamation
- The Final Word - 57:20-57:21
- The Restlessness of the Wicked
- No Peace to the Wicked
C.3 The Programme of Peace - Isa. 58:1-66:24
C.3.1 The Declarations of Conditions - Isa. 58:1-59:21
C.3.1.1 Moral Requirements Declared - Isa. 58:1-58:14
- The Charge to the Prophet - 58:1
- Formalism - 58:2-58:5
- Its Observances - Orthodox Ceremonial
- Its Observances - Intellectual Delight
- Its Complaint - The Divine Blindness
- Its Complaint - The Divine Indifference
- Its Iniquity - Against Neighbours
- Its Iniquity - Against Self
- Its Iniquity - Against Jehovah
- True Religion - 58:6-58:14
- As to Neighbours - The Duty
- As to Neighbours - The Reward
- As to Self - The Duty
- As to Self - The Reward
- As to Jehovah - The Duty
- As to Jehovah - The Reward
C.3.1.2 Moral Failure Confessed - Isa. 59:1-59:15a
- The Reason for National Suffering - 59:1-59:8
- Not in Jehovah
- In the People's Sin - The Declaration
- In the People's Sin - The Illustrations - Immoral Conduct
- In the People's Sin - The Illustrations - Corrupt Character
- The Confession - 59:9-59:15a
- The Suffering described - Darkness
- The Suffering described - Confusion
- The Suffering described - Lamentation
- The Sin confessed - Conviction
- The Sin confessed - Confession
C.3.1.3 Moral Victory Won - Isa. 59:15b-59:21
- Jehovah's Knowledge - 59:15b-59:16a
- Of the Sin
- Of the Lack of an Intercessor
- Jehovah's Judgment - 59:16b-59:19
- By His own Strength
- In His own Attributes
- For His own Vindication
- To His own Glory
- Jehovah's Redeemer - 59:20-59:21
- His Coming - To Zion
- His Coming - To the Remnant
- His Covenant - The Spirit and the Word
- His Covenant - The Perpetuity
C.3.2 The Ultimate Realization - Isa. 60:1-62:12
C.3.2.1 Material Prosperity - Isa. 60:1-60:22
- The Daybreak - 60:1-60:3
- The Centre of Light
- The surrounding Darkness
- The gathering Nations
- The returning Exiles - 60:4-60:9
- Sons and Daughters
- The Peoples
- The Established City - 60:10-60:16
- Built by Strangers
- Submission of Peoples
- Jehovah known
- The high Noon - 60:17-60:22
- Perfect Government
- Perfect Glory
- Perfect Gladness
C.3.2.2 Spiritual Realization - Isa. 61:1-61:11
- The anointed Messenger - 61:1-61:5
- His Equipment
- His Mission - The First Phase
- His Mission - The Whole
- His Mission - The Final Phase
- His Accomplishment - Restoration
- His Accomplishment - Co-operation
- The priestly People - 61:6-61:9
- The Office
- The Influence - Co-operation
- The Influence - Compensation
- The Covenant - Its Foundation
- The Covenant - Its Nature
- The Covenant - Its Effect
- The Song - 61:10-61:11
- The Fount of Joy
- The Reason of Joy - Personal Blessing
- The Reason of Joy - Relative Blessing
C.3.2.3 Vocational Fulfilment - Isa. 62:1-62:12
- The new Names - 62:1-62:5
- The Desire - The Prosperity of Zion
- The Desire - The Vindication of Jehovah
- The Certainty - The Name given by Jehovah
- The Certainty - The Glory
- The Certainty - The old Names
- The Certainty - The new Names
- The Reason - The Delight of Jehovah
- The Reason - The Rejoicing of God
- The Watchmen - 62:6-62:9
- Their Intercession - With Jehovah
- Their Intercession - For Jerusalem
- The Answer - Of Jehovah
- The Answer - To Jerusalem
- The Realisation - 62:10-62:12
- The Highway
- The coming One
- The Answer - Of Jehovah
- The restored People
C.3.3 The Principle of Discrimination - Isa. 63:1-65:25
C.3.3.1 The Pathway of Judgment - Isa. 63:1-63:6
- The Warrior - 63:1
- The Inquiry
- The Answer
- The Conflict - 63:2-63:6
- The Inquiry
- The Answer - The Fact
- The Answer - The Reason
- The Answer - The Process
C.3.3.2 The Prayer of Desire - Isa. 63:7-64:12
- Praise and Confession - 63:7-63:14
- His Faithfulness - The general Intention
- His Faithfulness - Examples - Out of Egypt
- His Faithfulness - Examples - In the Wilderness
- Their Sin
- His Faithfulness - His Remembrance
- His Faithfulness - His Rest for them
- The Prayer - 63:15-64:12
- The sore Need - The Picture - Without His Power
- The sore Need - The Picture - Without His Pity
- The sore Need - The Argument - "Thou art"
- The sore Need - The Appeal
- The Cry - For Activity
- The Cry - For Judgment
- The Remembrance - The Activity
- The Remembrance - The Principle
- The Confession - Sin
- The Confession - Judgment
- The Cry - Submission
- The Cry - Appeal
- The Cry - Argument
C.3.3.3 The Prayer of Desire - Isa. 65:1-65:25
- The False and the True - 65:1-65:12
- The Rebellious - The Call to the Nations
- The Rebellious - The Sin of His own - Rebellion
- The Rebellious - The Sin of His own - Idolatries
- The Rebellious - The Sin of His own - Hypocrisy
- The Rebellious - Their determined Punishment - A Smoke
- The Rebellious - Their determined Punishment - "I will ... recompense"
- The Rebellious - Their determined Punishment - "Your Iniquities"
- The Seed - The Figure of Discrimination
- The Seed - The Activity of Discrimination
- The Seed - The Issue of Discrimination
- The Doom of the Rebellious - The Sin
- The Doom of the Rebellious - The Destiny
- The Doom of the Rebellious - The Reason
- The Result of the Sifting - 65:13-65:16
- The Contrast - "My Servants"
- The Contrast - "Ye"
- The Destiny - The Evil. "Ye" - The Name a Curse
- The Destiny - The Evil. "Ye" - Slain
- The Destiny - The Good. "My Servants" - A new Name
- The Destiny - The Good. "My Servants" - The Principle of Continuity
- The New Order - 65:17-65:25
- A new Creation
- A new City
- A new Life - Prolonged Duration
- A new Life - Profits to Toilers
- A new Life - Prayer heard and answered
- A new Life - Peace triumphant
C.3.4 Epilogue - Isa. 66:1-66:24
C.3.4.1 The Last Message to the Formalists - Isa. 66:1-66:4
- True Worship - 66:1-66:2
- The Place
- The Spirit
- False Worship - 66:3
- Its Expression. True things violated
- Its Secret. Disloyalty of Heart
C.3.4.2 The Last Message to the Remnant - Isa. 66:5-66:14
- The Word of Comfort - 66:5
- To the Obedient
- To the Persecuted
- The Travail of Jerusalem - 66:6-66:9
- The Voices
- The Birth
- The Triumph of Jerusalem - 66:10-66:14
- Her Restoration
- The final Comfort
C.3.4.3 The Last Message to the World - Isa. 66:15-66:24
- The Coming in Fire - 66:15-66:18
- Its Majesty and Might
- Its Vengeance and Victory
- The wider Issues - 66:19-66:21
- The Nations
- The Exiles
- The Destiny - 66:22-66:24
- Of the Good
- 0f the Evil
CHAPTER 2. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: UZZIAH; THE IMPEACHMENT - ISAIAH 1:1-1:31
Prophecies of Judgment
The prophecies of judgment fall into three circles. The first of these contains the messages of the prophet delivered in the course of a public ministry during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz. The second contains the prophet's teaching in the course of a private ministry following upon the break of the prophet with Ahaz. The third contains the prophet's messages in a public ministry during the period of the threatened invasion by Assyria.
The messages of the first circle are largely concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Those of the second deal with the nations and the world. Those of the third have to do with the chosen and the world.
First Circle. Public Ministry
This circle of public ministry falls into two parts which are separated from each other by the prophet's vision at the death of Uzziah. In the first five chapters then, we have his messages during the reign of Uzziah; in the next two the account of his ministry up to the time when he parted with Ahaz and devoted himself to the instruction of a remnant.
During the Reign of Uzziah
This section of the prophecy falls into three parts, the first of which consists of a solemn impeachment of the nation; the second is a word of appeal; and the third is a stern denunciation.
The first message is of the nature of an impeachment of the nation in which the cause of the controversy between Jehovah and His people is declared ; and the necessity for judgment is affirmed.
The Controversy declared
The heavens and the earth are summoned to hear the complaint of Jehovah against His people. That complaint is expressed in the terms of His Fatherhood. He had nourished and brought up children; their sin consisted in the fact that they had rebelled against Him. The unnaturalness of the sin is illustrated by a comparison of ignorant Israel with intelligent animals.
This statement of complaint is immediately followed by an interlude containing the appeal of the prophet, in which he first described the moral condition of the people. The nation was sinful. It had inherited evil and continued therein. The activity of the people was that of the forsaking of Jehovah ; the reason of it was that they despised the Holy One of Israel; and the issue was that they were estranged.
He then appealed to them as to why they would be stricken. The form of his question put the blame of their suffering on themselves. The reason was that of their own revolt; the result was that they were stricken by Jehovah.
He then described their suffering condition figuratively, as that of a person covered with wounds which were neither dressed nor treated; then actually, as seen in the condition of their cities and their land; and again figuratively. The appeal ended with a ray of hope as he referred to a remnant.
Again voicing the message of Jehovah, he corrected the prevalent and pernicious idea that relation to Jehovah is conditioned by external acts of worship. Sacrifices and feasts are nothing worth, and God hates them where they are unaccompanied by rectitude of life. His call to them to consider was couched in satirical form as he addressed them as "rulers of Sodom" the "people of Gomorrah." Their way of approach had been false. They had come with sacrifices and offerings which were purposeless and vain; and the words of Jehovah most graphically set this forth; "I cannot away with" "I am weary," "I will hide." He then indicated the true method of approach as being that of moral cleansing rather than that of ceremonial observance; and righteous conduct, rather than that of ritualism.
The final movement in the declaration of controversy, is that of the call of Jehovah to His people. The call itself is expressed in the words, "Let us reason together." No doubt is expressed as to the issue, if they are obedient to that call. Willingness to reason with Jehovah inevitably issues in cleansing from pollution. Nevertheless the alternative issue of such reasoning will be dependent upon their attitude. Obedience will be followed by blessing, and rebellion by destruction.
The Judgment announced
Because of the fearful corruption of the city, judgment is necessary. That corruption the prophet set forth in vivid and forceful language. The city has fallen from her faithfulness to an attitude which is that of the harlot; from the activities of judgment and righteousness to that of murder. This infidelity is the result of admixture. The silver is become dross, and the wine is mixed with water. The issue is that the princes or rulers are rebellious, the companions of thieves, and corrupt in administration; while the people are unjudged, and the widows neglected.
The twofold process of judgment is next described. It is first in order to restoration. The avenging stroke falls in order to purificacation and restoration. The description of this process is closely related to the prophet's account of failure. As that was caused by mixture, judgment is in order to purification from dross and alloy; and the result is that of the restoration of the judges, and finally of the city to the estate from which it had fallen, of righteousness and faithfulness.
The judgment is also to be that of reprobation in the case of those persisting in transgression. The result of the avenging stroke will be the collapse of superstition, and the destruction of all those whose confidence had been reposed in false gods.
Thus in the impeachment, the case as between Jehovah and His people is clearly stated. His claim upon them is that of His care for them, and His loving provision for their need. His complaint is that they have failed to respond, and judgment is necessary in order to the restoration of the lost order. While the message of the prophet makes it clear that the Divine anger burns with destructive heat, it is nevertheless abundantly evident that the fierceness of judgment is love, and its purpose is peace.
CHAPTER 3. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: UZZIAH; THE WORD OF APPEAL - ISAIAH 2:1-4:6
Prophecies of Judgment
First Circle. Public Ministry
The Word of Appeal
Following the broad statement of the case as between Jehovah and His people, we have the prophet's great word of appeal to them. It falls into three parts. The first and the last are visions of the latter days. The central one describes the prevalent corruption, and deals with the judgment.
The Vision of the latter Days
Standing in the midst of the circumstances of corruption and judgment, the prophet was given a vision of that order of events towards which judgment is to proceed. The Lord's house is seen established and exalted. It is the centre of attraction, not merely for the worshippers of the chosen nation, but to the whole earth. In the day of such establishment, all nations will respond, and go up to worship.
When the law goes forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, then the peoples will be attracted and eager. In the reception of that law they will discover the true word of life; and the new order is described in the complementary declaration, "He will teach ... and we will walk."
The result of such establishment of the house of the Lord, and such going forth of the law from Zion, will be disarmament among the nations, and the consequent age of peace and prosperity. This will be brought about when He judges among nations and arbitrates among peoples. The court of arbitration from which there can be no appeal, and from which men will not desire to appeal because of its absolute justice, will be that of the government of God. When that day dawns men will not destroy their weapons of war, but will convert them into the implements of peace and prosperity. Swords will become plowshares, and spears pruninghooks.
The prevalent Corruption and Judgment
In the light of that radiant revelation the prophet proceeded to deal with the conditions in the midst of which he lived, which were those of prevalent corruption and judgment. He first delivered a message in which the light of the vision flashed upon the darkness and revealed it; and then declared and explained the process of judgment.
Light upon the Darkness
The first word is that of appeal. The prophet called upon the house of Jacob to walk in the light of the Lord; that is, to see things as they are in the light of the ideal which had been revealed in the vision of the latter days.
The prevailing darkness is next described. It is that first of the contamination of the chosen people by the surrounding and corrupt peoples. They are "filled with customs from the east," have given themselves over to soothsaying; and strike hands, that is enter into partnership and fellowship with the strangers. The second note is that of their material wealth. They have abundance of silver and goid, of horses and chariots. The third note is that of their idolatry. Friendship with the surrounding peoples has produced material prosperity and the degradation of their religion. This finally has issued in the degradation of the people. Both high and low are degraded.
It is to be observed that this paragraph opens and closes with a note of hopelessness. The prophet declared at the commencement that God had forsaken His people, and at the close cries out "Therefore forgive them not." Such a note seems to contrast strangely with the optimism of the visions of the latter days at the beginning and the end of the section. This note of hopelessness however is the only one possible when man in his rebellion is the object of contemplation; and it opens the way for the stern denunciation which immediately follows.
The light of the ultimate day falling upon the prevalent corruption compels the prophet to call men to enter into the rock and hide in the dust from the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of His majesty. Before the order seen in the vision can be established, there must be the preliminary operation of judgment in which man must be brought low in order that Jehovah may be alone exalted.
This operation the prophet described first in its breaking down of the pride and haughtiness of man. All the things of height, and those in which man puts his confidence and makes his boast must be broken down in a process of judgment. First the things of nature, cedars of Lebanon, oaks of Bashan, high mountains, and hills that are lifted up; secondly all human work, lofty towers, fenced walls, ships of Tarshish, pleasant imagery; and finally man himself.
In the activity of Jehovah in judgment when He arises to shake mightily, the idols will be destroyed.
The final word of this contemplation of prevalent conditions in the light of the vision of the latter days is an appeal to cease from man. From this point everything is of Jehovah; first the process of His judgment, and presently the restoration in the second vision of the latter days.
The Judgment of a corrupt Society
Having seen the necessity for judgment by contemplation of the corruption of the people in the light of the vision of the latter days, the prophet now dealt with that judgment in great detail. Having ceased from man he proceeded to observe the activity of Jehovah.
That activity is in the first place that of judgment against the rulers. Jehovah destroys true government. Every form of authority is taken away, the men of war, men of law, men of instruction, men of power of every kind.
The result of this is social chaos. The peoability in the affairs of government is the substitution of incompetent rulers. Children are to be princes and babes are to have rule over them.
The result of this is social chaos. The people are oppressed by one another. Those who ought to occupy the place of subservience will arrogate to themselves the place of power. Men will seek to appoint rulers upon the basis of their ability to provide for material needs, while others in their selfishness will refuse to undertake the responsibilities of government. It is a graphic picture of a State without competent government, under the dominion of incompetent rulers, with the necessary result of prevailing disorder.
The prophet then declared the reason for this judgment. So far as the people were concerned it was the result of their own sin. In speech and in act they had been against Jehovah. He declared that their sin was manifest even upon their faces, a searching word in its appalling revelation of the corruption of the people.
The prophet broke out into a cry of anguish as he looked upon the people under their evil rulers, children oppressing them, and women ruling over them.
The reason of the judgment so far as Jehovah is concerned is that in His heart He has the cause of the people, and He is against all oppression. The rulers spoil the poor, crush the people, grind the face of the poor. Therefore Jehovah stands up to plead against them.
In all human history there has been the closest connection between corrupt rulers and frivolous and polluted womanhood. Fierce was the prophet's denunciation of such. He described them as haughty, and as wanton, and then proceeded to declare what the judgment of Jehovah will be against them. Their wantonness and their luxury are to be ended. They will be visited by physical afiliction, and by the sweeping out of all the things associated with their corrupt and luxurious life; and finally by the death and consequent dearth of men. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn, and the affliction will fall as it ever does, with heaviest stroke upon the women whose frivolity and wantonness have so largely contributed to the corruption of the people.
The Vision of the latter Days
"In that day," began the prophet, and the connection must not be lost sight of. It is in the day of judgment. At the commencement of his word of appeal he saw the latter days in all their glory. Since then he had been gazing upon the corruption and denouncing it; observing the judgment, and agreeing to its righteousness. Having thus seen the necessity for judgment, he also recognized that out of it will come the deliverance. This second vision of the latter days is in some senses different from the earlier one. Here it is rather the vision of the remnant left as the result of the processes of judgment. It is a vision of those "that are escaped of Israel" that is, those "left in Zion," "he that remaineth in Jerusalem." It is a vision of the conditions which will obtain when the Lord has washed away the filth and has purged the blood of Jerusalem.
The description is of a threefold blessedness. There is first that of material prosperity; secondly that of a moral purity, - the remnant is to be holy when there has been the washing away of the filth and the blood of corruption; finally there is to be mighty protection as Jehovah again manifests His care for the people in the cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of the flaming fire by night.
From the height of the clear vision of the ultimate order the prophet had passed to the vision of corruption and of judgment, and he ended mth a picture of the first result of judgment in the deliverance and establishment of a remnant of the people.
CHAPTER 4. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: UZZIAH; THE DENUNCIATION - ISAIAH 5:1-5:30
Prophecies of Judgment
First Circle. Public Ministry
With the thought of judgment, and the necessity for it still in mind, the prophet uttered his great denunciation, which falls into three parts. The first contains the song of accusation; the second the woes of application; while the third describes the instrument of judgment.
The Song of Accusation
The song of accusation consists of a simple and familiar illustration of the rights of a proprietor in his vineyard, by which the prophet made his appeal to the people. The nature of the parable is such as to compel assent to the rectitude of the judgment indicated.
Having announced his intention to sing a song of the beloved concerning his vineyard, he proceeded so to do. The burden of the song is that of the rights of Jehovah. The fundamental right is that of absolute proprietorship. The vineyard is His property, and so also is the vine planted within it. This in itself is sufficient to warrant Him in any action which it may please Him to take in regard to the vine and to the vineyard.
That fundamental right is strengthened by the fact of His care for the vineyard in the interest of the vine. He had cultivated it, gathering out the stones, and thus creating the best conditions for the flourishing and fruitfulness of His vine.
His ultimate right was therefore that of the expectation of fruit. He looked that it should bring forth grapes.
Nothing can be more full of convincing appeal than the simplicity of this statement. The owner of a vineyard places within it his own vine, having exercised toil in the preparation of the soil, and in careful cultivation thereof; all this necessarily and naturally with a view to the production of the fruit natural to the vine, that namely of grapes.
In one blunt and swift sentence the prophet declared the fact of the failure of the vine, "it brought forth wild grapes."
The story of the song ceases as in the midst of it the prophet made his appeal to the people. That appeal was twofold. It first inquired whether anything more could have been done to the vineyard. The inquiry was in the nature of a challenge, to which it is evident the prophet expected no answer other than that of agreement that everything had been done that could be done. Therefore he at once asked the reason of the failure.
No answer was given, and consequently the song proceeded to tell the story of judgment, and thus to reveal the final right of Jehovah. The vineyard is to be destroyed, and the vine also. The fertilizing rain is to be withheld.
The nature of the parable is such that those who listen must admit that in the matter of the vineyard and the vine the final right of judgment must be conceded, being based upon the first three dealt with. The right of proprietorship, strengthened by the care exercised, creates the right of the expectation of fruit. That fruit failing, the right to destroy is unquestionable.
The prophet immediately made a blunt application of his song as he declared "the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant: and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry."
The Woes of Application
Having thus virtually compelled the conscience of the people to find a verdict against themselves, the prophet immediately proceeded to utter woes of application against the prevailing sins of the time. The first is against monopoly and the consequent oppression of the poor; the second is against the life of dissipation which the rulers were living; the third is against that unbelief which persists in iniquity, and scoffs at the idea of Divine intervention; the fourth is against that moral confusion which is unable to distinguish between good and evil; the fifth is against the false wisdom which acts without reference to God; and the sixth is against the perversion of justice by the judges.
In a few words the prophet gave a graphic picture of the condition of the people resulting from the greed and selfishness of the monopolists, who secure for themselves houses and land until there is no place for the people to dwell.
Jehovah whispers in the ear of His servant the story of His judgment determined against monopoly. The houses, "great and fair," shall be desolate; and the land barren and fruitless.
The second woe is against the prevailing dissipation of those who are giving themselves over to drunkenness to the accompaniment of music, and in utter blindness to the activities of Jehovah.
The result of such dissipation is the ruin of the people who pass into captivity and want, and are swept into the grave in multitudes; the low and high alike sharing in the humiliation.
Upon such the judgment of Jehovah is inevitable, because He is sanctified in righteousness. The city becomes desolate, a place amid the ruins of which the flocks of wandering shepherds will graze.
The third woe is against unbelief, the prophet dealing first with its manifestation, that of persistent sin, suggested under the figure of drawing iniquity with cords of vanity, and sinning with a cart-rope. The inspiration of this attitude of determined sin is that of unbelief in God, especially in what the prophet has declared concerning His determined activity. It should not be forgotten that the prophetic description of determined sin includes the suggestion of judgment. To draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and to sin with a cart-rope is to become enslaved thereby. This is the underlying thought also in the words of Solomon,
- "His own iniquities shall take the wicked.
And he shall be holden with the cords of his sin." - Proverbs 5:22
Against moral Confusion
The fourth woe is against that moral confusion which is the inevitable issue of unbelief. The true centre of life is God, and when men lose their confidence in Him, confusion must as inevitably issue as it does in individual life when the nerve is severed from the braincentre. This confusion the prophet first described in its fundamental conception, men calling evil good, and good evil; and then in the resulting conduct, the darkness is put for light, and light for darkness; the bitter is put for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
The fifth woe is against that fatuous conceit which is the inevitable issue of the moral confusion which arises from unbelief in God. Men become wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight; whereas they are foolish and imprudent. The reference here is principally to the rulers, and thus prepares the way for the final woe.
Against Perversion of Justice
The sixth woe is against the perversion of justice. The prophet first described the drunken rulers. So far were they abandoned to drink that he described them as "mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink."
The result was a drunken administration, corrupted by bribery and violation of the principles of righteousness.
The judgment upon such is to be that of devouring fire, destroying root and blossom, because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts.
The conditions upon which these woes are pronounced, constitute a description of that condition referred to at the close of the song which constituted the reason of the Divine complaint. Jehovah looked for judgment, but He found oppression; He looked for righteousness, but behold a cry. The whole movement reveals a sequence which it is well to ponder. Selfishness is the first manifestation. Selfishness means the dethronement of God. The result is that of turning for satisfaction to the false stimulus of wine. The vindication of such action is that of cynical unbelief. Its issue is moral confusion. Its result, so far as the rulers are concerned, is pride; and so far as the people are concerned, it is the perversion of justice.
The Instrument of Judgment
The prophet immediately turned to the definite announcement of judgment. He first described the anger of Jehovah. Its reason is indicated by the preliminary word "therefore," which shows that all the conditions which have been revealed in the preceding pronunciation of woes, constitute the cause of the Divine anger. That anger has already been manifested in the judgments which have fallen upon them, and moreover, it is not yet turned away, and that because the sins abound.
He then described the coming of the scourge. There can be no doubt that the Assyrians are referred to. The hosts are seen approaching, in response to an ensign lifted by Jehovah, and to His call for them. They advance swiftly, and without weariness, or any signs of weakness. They are perfectly equipped, with sharpened arrows, and bows ready bent, and horses' hoofs like flint, and wheels on their chariots like a whirlwind.
They are terribly fierce, sweeping like lions upon the prey, and carrying them off, while none is found to deliver. The onslaught is described by the prophet as being overwhelmingly successful; sweeping like the sea, so that the land is filled with darkness and distress, a land darkened by the clouds of judgment.
Thus end the prophetic messages in the days of Uzziah, which were the days of great material prosperity, in which the people had wandered far from God, and were under the dominion of unjust and oppressive rulers.
CHAPTER 5. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: JOTHAM AND AHAZ; THE PROPHET'S NEW VISION - ISAIAH 6:1-6:13
Prophecies of Judgment
First Circle. Public Ministry
During the Reigns of Jotham and Ahaz
This brief section deals with events in the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz. It falls into two parts; the first giving the story of the prophet's new vision at the death of Uzziah; and the second an account of the transaction with Ahaz, which, for the time being, ended his public ministry.
The Prophet's new vision
When Uzziah died, Isaiah was called to the exercise of a new ministry, and in this section we have the account of his special preparation for that work. It consisted of a vision granted to him; and a voice commissioning him.
The vision granted was that of the supreme Lord as the word Adonahy, suggested. The one vision was that of a twofold fact concerning the nature of God, that namely of His glory and His grace.
The whole life of the prophet had been lived in the reign of Uzziah. From childhood his thought of the throne of his people had been of the throne occupied by this man. As the prophecies during his reign show, the prophet was perfectly familiar with the corruption of the people. The fact that in the course of them there is no reference to Uzziah, after the opening verse which dated the prophet's ministry, suggests his familiarity with the fact of the excellent character of Uzziah during the early days of his reign; and of the further fact that for many years on account of his leprosy he had not been responsible for government. When he died there would naturally come to this man a sense of the impending national trouble consequent upon the condition of the people, and the fact that the throne was for the moment vacant; and that Jotham, a man of personal goodness, but without governing influence, was about to succeed. (See 2 Chronicles 27:1,2).
At that time there was granted to Isaiah a vision of the glory of the Lord. The first impression made upon him was that of the fact of the supremacy of God. This is indicated by his use of the word Adonahy, and by the declaration that he saw Him seated upon a throne. Thus in the hour when the sceptre fell from the hand of the only earthly king Isaiah had known, and the throne of earth was empty, he saw the living One, from Whose hand the sceptre never falls, occupying the throne which is never vacant. This fundamental phase of the vision was calculated to fill him with courage, born of the assurance that however corrupt the government of earth had become, everything was still under the authority of God.
As he gazed upon this vision he saw the seraphim, and heard their song. They stood above, or over, or around the Lord, in the attitude of service. Their attitude suggests reverence and activity, as it is said of each of them that "with twain he covered his face," that he might not see; and "with twain he covered his feet," that he might not be seen; and "with twain he did fly," in the action of ceaseless service. The song of the seraphim was the result of their vision, and its first note is the threefold affirmation of the holiness of Jehovah, while its second is the declaration that His glory consists in the fulness of the whole earth. To them, notwithstanding the failure and the corruption of human affairs, the Divine purpose is the supreme matter; and the form of their song suggests their assurance of its ultimate realization, an assurance based upon their consciousness of the character of Jehovah.
The final consciousness of the prophet in the presence of the vision was that of the shaking of the foundations of the thresholds, and the filling of the house with smoke, signifying the transitory character of the material, and the infinite mystery and distance of the Being of Jehovah, the sovereign Lord.
There immediately followed a revelation of grace which is as remarkable as that of the glory. In the presence of the unveiled glory of Jehovah, the prophet uttered the cry of his own need. Made conscious of the holiness of Jehovah, he became conscious of his own sinfulness, and of the sinfulness of the people in the midst of whom he dwelt.
This cry was immediately answered as one of the seraphim, acting unquestionably under the direction of the King, Whose servant he was, flew to the prophet, bearing with him a live coal, the cleansing fire, taken from the altar; and touching the lips of the suppliant, declared that by that touch of fire his iniquity was taken away, and his sin was purged.
The grace of the King is revealed in the swiftness of the flight of the seraphim. The sigh of the man conscious of his sin reached the ears of the King, and the song of the adoring seraph ceased, that the sigh of the suppliant sinner might be answered. The figure is that of the Hebrew temple, but the fact is larger than the figure. The temple seen is the true dwelling-place of the King, in which is the throne high and lifted up. The fact that in that temple there is an altar, interpreted by the symbolism of the Hebrew worship, reveals the abiding principle of sacrifice, whereby Jehovah is able to extend the pardon of grace to sinning men. The nature of that pardon is profound. The iniquity or crookedness of outward action is taken away; because the sin or the condition from which it springs, is expiated. Carefully considered, it will be found that no more wonderful unveiling of the grace of God occurs in the Scriptures of the old economy.
Immediately following the vision, the prophet heard the voice of the sovereign Lord, Adonahy. The message was that first of a commission, and secondly of an answer to an inquiry by the prophet.
The voice inquires, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" The inquiry expresses the King's need of a messenger, and reveals two important facts as to the qualification of that messenger. He must be one sent by the King, and willing to go for Him.
The prophet immediately replied, "Here am I, send me," thus exactly replying to the twofold thought of the inquiry, but in the reverse order. The last part of the Divine inquiry was, "Who will go?" The prophet began there as he said, "Here am I." He thus indicated his willingness. The first part of the inquiry had been, "Whom shall I send?" and the prophet replied, "Send me," thus yielding his allegiance to the King.
Immediately the voice gave him his charge, and that charge indicated the fact that his mission would be a failure so far as human measurements or appearances go. Indeed, because of the condition of the people, that of hearing continually without understanding, and seeing continually without perceiving, the effect of the ministry upon them would be that of increasing their spiritual dulness. The subsequent study of the book will show how this consciousness remained with the prophet, as ever and anon he described them as those having eyes, but no vision; having ears, but no hearing; until finally the consciousness expressed itself in the language of the ideal Servant of God, "Who hath believed our report?"
The sense of awe which such a charge produced, is manifested in the question which the prophet asked, "Adonahy, how long?" That question was immediately answered, and while the answer is a revelation of the awful judgment about to fall, it nevertheless indicates a limit to the process of judgment, and ends with a promise suggestive of ultimate deliverance and restoration. The cities are to be laid waste without inhabitant, the houses without man; the land is to become utterly waste; Jehovah will have removed men far away, and the forsaken places will be many in the midst of the land. This prophetic ministry of judgment is to continue until that time.
The desolation is not to be final. There will be a tenth, but even that will be eaten up; but the destruction of the tenth is to be like that of the terebinth or the oak, whose stock, or substance, or life principle, remains, even when the oak is felled. Thus the processes of destruction will not end in the annihilation of the people, for the holy seed is the life substance of the nation, and that will not be destroyed. This is the recognition of the determination of Jehovah to accomplish His purpose of peace, even through judgment, and recognizes the Messianic potentiality of the people of God. This is the first Messianic value of the prophecy. It is the hint of a holy seed. Gradually, as we proceed, we shall see how this develops, until the perfected and ideal Servant of God is presented, through Whom the whole nation will ultimately be restored to the fulfilment of original purpose.
The Prophet and Ahaz
Immediately following this new call of the prophet we have the account of his encounter with Ahaz. We may suppose that the reign of Jotham, and the earlier part of the reign of Ahaz were occupied with the exercise of a general ministry in accordance with the charge delivered to him. In this section we have the account of the prophet's parting company with Ahaz, and ending for a period his public ministry. It falls into four parts; the first describing the historic occasion; the second containing the comfort to Ahaz; the third telling the story of the sign; while the fourth pronounces the judgment.
The historic Occasion
Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, had entered into a confederacy against Judah. Their first attack was unsuccessful. We learn from the book of Kings that the city was blockaded, and that they were unable to come to close quarters. A crisis in the campaign was reached when the house of David, that is, the reigning house, Ahaz, learned that "Syria is confederate with Ephraim," or as the margin has it, "Syria resteth upon Ephraim," that is, the hosts of Syria had taken up their position in the territory of Ephraim. Whereas we cannot quite understand the geographical significance of the statement, it is evident that Ahaz considered that they had gained some tactical advantage, and that therefore Jerusalem was in peril. The consequence was that his heart was filled with fear, as was also the heart of his. people.
The Comfort and Condition
It was at this juncture that Jehovah commanded Isaiah to meet the king, taking with him his son Shear-jashub. The significance of the going of these two must not be passed over here, as it constitutes a key to the interpretation of much that is to follow. The meaning of the name of the prophet Isaiah is, the salvation of Jehovah; while that of his son, Shear-jashub is, a remnant shall return. Thus the prophet and his son stood before Ahaz, and Isaiah declared that the counsel of these kings should not prevail against him, if he, that is Ahaz, would take heed and be quiet. He was charged neither to fear nor to let his heart be faint on account of this confederacy. The confederacy was known to Jehovah, and He affirmed that the power of Syria and Ephraim should be broken in pieces.
The condition upon which Ahaz was to be established is that he would believe.
Speaking through the prophet, Jehovah then offered Ahaz a sign, either in the depth or in the height. Ahaz refused, saying, "I will not ask, neither will I tempt Jehovah." This refusal was an act of unbelief, notwithstanding the fact that it had the sound of religious loyalty.
The prophet rebuked Ahaz for this refusal, and then immediately declared that whereas Ahaz declined to seek a sign, even though Jehovah had bade him do so, a sign should be given. The sign would be that a virgin should conceive, and bear a son, whose name should be called Immanuel. Before that child should grow to years of discretion, the two powers which Ahaz feared, would be forsaken. This sign had an immediate significance, being a development of the word spoken in the charge to the prophet, that even the tenth remaining should be destroyed; but that the holy seed would still be found. That first Messianic reference to the holy seed now becomes a Messianic reference to the birth of a child. A comparison of this word of the prophet with the declaration of his contemporary, Micah, that out of Bethlehem Ephratah there should come forth a "ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting"; and that Jehovah would "give them up" until "she which travaileth" should bring forth, will emphasize the true Messianic value of the word; and finally Matthew's direct quotation of the prophecy of Isaiah, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, And they shall call His name Immanuel," sets the seal of New Testament authority upon the fact.
Isaiah ended his message to Ahaz by announcing and describing the judgment which would fall upon Judah in connection with the Assyrian invasion. The announcement is made in terms which are perfectly clear that judgment shall fall by the coming of the king of Assyria.
Then in graphic and poetic language the Assyrian invasion is described. Jehovah will call for the fly of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee in the land of Assyria. They will come in answer to His call, and settle upon the land. The king of Assyria will be in the hand of Jehovah as a razor with which He will remove the strength and dignity of the people.
The results of the invasion will be that the land being devastated, the people will be reduced to the habits of the life of the desert, in which butter and honey will form the staple diet.
Instead of the vines there will be briers and thorns. All will be so wildly overgrown that hunters will come there with arrows and with bow.
This is the judgment determined upon Judah, and here it is well to remember the sign. All this shall happen before the child born shall have come to years of knowledge, as between good and evil.
CHAPTER 6. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: THE SIGNS OF THE PROPHET AND HIS CHILDREN - ISAIAH 8:1-12:6
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
After the meeting with Ahaz; Isaiah, acting under definite Divine instruction, turned from public ministry, and devoted himself to an inner circle of loyal souls. This ministry lasted through the closing part of the reign of Ahaz, and continued for some considerable period during that of Hezekiah. There are no evidences of return to public ministry until the period of political intrigue in the days of Hezekiah, when an attempt was being made to arrange a secret treaty with Egypt as against Assyria.
The private ministry consists of instructions concerning the signs of the prophet and his children; the burdens of the nations; and the vision of the day of the Lord. It thus begins with the small circle of loyal souls, and then deals with the people of God; proceeding through the subject of surrounding nations, to its final consideration of the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the whole world.
The Signs of the Prophet and his Children
The first part of the prophet's ministry to the remnant consists of his instruction of them as to their place and value in the economy of Jehovah. It consists of three sections; the first is preliminary, and deals with the fact of the signs; the second is a detailed interpretation of the signs; the third being a brief final word of confidence resulting from faith.
In this section we have the account of how Isaiah turned from his more public ministry to devote himself to a small circle of believing souls, as it sets forth Jehovah's charge to the prophet, and the prophet's charge to the children.
Jehovah's Charge to the Prophet
This charge consists of the preliminary instructions, the explanation, and the final command.
The Preliminary Instructions
After the meeting with Ahaz, Jehovah commanded the prophet to write upon a great tablet the ominous and compound word Mahershalal-hash-baz, which means, the spoil speedeth, the prey hasteth. The writing on this tablet would seem to be the last act of his public ministry. In fulfilment of the declaration made to him when he was commissioned after his vision of the enthroned King, his messages had been refused. The people had heard, but had not understood; had seen, but had not perceived. His final word therefore was one which foretold the coming of judgment.
He was further instructed that Jehovah would take to Him faithful witnesses. Two only are named, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. These represented the spiritual children, that is, those people loyal to Jehovah, who constituted the remnant. At this time there was born to the prophet a son, and obeying the Divine command he called him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Thus the birth of this child constituted the first and local fulfilment of the sign given to Ahaz, that a child should be born, and that before he should come to years of discretion, the king of Assyria would act as the scourge of Jehovah.
A second message of Jehovah to the prophet afforded an explanation of the Divine method of judgment. It is evident that here in the ministry to the inner circle, the prophet's outlook was not upon Judah only, neither was it confined to Israel as the northern nation. It was rather inclusive of the whole nation according to the Divine intention. The people had refused the gentle method of the persuasion of Jehovah, and therefore they were to be dealt with by the overwhelming method of judgment. They had rejoiced in Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel (see 7:1). The reference there was to the northern kingdom of Israel, which in confederacy with Syria was at war with Judah. The waters of the river of the Assyrian host would be brought upon them, and that same Assyrian power would sweep onward into Judah; but the prophet was careful to declare that he would pass through. Even though the waters reached to the neck, Judah would not be submerged. The final word revealed how the Assyrian invasion would affect the whole of the people. "The stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel."
In response to this message of Jehovah the prophet broke out into the language of hope. This was first a challenge of faith as he defied the uproar of the peoples who were taking counsel together against the purposes of God, declaring that such conspiracy could not be successful, for, said he, "God is with us." The relation of this part of his answer to that which has preceded is seen in the fact that the declaration that the stretching out of the wings of Assyria would cover the land, described it as the land, not of the people, but of Immanuel. That word signifying "God is with us," inspired the confidence which challenged the assembling people to do their worst.
The prophet then proceeded to declare the secret of his faith. Jehovah had spoken to him that he should not be filled with that false fear of the conspiracy which characterized the attitude of the people, but rather that he should fear the Lord of hosts.
Jehovah is the only fear of faithful souls, because He is sanctuary in the midst of turmoil. This presence of Jehovah constituted the principle of sifting between the people who were of the nation of Israel. While He was sanctuary to the faithful. He was a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel.
It was in order to the fulfilment of this method that the public ministry of Isaiah ceased for a while, and he was called to devote himself to the instruction of the remnant.
The Final Command
The final and inclusive command of Jehovah to the prophet was that he should bind up the testimony, and seal the teaching among the disciples. This word was answered by the prophet in a declaration of obedience and patience, "I will wait for Jehovah, that hideth His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him."
Then the whole principle of the method was revealed by the prophet in a word which shows that he understood the particular ministry to which he was now called. "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion."
In order to an understanding of this it is necessary that we should here note that which is the key to future consideration, that the very names of the prophet and his children are significant; Isaiah signifying salvation of Jehovah; Shear-jashub, a remnant shall return; and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the spoil speedeth, the prey hasteth. Thus the name of the prophet indicated the ultimate purpose of Jehovah; the name of the son with whom he confronted Ahaz indicated the method of the remnant; while the name of the new born, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, indicated the immediate method of judgment.
The Prophet's Charge to the Children
Having thus dealt with that charge of Jehovah which constituted the reason, and explained the method of the private ministry, the prophet uttered his first charge to this inner circle of his children, and it falls into two parts; the first being of the nature of warning; and the second a proclamation for the creation of hope.
The prophet warned these people against turning in the midst of the prevailing difficulty, to those that had familiar spirits, and to wizards; referring to such, with evident disdain, as those who chirp and mutter. The test of revelation is that of the teaching and testimony derived directly from God. To return to any other professed revelation from the unseen world will result in darkness. There will be no morning for those who do so, but rather distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish, and the driving away into thick darkness.
In immediate continuation, but in remarkable contrast, the prophet declared the experience of the loyal, and declared the morning that would dawn for them, and the light into which they would come. He saw the passing of the gloom. Even Zebulun and Naphtali brought into contempt, would be made glorious. The people who walked in darkness are seen irradiated by the shining of a great light. The nation is multiplied, and filled with joy.
This will be brought about by the destruction of all opposing forces; and the things of war, the armour of the armed man, the garments rolled in blood, will be devoted to destruction by fire.
All this great deliverance will result from the advent of a Person. Here the thought of the stock remaining in the stem, of the child born in circumstances of desolation, is developed. These local facts served as illustrations in the prophet's hour of exalted vision, and he dealt with the fulfilment of the thought in the economy of God. Deliverance will come with, the coming of the Deliverer.
He described His nature. He is a child, and a son, but the terms so far from being synonymous, mark two distinct facts. The child is born unto us, coming thus into actual relationship with the human; but the son is given, and the word suggests at once the fact of His relation to God, which is fully revealed in the fulness of the times.
His power is graphically suggested in the declaration that the government shall be upon His shoulder.
His name is an expansion or elaboration of Immanuel, as it sets forth all the truth concerning God revealed in the process of human history. He is to be called the "Wonderful Counsellor," which suggests that spirit of wisdom and understanding which is the first manifestation of Deity granted to men through Nature and by creation (see Proverbs 8). He is to be called the "God-hero," which suggests that counsel and might whereby He enters into conflict with all the forces which oppose His purpose, and overcomes them. He is to be called "the Father of eternity," which suggests that perfect and final knowledge which constitutes the resting-place of all such as put their trust in Him. He is to be called "the Prince of peace," because through Him the principle of the fear of the Lord which produces purity, will be made operative, and the Kingdom of peace will thereby be established.
His programme is to be that of progress toward the ultimate establishment of the Kingdom and of peace. The use of the word "increase" here is in recognition of much that is suggested by the great fourfold name dealt with. Government is to be upon His shoulder. That government is to increase to the ultimate of peace. The method is that of a process suggested by the name. God was first known as "the Wonderful Counsellor," then as "the God-hero" then as "the Father of eternity"; and He will finally be known as "the Prince of peace." All these facts, and the forces which they connote, are resident within the child born, the son given, of whom in the fulness of times, one wrote, "It pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell." The last word of the message of hope to the little circle of loyal souls is the prophet's affirmation, "The zeal of Jehovah of hosts shall perform this."
The Interpretation of the Signs
The prophet returned to the declaration, "Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders," and proceeded to the interpretation of the signs of himself and his children; proceeding from that which was immediate to that which is ultimate.
The first was Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the sign of imminent judgment. This is followed by a parenthesis, in which he foretold the judgment of Assyria. The second was that of Shear-jashub, the sign of salvation through the remnant. The last was that of Isaiah, the sign of salvation by Jehovah.
The sign of the son, given to JudaK, is here used in its application to Israel as the northern kingdom. It falls into four strophes, each of which ends with the refrain, "For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still," which refrain is first found in the denunciation with which the prophetic ministry closed in the reign of Uzziah, and in connection with the first reference to the coming of Assyria (see 5:25). It signifies the continuity of judgment resulting from continuity of disobedience.
The first Strophe
The first strophe rebukes the pride which expresses itself in rebellion, a rebellion which is all the more sinful seeing that it is a daring defiance of previous judgment. "The bricks are fallen, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars."
Because of that rebellion Jehovah will bring against him, that is Israel, the adversaries of Rezin. The passage is somewhat obscure, but if the words, "the Syrians on the east, and the Philistines on the west," be treated as a parenthesis of reference to those with whom Israel is contemplating, if not already involved in, confederacy; then the "they" almost immediately following refers to the adversaries stirred up against Rezin, with whom it is certainly true that Pekah was then in confederacy. These, the adversaries of Rezin, that is the Assyrians, will devour Israel.
It is because of this pride that His anger has not been turned away, and His hand is stretched out still; and the scourge of Assyria is approaching.
The second Strophe
In the second strophe the prophet announced and denounced Israel's stubbornness of heart. Notwithstanding all judgment, they have not returned to Jehovah. Therefore it must fall upon all, both high and low; and pre-eminently upon the leaders of the people who have caused them to err. This judgment will be characterized by invincible severity, for the Lord will not have compassion on a people utterly profane.
Because of this stubbornness His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still in judgment, as He brings the Assyrian hosts.
The third strophe
The prophet then described the prevalence and fierceness of their wickedness, which has become like a fire burning and devouring and destroying the land. This burning element in wickedness is that of the rule of Jehovah; and all the internecine strife and bloodshed, the oppression and cruelty which Manasseh is manifesting toward Ephraim, and Ephraim toward Manasseh, and both of them toward Judah, are in themselves the instruments of Divine judgment.
This prevalent wickedness is the reason why His anger is not turned away, and in the coming of Assyria's hosts His hand is stretched out still.
The fourth Strophe
In the final strophe the prophet described the corruption of the judges and rulers of the people. Their decrees are unrighteous, their writings are perverse, they oppress all that are helpless, and their judgment is that they will themselves be overwhelmed and destroyed by the people.
This corruption of the judges and the consequent demoralization of the people is the reason why His anger is not turned away, and Assyria's hosts are to be the instruments of judgment in the hand that is stretched out still.
Thus through special application to Israel, the prophet teaches this inner circle the meaning of Maher-shalal-hash-baz. It is the sign of swift judgment; speed the spoil, hasten the prey; and the reason of the judgment is the persistent sin of the people.
Parenthesis. Judgment of Assyria
Having thus interpreted the signs of judgment in their application to Israel, the prophet in a parenthesis spoke to Assyria. Assyria was the power which Jehovah was about to use for the punishment of His people, but because it failed to understand its true relation to Him, it in turn would be judged. The prophet first described the contrast of intention; and then declared the Divine purpose.
A Contrast of Intention
Jehovah's intention is that the Assyrian shall be a rod in His hand, with which He will chastise His own people. That people is described as a profane nation, the people of His wrath; and because of this, Assyria is to speed the spoil, to take the prey, that is, to fulfil the suggestion of Maher-shalal-hash-baz.
The Assyrian intention is not that of Jehovah. "Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so." The purpose of the Assyrian is that of the destruction and the cutting off of nations, the people of God being but one among the many. To him Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom; and Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom, are no more than Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Damascus. Indeed, the graven images of these cities did excel those of Jerusalem and Samaria. Is it not therefore as easy for him to overcome the idols, or nonentities as the word signifies, of these two as of the rest? Assyria is revealed as a force bent on conquest, and as holding in contempt all confidence in religion as a secret of strength.
The Divine Purpose
The prophet then declared the Divine purpose, dealing with the determination of the Lord and the activity of Jehovah.
The Determination of the Lord
His determination is to accomplish His work on Jerusalem, that is, to use Assyria so far as He sees fit, as the rod for the punishment of His people; but it is also His purpose to punish the king of Assyria.
The reason for this determination concerning Assyria is to be discovered in what Assyria said, and in what Assyria forgot. Assyria declared that its victories were gained by its own strength, and its own prudence; afifirmed that by these things it had been able to change the boundary lines of nations, and to plunder the people of their wealth, so that none had been found who attempted to move a wing, or open the mouth, or chirp.
What Assyria forgot or failed to realize was that it was but as an axe, a saw, a rod, a staff in the hand of Another; that it was but an instrument of Jehovah.
The choice of the figures for the instrument is one in harmony with the constant figure of the cutting down of the trees, notwithstanding which, a stock is to be left. Thus as the prophet was instructing the remnant, there would come to them a recognition of many applications of the principle of his teaching.
The Activity of Jehovah
The activity of Jehovah against Assyria is then graphically described as leanness, produced by a burning like the burning of fire; as a devouring, produced by a fire and a flame which is that of the light of Israel and the Holy One of Israel; as a consuming, which produces fainting. Even of Assyria there shall be left a remnant of the trees of his forest, but only a remnant.
This description of the Divine activity suggests that strange and mystic calamity which overtook the hosts, which is chronicled in the historic section of the book (see 37:36-38).
The sign of the son who accompanied Isaiah on his embassy to Ahaz is here interpreted in its revelation of the method of God in the preservation of the remnant. The prophet first foretold the issue of the preservation of the remnant; then delivered a message of comfort to the remnant; and finally described the process of judgment.
The Issue foretold
In that day, that is, the day of the judgment of Israel, - the connection here being with the interpretation of Maher-shalal-hash-baz, - the remnant of Israel will have learned the lesson of dependence upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel.
The declaration that only a remnant will return is opened by the use of the name Shear-jashub, which our translators have in this case translated, "a remnant shall return." The declaration would be more forceful if it were left in this blunt form, "Shear-jashub, the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God." That is the great principle. It will only be a remnant; and that after a consumption, the consumption of judgment; but that also in order to a consummation, the consummation of the purpose of Jehovah in the midst of the earth. Thus the issue of this faithful remnant is that it will constitute an instrument of Jehovah for the carrying forward of His purposes through consumption to consummation, that is, through judgment to peace.
The Consequent Message
Having thus foretold the issue and revealed the value of the remnant, the prophet spoke directly to TJzziah, Zechariah, and the rest of the loyal souls gathered about him, his message of comfort. Dwelling in the midst of Zion with the hosts of Assyria approaching, they were charged not to be afraid, for in "a very little while" the indignation would be accomplished; and also the anger of Jehovah in the destruction of Assyria.
The prophet then described that destruction. The scourge would be scourged, with the result that the burden of Assyria would depart from the shoulder of the people of God, and its yoke from their neck. This declaration of deliverance ends with a very remarkable word, "The yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." The difficulty of the statement is recognized, and various interpretations have been suggested. Dr. Skinner says, "This has usually been interpreted to mean that the animal (Judah) will 'wax fat and kick' (Deuteronomy 32:15), and break its yoke; or that its increasing fatness will burst the yoke of its neck (a very odd comparison!)." We do not wonder that he adds, "Neither of these senses is at all tolerable." We should be inclined to describe them as non-senses, because such interpretation is entirely out of harmony with the whole teaching that the yoke is broken in order that Judah may prosper, not as the result of her prosperity. May there not here be a recognition of that initial purpose of God, that cannot be frustrated, His anointing of His people to the fulfilment of a mission?
The Process of Judgment
In view of the issue which he had foretold, and the consciousness of safety, which in accord with his message must be the consciousness of the remnant, the prophet then in graphic language described the judgment on Israel to be brought about by Assyria. The approach of the army of Assyria is imaginatively watched as it sweeps by the way of the passes, and through the valleys on its march from Samaria in the north, towards Jerusalem in the south; nearer yet and nearer, until it is seen at Nob, threatening the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. It is the coming of the scourge of God.
By this coming the judgment on Israel would be fulfilled. Most expositors treat this last paragraph as describing the Divine judgment on Assyria, by which her power will be broken. Now while it is perfectly true as the prophet has distinctly foretold, that Jehovah will at last break the power of Assyria, the figures of speech made use of here forbid our accepting that interpretation of this passage.
If we return to the commission to the prophet after his vision (see 6:13), we find a description of the coming judgment under the figure of the felling of trees, in which the stock was yet to remain. If we take a glance ahead, to the burden of Babylon, which is really the burden of Assyria, as we shall see in due course, the prophet declares that when Assyria is overcome, Israel will rejoice, and he refers to the rejoicing by the declaration, "Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying. Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us" (see 14:8). Thus the figure of the felling of trees is that of the judgment on Israel, (Note: When the figure was used of Assyria (10:19) the fact was emphasized by the use of the word "his"; "the trees of his forest.") and in this word of the prophet, Assyria is seen as the feller who lops the boughs and hews down the high ones, and brings down the lofty ones, so that Lebanon falls by a mighty one.
Moreover the fact is not to be lost sight of that the very next sentence in the prophecy, which we shall consider in our next chapter, carries out the thought of the word spoken in the prophet's commission, that though the trees be destroyed, in their stock the holy seed will remain, as it declares that there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and so forth. Thus in dealing with the meaning of the sign of the son, Shear-jashub, the prophet shows that the remnant will be the vantage ground of Jehovah, as He moves forward to the accomplishment of His purpose; while he recognizes that Assyria is the instrument in the hand of Jehovah for judgment upon the people of God.
Finally the prophet turned to the interpretation of himself as a sign to the people of God. In this section his eyes were lifted toward the light of a far-off day. With judgment imminent he yet saw the ultimate issue of it all. The study of this whole book of Isaiah cannot fail to impress the mind with the sympathy in principle and experience of this great prophet of the ancient economy with the ultimate Servant of God; and in this particular section the underlying relationship is discovered, as he, whose name signified salvation by Jehovah, dealt with that coming salvation by describing first the coming One; and secondly the coming day.
This division is suggestive of the fact that the coming One is the Branch, David's son; but in the coming day He will be revealed as the Root, David's Lord.
The coming One
The coming One is first described as to His coming. He is to be a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and therefore a branch out of his roots. By reference once more to the final word in the commission to the prophet (see 6:13), and to the figure of the cutting down of Lebanon immediately preceding (see 10;33), we see how through the remnant, the stock out of the original root is to be preserved, from which the shoot, the branch, will come for the fulfilment of the purposes of Jehovah.
The prophet then described His anointing, first inclusively, in the declaration that the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him; and then particularly, in the fourfold description of that Spirit, which is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; the Spirit of counsel and might; the Spirit of knowledge; and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. This description exactly carries out the suggestiveness of the name of the child born, the son given, which the prophet had announced in that first message to the inner circle of disciples. The Spirit of wisdom and understanding is that of the wonderful Counsellor. The Spirit of counsel and might is that of the God-hero. The Spirit of knowledge is that of the Father of eternity. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord is that of the Prince of peace. These, as we saw when dealing with them, are the elaborations of the inclusive name, Immanuel, God with us.
Now notice the relation between all these things. The great first word is Immanuel. The fulfilment of that in the history of the Divine purpose is the birth of a child, and the giving of a son, whose name is to be fourfold as announced. The prophet now declares that the Deliverer is to be a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, that is, the child born unto us; but He is also to be the Branch out of his roots, that is, the Son given, and His anointing is to be that of the fulness of the Spirit of Jehovah, in fourfold character as described, perfectly harmonizing with the fourfold name as announced.
The prophet immediately proceeded to the description of His rule. Its aim is that of the establishment of the fear of the Lord, which is the principle of purity, and therefore the foundation of peace.
The method of His rule is first described negatively. He will not judge after the sight of His eyes, nor decide after the hearing of His ears; that is to say, judgment based upon the observation possible by the senses, which is the only basis of human judgment. He will abandon. The method is then stated positively. His judgment will be based upon spiritual and therefore continual principles, those of righteousness and equity and judgment.
Finally in poetic phrasing the prophet described His Kingdom. It will be a Kingdom of perfect peace from which all the things which are contrary to peace, will be banished. It will be a Kingdom in which the child will be able to play in fulfilment of the first Divine intention for it. The secret of victory will be that through this coming One the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.
The coming Day
The prophet then described with yet greater detail the coming day. It will be a day of the rule of the Koot of Jesse, which is a recognition of the fact that David's son, the Branch, is also David's Lord, the Root. There is a fourfold description of His day indicated by the repetition of the phrase, "in that day."
First, it will be a day of the realization of purpose. The Deliverer will stand not only as the King of the chosen people, but an ensign for the peoples, gathering to Himself the nations; and His reign will be the resting-place of glory. In that great vision which prepared the prophet for his profounder ministry, he had seen the enthroned Jehovah, and had listened to the song of the seraphim which declared that the fulness of the whole earth is the glory of Jehovah. In this vision he sees the Deliverer enthroned, and under His dominion the fulfilment of the ideal, His resting-place is glorious. There is significance moreover, in this description of the Kingdom as the resting-place of the Deliverer. Never until that final purpose of peace is accomplished will He find rest. Such a consideration inevitably brings to mind the word of the One in Whom these prophecies are fulfilled, "My Father worketh even until now, and I work."
The prophet then described the programme of the day. It will first be a day for the recovery of the remnant. The scattered ones will be re-gathered from all the places to which they have been driven, around His ensign, which is an ensign for the nations, for the outcasts of Israel, and the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth. Gathered about that ensign the issues will be first the restoration of unity as between the divided nation of God. The envy of Ephraim will depart, and Judah will not vex Ephraim. In that restored unity they will come to the hour of perfect victory over their foes, and all this will be accomplished in the power of the activity of Jehovah, Who will create a highway along which the remnant of His people will pass.
That day will be a day of personal praise. Israel will celebrate in glad and exultant language its restoration to Divine favour; "I will give thanks unto Thee, O Jehovah; for though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me"; and will declare that her salvation is of God, that Jehovah alone is her strength, her song, and her salvation. Failure to realize these things has been the cause of all her suffering. The recognition of them, and submission to them, will be the outcome of the work of the Deliverer, and create the glad experience of His day.
The day moreover will be one of relative praise, that is of the praise of the peoples. Israel will cry to the nations, "Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon His name," and thus fulfil the purpose of testimony for which she was at first created.
This first section of the private ministry, which has been one of interpretation to the remnant, after the binding of the testimony, and the sealing of the teaching among the disciples, is that of an outburst of praise. When the command was laid upon the prophet thus to bind the testimony and seal the teaching, he responded with the word of obedient patience, "I will wait for Jehovah, that hideth His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him." In faith he had described the day of light, of the coming of the child and the son, ending by faith with the words, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this."
Now finally addressing himself to that little inner circle he cried, "Sing unto Jehovah; for He hath done excellent things; let this be known in all the earth." It was the word of a strong faith which dared to speak of the ultimate victory in the tenses of accomplished things, even though for the moment the circumstances were those of darkness and of desolation.
The last word reveals the secret of the faith. "Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." All without speaks of failure and of disaster. The very chosen nation is torn asunder, and tossed with tumult, and passing under judgment. Not on these outward circumstances do the eyes of faith rest, but upon the Holy One in the midst; and therefore faith expresses itself in song, even in the hour of sorrow.
CHAPTER 7. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: BURDEN OF NATIONS: ASSYRIA - ISAIAH 13:1-14:27
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Burdens of the Nations
The second part of the prophet's ministry to the remnant consists of the burdens of the nations, in which he interpreted to his children the activity of the Divine government, as he dealt with the manifestations of national sin, and consequent Divine judgments thereupon.
There are ten sections, which may thus be tabulated;
- Assyria, the lust for empire
- Philistia, a false hope
- Moab, pride
- Damascus, rebellious alliance
- Egypt, oppression
- Babylon, luxury
- Edom, animalism
- Arabia, Ishmaelism
- Jerusalem, forgetfulness of God
- Tyre, the oppression of commerce
The first of the burdens of the nations has to do with Assyria. It will be found that the burden of Babylon comes later (see 21:1-10) (Note: In support of this view the reader is referred to Dr. Thirtle's "Old Testament Problems.") In dealing with the doom of Assyria the prophet foretold its judgment; announced the restoration of Israel; uttered the parable of Israel; pronounced the sentence; and applied the burden.
The Judgment Foretold
In graphic language the prophet announced the proximity of judgment, describing first the mustering of the hosts, and then their marching. Again the supreme note is that of the government of God. Those who are to come against Assyria are not named, but are described as the "consecrated ones" of Jehovah, His "mighty men," His "proudly exulting ones," or as the margin has it, those who "exult in His majesty." The noise of the mobilization of the hosts was heard by the prophet, and he declared that Jehovah mustered the host for the battle.
That host is then seen marching toward the accomplishment of His purpose, under His direct guidance; and the enemies of Jehovah are described in the panic which will seize them at the approach of judgment.
The prophet proceeded to declare the purpose of this judgment. The day of the Lord would be a day for the destruction of sinners out of the land, which they had polluted. The peculiar sin of the oppressor had been that of arrogancy and haughtiness, against which Jehovah would proceed in judgment by the army which He would raise up.
Finally the prophet described the process of judgment, naming the Medes as the people who would come against Assyria and destroy her. The Medes here must not be confused with those who subsequently joined with the Persians. All recent research has proved that these two peoples must be distinguished. (Note: For fuller information the reader should consult Murray's "Illustrated Bible Dictionary," in article by Dr. W. St. Clare Tisdall; and article by Sayce in "Hastings's Bible Dictionary."). These people, acting under the government of Jehovah, would not be bought off, but with relentless determination would prosecute their campaign until the whole land was rendered destitute and desolate.
The Restoration of Israel
The reason of the judgment determined against Assyria was that of Jehovah's compassion for His people. In spite of all their iniquity and desolation He would yet choose them, and set them in their own land; and instead of being captive, they would hold captive those who had ruled over them and oppressed them.
The Parable of Israel
The prophet then declared that in the day when Jehovah gave them rest, they would take up a parable against their enemy. Anticipating this great day of restoration, the prophet put into the mouth of Israel a taunting song, celebrating the downfall of Assyria. This moves in five distinct strophes.
In the first the deliverance wrought for the whole earth through the overthrow of the oppressor is described. The golden city had been the city of widespread oppression, and on her destruction the whole earth would find rest; especially the fir trees and cedars of Lebanon, against which, as we have seen in previous considerations, Assyria had come up as a feller, would find reason for rejoicing.
In the second, in language full of daring imagery, the song celebrates the consternation of the under- world at the fall of Assyria. All the great ones already dead are moved with astonishment that at last even so great a power has been broken, and such remarkable pomp brought to share corruption.
In the third the sin which culminates in such destruction is revealed. It is that of rebellion against the throne of God; the ambition which attempted to thwart His purpose, and contest with Him the right of empire.
The fourth announces the completeness of the destruction. While other kings sleep in glory, this proud potentate is to be flung out unburied, as utterly evil.
The fifth and final strophe announces the utter extermination, not only of Assyria, but of its name.
Summary of Sentence
In brief and summarized fashion, the prophet then declared that the judgment would be that of the direct action of Jehovah, and therefore complete and final destruction.
The final word of the burden is one of direct application in which no longer under the figurative name of Babylon, - the perpetual symbol of the principle of godlessness, - but in direct declaration, the prophet declared that Jehovah "hath sworn," that "He will break the Assyrian." It is the solemn announcement of the oath of Jehovah that in order to the freeing of His people, He would destroy their enemy.
The certainty of the prophet concerning fulfilment is based upon the fact that the purpose is Divine, and so also is the power, because the hand of Jehovah is stretched out, and none can turn it back.
This burden of Assyria was in all probability uttered to the inner circle of the prophet's children during the reign of Ahaz, while Assyria was threatening the nation.
CHAPTER 8. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: BURDEN OF NATIONS: PHILISTIA AND MOAB - ISAIAH 14:28-16:14
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Burdens of the Nations
The burden concerning Philistia is distinctly dated as having been uttered in the year that king Ahaz died. It would appear as though some power which had oppressed Philistia had been destroyed, and she had sent messengers to Judah, it may be, seeking alliance with her. Isaiah was consistently opposed to the alliance of the people of God with other nations, for any purpose whatsoever; and his message was of the nature of a warning. Although the rod that smote her was broken, she was yet in peril. There were other forces at the disposal of Jehovah with which He was able to deal with Philistia; and the prophet announced "a smoke out of the north," as indicating a judgment imminent upon Philistia. The only answer proper for Judah to the messengers would be one which declared that the refuge of the people of God must ever be in Jehovah alone.
The burden of Moab falls into two parts. The first is an ancient prophecy, and the second a new prophecy. This distinction is made evident if the final statement is read (see 16:13).
The words, "This is the word that the Lord spake concerning Moab in time past," make it evident that the first burden of Moab had been uttered at some earlier stage in the ministry of Isaiah, and is now repeated.
The Ancient Prophecy
The ancient burden commences by declaring the desolation determined upon Moab; and then by describing her consequent helplessness.
A catastrophe will overtake Moab in a night, in which two of her chief cities will be swept out. The resulting desolation is graphically portrayed. Her people are seen gathering in their high places, mourning and lamenting with all the signs of overwhelming grief.
So terrible is the desolation that even the prophet exclaimed "My heart crieth out for Moab." Her nobles are scattered in every direction, and all their wealth; and no refuge is found for them.
Having crossed into Edom, the scattered people would appeal to Judah for sanctuary, offering to send to her the tribute which they had been accustomed to pay to Israel (see 2 Kings 3:4); asking that they might find refuge under the government of the throne of David.
The language attributed to Moab here is interesting as revealing an understanding of the Divine purpose in the establishment of the Hebrew people.
The plea of Moab will not be granted. Judah will refuse because of the arrogancy and pride of Moab, which are known to her.
The result will be the renewed mourning of Moab, consequent upon the desolation overtaking her land. So terrible will this desolation be that the ancient prophecy ends in lamentation.
The New Prophecy
As we have seen, the prophet now declared that this was a word spoken by Jehovah in time past concerning Moab, which must now inevitably be fulfilled. The time-limit was set. Within three years the glory of Moab would be brought into contempt.
It is most interesting to notice that the principle of the remnant obtains even here. As in the case of Assyria "the remnant of the trees of his forest shall be few that a child might write them" (see 10:19), so in that of Moab the "remnant shall be very small and of no account." Yet the fact remains that in the government of God, even when His method is that of judgment, there is always the discrimination which preserves enough to constitute a nucleus toward final restoration.
CHAPTER 9. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: BURDEN OF NATIONS: DAMASCUS AND INTERLUDE - ISAIAH 17:1-18:7
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Burdens of the Nations
The burden of Damascus announces its doom. It is evident however that the prophet had in mind an alliance which had been entered into between Israel or Ephraim, and Damascus. He declared the doom of Damascus; announced the judgment on Ephraim; foretold the effect; and finally stated the reason of the judgment.
The Doom of Damascus
The utter destruction of Damascus is foretold. The place of it will be so desolate that flocks will lie down without fear. This declaration is made in order to show the effect which the destruction of Damascus will produce upon Ephraim. She has been trusting to Damascus to shield her from the threatened attack of Assyria. Thus in the destruction of Damascus, the fortress of Ephraim will cease.
The Judgment on Ephraim
The result of this destruction will be that of judgment on Ephraim, which judgment the prophet described under three figures; first, that of wasting disease; second, that of the harvest; and the third, that of the shaking of the olive tree. While the judgment will be severe, it will not issue in the total destruction of Ephraim, and the fact of the preservation of the remnant is indicated by the "two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough," and the "four or five in the outmost branches of a fruitful tree."
This paragraph is of the nature of a parenthesis, but is full of beauty, as it reveals the effect of judgment in the economy of God. It will produce in a remnant, at least, a return to God, and the consequent putting away of idols. Through processes of judgment Ephraim will be brought to say, as Hosea foretold, "What have I to do any more with idols? ... from me is Thy fruit found."
The Reason of Judgment
Taking up again the subject of judgment, the prophet declared the reason for it. Repeating the declaration of judgment, by declaring that the strong cities of Ephraim would be like those cities which were forsaken before the conquering marc}i of the children of Israel, he declared that the reason of such desolation would be that Ephraim had forgotten God.
The connection between the declaration that Damascus was the fortress of Ephraim, and that God was the true Rock of her strength, must not be overlooked. Having forgotten the true stronghold, she had put her trust in the false fortress. That was the sin which must inevitably result in judgment.
Interlude. Prophet's Soliloquy
Between the burden of Damascus, and that of Egypt we have a paragraph consisting of two sections which begin with the exclamation "Ah." It is evidently of the nature of a prophetic soliloquy, and reveals the prophet's consciousness of the condition of things in the surrounding nations, and of his knowledge of the advent in Judah of certain ambassadors, all of which events were seen by him in the light of the Divine watchfulness and government. It falls into two parts, the first of which reveals the prophet's consciousness; while the second contains his proclamation to the ambassadors.
The prophet's consciousness was first that of the uproar or multitude of many peoples, all of them antagonistic to the people of God. It is a graphic portrayal of turmoil and strife among the nations in opposition to the people of Jehovah.
All this however he saw in the light of the strength of the Divine government. The nations rushing like waters would be rebuked by Jehovah; and in consequence would flee, chased like chaff before the wind, like dust before the storm. The one brief but remarkable declaration, "At eventide behold terror; and before the morning they are not," in all probability had special reference to the destruction of the Assyrian host.
This vision of opposing nations set upon the destruction of the chosen people, and of the strength of Jehovah's defence, produced the calm strength in the mind of the prophet which enabled him to say, "This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us."
The Prophet's Proclamation
The second part of the soliloquy first expresses the prophet's consciousness of the coming of ambassadors. Who they were it is impossible to say. The figure of the rustling of wings may suggest the land beyond the Nile, the land of locusts, or of the tsetse fly. The description of the ambassadors coming in vessels of papyrus by the sea would be in harmony with this view, as they would travel by the way of the Nile.
The message of the prophet to these men was that they should return to their people, and wait for the action of Jehovah. If these ambassadors came offering help to the people of God by suggesting some new alliance, the proclamation of the prophet consisted in a firm and courteous refusal of that help.
His reason for such refusal he then declared as he told of the message of Jehovah which he had received.
Jehovah was waiting. The figures made use of are those of preparation preceding harvest.
At the right moment He will act in judgment, and the figure is that of the gathering of the harvest.
Finally the prophet declared that the issue of the activity of Jehovah would be the subjection of these very people, "tall and smooth," "terrible from their beginning onward," to Jehovah; as they would come to the place of His name," the mount Zion."
The supreme value of this soliloquy of the prophet is its revelation of his consciousness of the strength and sufficiency of Jehovah for the accomplishment of His purpose, even in the presence of the turmoil and opposition of overwhelming multitudes. The true attitude of the people of Jehovah under such circumstances is made clear in the message of the prophet to the ambassadors, and is that of the recognition of the fact that Jehovah is watching and preparing, and will act at the proper moment, and that therefore of waiting for Him in perfect confidence and rest.
CHAPTER 10. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: BURDEN OF NATIONS: EGYPT - ISAIAH 19:1-20:6
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Burdens of the Nations
The burden of Egypt is remarkable in that while it pronounces the doom of the nation which had so cruelly oppressed the Hebrews, it yet contains a word of hope for them, as the prophet, looking far ahead, saw the purposes of God triumphing over all obstacles, and His power winning a final victory over all peoples.
The burden falls into three parts; the first foretelling the doom of Egypt; the second proclaiming a message of hope for Egypt; while the third foretells an immediate doom, evidently as a warning to sinning Judah.
The Doom of Egypt
The prophet foretold the destruction of Egypt by an advent, and a direct activity of Jehovah, Whom he saw coming to Egypt, riding upon a swift cloud.
The effect of the advent would be that of consternation among the idols, and the melting of the heart of Egypt. The evidences of the power of Jehovah would fill the mind of the people with terror, and shake to its foundation their confidence in their idols. This consciousness of the presence of Jehovah, issuing in the destruction of the idols, would result from the experiences through which Egypt would pass.
The first described is that of civil war, in which the nation is seen broken up in family life, in social life, in civic life, and in national life. The great secret of this civil strife as revealed to the prophet, is that of the direct action of Jehovah, "I will stir up the Egyptians."
The second description is of the failure of Egypt in counsel. Her spirit is made void or empty, that is, incapable of wise action. Perplexed, her people turn to idols, and to those who deal with the dark spirits of the under-world. This also is the result of the presence of Jehovah, "I will destroy the counsel thereof."
The last description is that of the nation led captive by a "cruel lord" under whose despotic rule they serve as slaves. This again will be the result of the activity of Jehovah, "I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel lord."
These judgments in national life are to be accompanied by physical catastrophe of the most terrible kind. The strength of Egypt was ever that of the Nile, and the great river is to fail, with the inevitable result of widespread pestilence, and the withering up of all the vegetable life dependent upon the waters of the river.
As the result of the failure of the Nile there must inevitably follow the failure of those industries which have been the staple strength of the Egyptian people. Fishing will cease, both by line and net, when the waters fail. Weaving will also inevitably be at an end when through failure of the water, flax and cotton alike shall cease. Building will also be impossible, as the foundations are broken in pieces, and therefore all labourers will be filled with grief.
Contemplating this judgment, the prophet broke out into a description of the national failure of Egypt. Commencing with the rulers he described them as "utterly foolish," as having "become brutish." Her princes are fools and are deceived, and by reason of this failure of the rulers, the nation has been led astray. At the centre of this description of their failure the prophet broke out into a taunt, "where then are thy wise men?" and affirmed anew the fact that all this doom of Egypt was by the will and action of Jehovah.
While thus filling the rulers with folly, Jehovah mingled a spirit of perverseness in the midst of the people, so that they followed the lead of their false leaders with the folly of drunkenness. The last word describes the general condition of Egypt. It is without work, for the capitalist or the labourer, the head or tail; for patrician or plebeian, palm branch or rush. On all the land there rests the paralysis resulting from the advent of Jehovah in judgment.
The Hope of Egypt
From this foretelling of the doom of Egypt the prophet passed in a swift and almost startling transition, to utter a message of hope concerning her.
The difficulty of the passage is admitted. It seems strange that such a word of hope should be found between two messages of doom. Whatever the explanation may be, the fact remains that this is one of the most exalted movements in the whole prophetic burden. It will be noticed that the passage falls into five sections, each beginning with that significant phrase, "in that day"; which so constantly recurs in the prophetic writings, with reference to some definite and decisive action of Jehovah. In the brief prophecy of Joel we have the clearest revelation of its significance, that prophecy being the result of a vision in perspective of the highway of Jehovah through the centuries. To Joel the day of Jehovah had always come, and was always coming.
Having declared the doom of Egypt, Isaiah's eyes were fixed upon some future day, a day of Jehovah in which even Egypt will be brought into submission to Him. The five sections already referred to may be divided into two parts, the first three describing a process, and the last two the issue.
The first fact in the process is that Egypt will be filled with fear at the mention of Judah. Let it be carefully noticed that this fear has no connection with the doom already foretold. While the judgment of that doom will be that of Jehovah, His instrument will be a cruel lord, and a fierce king. The judgment of Egypt will not be brought about by Judah. This therefore is an entirely separate event, of which we have no further particulars, other than the declaration that it will be the carrying out of the purpose of Jehovah.
The result of this fear will be that of the submission of five Egyptian cities, which will adopt the Hebrew language and swear to Jehovah of hosts. The name of one of these cities is given, but differences of text create difficulties of interpretation. Some give it as the city of destruction, and others as the city of the sun. In all probability the latter is correct, and the declaration means that the worship of the sun will be abandoned for that of Jehovah. The main value however of this second section is its declaration of submission, following upon fear.
The next and final movement in the process is that of the Divine action, the healing following upon the establishment of the worship of Jehovah. In the declaration that "there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord," we have a somewhat remarkable bringing together of the central symbols of worship in Hebrew and pagan religions; the altar of the Hebrew, and the sacred stone of the pagan. At the entrance to the land such stones are to be erected to the Lord, as a sign to all who enter, that He is worshipped in the land; whilst in the midst of the land His altar will be found.
In that day when the people of Egypt thus cry to the Lord, the prophet declares that He will send them a Saviour and a mighty One Who will deliver them.
It will be a day when Egypt and the Egyptians will know Jehovah, will worship Him, will vow a vow unto Him, and perform it; and in answer to this attitude He will heal.
The last two sections declare the issue of this restoration of Egypt, and brief as the paragraph is, it constitutes an exalted height of prophetic outlook upon the ultimate purposes of God in the world. Looking upon the nations which were immediately related to the chosen people, and those moreover, which were their supreme enemies, Egypt and Assyria, Isaiah saw Egypt and Assyria united in an alliance, based upon mutual worship.
Finally his vision was that of an alliance between Israel, Egypt, and Assyria; the issue of which would be blessing for the earth. The last words of description reveal the prophet's assurance of the ultimate triumph of the beneficent purposes of God; "Egypt My People," " Assyria the work of My hands," "Israel Mine inheritance."
The Doom of Egypt
In this brief paragraph we have the first intimation of Isaiah's consciousness or suspicion that the rulers were meditating seeking help from Egypt against Assyria; (Note: Unless the message to the Ambassadors in his soliloquy (18;1-3) had such reference; which is doubtful.) which is developed more fully presently in the resumption of his public ministry.
For three years during the reign of Hezekiah, and in all probability during the time of the silence of the prophet as to public testimony, he went about Jerusalem in the dress of a beggar. In this prophecy he explained, to the inner circle of his disciples, the sign of his strange and long-continued action. As he had thus wandered naked and barefoot, so the people of Egypt would be led away by the king of Assyria to the shame of Egypt.
In that day the people who were hoping that Egypt would deliver them from Assyria, would discover the folly of their confidence.
CHAPTER 11. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: BURDEN OF NATIONS: BABYLON, DUMAH AND ARABIA - ISAIAH 21:1-21:17
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Burdens of the Nations
That the "burden of the wilderness" is that of Babylon is evident from the declaration at its close, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen." The prophet first described his vision of the whirlwind. He saw the Persian hosts sweeping like a whirlwind from the wilderness against Babylon. So terrible was the sight that the prophet himself was filled with horror, which he described in graphic and forceful language.
Babylon is seen in the midst of carousal, which is suddenly interrupted, evidently by the onslaught of the Persian whirlwind from the wilderness.
The prophet next described the method by which the vision came to him. He had been commanded by Jehovah to watch, and he had done so with patience, until at last, the vision completed, Jehovah made the declaration to him that "Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods are broken unto the ground."
The prophet finally addressed that remnant whom he was instructing as, "My threshing, and the corn of My floor"; declaring that what he had now told them he had heard from Jehovah.
In this burden of Babylon, the predictive element is remarkably present. In a little while Judah passed under the power of Babylon, who became Jehovah's instrument of judgment against her. The overcoming of Babylon by Persia did not take place for over one hundred and fifty years.
The burden of Dumah is characterized by brevity and great indefiniteness.
The prophet is still upon his watch-tower, from which vantage ground he had seen the destruction of Babylon. He hears the inquiry out of Seir twice repeated, "Watchman, what of the night?"
Towards the end of the exile it would appear that Edom had some kind of alliance with Babylon, and would naturally be filled with anxiety as the hosts of Persia swept upon and overcame their ally. Looking far on, and listening, the prophet was conscious of this anxiety, but he had no answer that was definite or satisfactory. His only reply was that of the morning and of the night. In all probability he meant that the destruction of Babylon would be the hour of morning for Judah, and of night for Dumah.
At the moment however, he had no clear vision, and no definite message, but he ended by calling them to inquire again at a later period.
The burden on Arabia is equally difficult of explanation. It consists of a vision and an interpretation.
The vision is that of caravans, lodging in the forests, and being ministered to by the inhabitants of the land of Tema. They were fugitives as the result of war.
The interpretation of the vision is that Jehovah had determined upon the destruction of the wandering tribes of the Syrian desert.
If this burden is to be taken in connection with that of the destruction of Babylon, and the one in response to the inquiry of Seir, then the hosts destroying these wandering Arabs would be the Persians, who would come against Babylon and overcome it. The expression "within a year" does not necessarily refer to the time of the prophetic utterance. It is far more likely to mean within a year from the attack on Babylon.
CHAPTER 12. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: BURDEN OF NATIONS: JERUSALEM AND TYRE - ISAIAH 22:1-23:18
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Burdens of the Nations
The burden of "the valley of vision" is a message concerning the sinful and hilarious indifference of Jerusalem in the presence of imminent danger.
It falls into two parts, the first being a denunciation of the sin of Jerusalem; and the second a declaration of a change of rulers.
The Sin of Jerusalem
The joy of Jerusalem was a malady, and this the prophet indicated in his opening question "What aileth thee now?" The city was full of tumultuous merry-making. In the presence of peril there would be honour in the death of those who would perish in defence of the city; but the prophet declared with infinite scorn that their slain were not slain with the sword. Amid the rejoicing, the prophet was filled with sorrow, and refused to enter into the merriment of the multitudes, or to be comforted.
He then described the gathering of the armies against Jerusalem. The day was full of danger. Judgment from the sovereign Lord Jehovah was imminent. The armies of the enemies were round about, the valleys being full of chariots, and the horsemen already set in array at the gate.
The state of siege was next described. Within the city preparations had been made for defence; but the people were trusting to their own preparation, and had forgotten Jehovah, the one and only covering of Judah, the One Who had so constantly cared for His people.
The sovereign Lord Jehovah had called the people to weeping, and to all the attitudes and activities of grief, and of repentance; and their reply had been that of joy and gladness, of eating and of drinking. In all such manifestations of joy there was evident the consciousness of despair which really filled the heart of the people, in the words, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die."
In the presence of such a danger, joy was a sin. The true attitude of the people would have been that of humiliation and repentance, instead of which they made what defence they could, and then abandoned themselves to feasting and to merriment. Such action was a final evidence of their rebellion against God, and He declared that the sin could only be expiated by the death of the people.
The Change of Rulers
Suddenly the prophet uttered his message concerning the change of rulers. There is no doubt that the joyful attitude of the city which he denounced was partly due to the fact that already the politicians were at work, attempting to arrange some secret treaty with an outside people; and Shebna, whose name suggests that he was a foreigner, was in all likelihood a leader in the party favourable to such intrigue; while Eliakim was favourable to the position consistently maintained by Isaiah, that all such alliance was contrary to the will of Jehovah. In the historic portion of the book, Eliakim is found occupying the position from which Shebna is, according to this word of the prophet, to be deposed.
The pride of Shebna is first dealt with as the prophet challenged him as to what right he had in the city, that he should prepare for himself there a burying-place.
In language full of terrific force the prophet declared that Jehovah would hurl him away, and toss him out like a ball.
In his place Eliakim the son of Hilkiah would be appointed. While there is undoubtedly a Messianic value in this passage concerning Eliakim, we must be careful not to forget its first application. The prophet declared that he would be appointed by Jehovah, and perfectly equipped by Him for the fulfilment of his work. Moreover under the Divine direction his administration would be successful.
His ultimate fall is foretold. The nail fastened in a sure place will give way, and that because it becomes overloaded. The man Divinely appointed, will abuse his power by appointing his relations to official positions. The result of this will be the breaking of the nail, and the cutting off of the burden imposed upon it.
The burden of Tyre falls into two parts. The first is a song in three movements, setting forth her doom. The second is a prediction of a restoration, for the purposes of Jehovah.
The Doom of Tyre
The first movement in the song is a graphic description of a catastrophe which has overtaken her. Her returning ships find the city laid waste, without a house standing, and the harbours blocked, so that there is no entering in. Her borders are desolate, and the inhabitants of the coast land are amazed at the desolation of the city which had been the mart of nations. The sea itself, which had been the highway of her traffic, is abandoned. When Egypt receives the report of the desolation of her ally, she is filled with fear.
The second movement of the song reveals the cause of the desolation. That desolation is again contemplated in its entirety, and in taunting measure the prophet, addressing the inhabitants of the coast land, inquired whether this was the joyous city. He then asked the cause, and replied that her destruction was the act of Jehovah. The central declaration of the song is this, "The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth." The only glory of Tyre had been that of her material prosperity, and her destruction was the Divine rebuke of such failure.
In view of this fact the desolation is again described in all its completeness, and the song ends on the note with which it commenced, "Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your stronghold is laid waste."
After the song, the prophet uttered a definite prediction that for seventy years Tyre would be forgotten, after which she would be visited by Jehovah, and restored to a position of affluence.
It is to be carefully noted that there is no hint in this prediction of any turning to God on the part of Tyre. Indeed the prophecy makes it perfectly clear that in her restoration she will again play the harlot with the kings of the earth. Her restoration is, in the economy of God, in some way to be of service to His people.
CHAPTER 13. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PRIVATE MINISTRY: THE DAY OF THE LORD; DESOLATION AND RESTORATION - ISAIAH 24:1-27:13<
Prophecies of Judgment
Second Circle. Private Ministry
The Vision of the Day of the Lord
With the arresting introductory word "Behold," the prophet turned from his burdens of the nations, to the third and final section of that second circle of his ministry, which was conducted in private on behalf of the remnant. In this section the prophecy takes a wider outlook, as the result of the prophet's vision of the whole earth as being under the government of the throne of God. The theme is that of the vision of the day of the Lord, and the treatment falls into two parts; first, the vision of desolation; and secondly, the vision of restoration.
The Vision of Desolation
In the prophecy of coming desolation there are two movements, the first of which declares that the word of the Lord announces the determination of Jehovah to visit the earth in judgment; while the second describes the work of Jehovah in carrying out His word.
The Word of the Lord, Devastation determined
The description is first in general terms, and announces the fact that Jehovah will reduce the land to barrenness and confusion, with the result that the inhabitants will be scattered.
With particular care the prophet next pointed out that this judgment would affect all classes of the community alike. When the fruitfulness of the land ceases, the people must inevitably be reduced to the common level of poverty and suffering.
The declaration that the land is thus to be emptied and spoiled is repeated with new emphasis, the prophet declaring that it must be so because Jehovah has spoken the word.
The Work of the Word. Devastation described
The prophet immediately proceeded to describe the devastation, dealing first in detail with the land. The working of the curse is seen in the perishing of the land and of the habitable world, and the consequent languishing of the lofty ones, or rulers of the people.
The reason of this is then distinctly declared to be the sin of the people; and that sin is described carefully as transgression of the laws, changing of the ordinance, and breaking of the covenant. This moral malady of the people is transmitted to the earth itself, so that it also is polluted. This is a remarkable setting forth of the fact that when man, the lord of creation, fails in purity, he communicates to the whole creation beneath him the pollution of his own moral failure; with the result that the polluted earth re-acts in judgment upon him to his destruction.
The prophet finally described the despair resulting. All mirth, rejoicing, and songs cease; and the very means by which men had falsely sought for joy become occasions of despair and of bitterness.
This destruction of the land is focussed in the destruction of the city which the prophet described as deserted, filled with despair, and abandoned to desolation.
As the prophet looked out upon this terrible scene, he saw a gleam of light, and listened to songs from the uttermost part of the earth.
He recognized that even amid such destruction the remnant would remain. In the burden of Damascus he had declared that in the day of judgment, "There shall be left therein gleanings, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost branches of a fruitful tree"; so now the same figure was present to his mind as he declared, "Thus shall it be in the midst of the earth among the peoples, as the shaking of an olive tree, as the grape gleanings when the vintage is done." These few people constituting the remnant will bear testimony to the majesty of Jehovah, and call upon me to glorify Him as the God of Israel. The prophet heard the song of the remnant, scattered as they were in the uttermost part of the earth.
This note of hope gave way immediately to a declaration of despair, because of the prophet's sense of the imminence and awfulness of judgment. His sorrow was caused first by that underlying sense of the sin which was the reason of judgment, and then by the sense of the judgment itself, which he graphically described as overtaking the inhabitants of the earth. The final sentences set forth anew the certainty and completeness of the judgment.
The Vision of Restoration
That dark background of desolation throws up into clearer relief the prophetic vision of restoration. The last note of the message concerning the vision of desolation is that of judgment. The first phrase of the new section dealing with restoration is one which indicates the close relation between the two, "It shall come to pass in that day," that is, in the day of the Divine judgment. All that follows shows that the day of judgment is not finally a day of desolation, but that its ultimate purpose is restoration.
The section consists of seven messages, each of them commencing with the phrase, "in that day"; and the whole of them revealing the gracious facts concerning restoration as to its causes, characteristics, and consummation.
These seven move forward in a regular succession, revealing the causes as being the reign of Jehovah, and the recognition of that fact by His people; the characteristics being revealed by the song in the land of Judah, the description of the judgment of evil forces, and the picture of the restoration of the vineyard; while the consummation is briefly described in the picture of the gathering of Israel, and the restoration of worship.
The Reign of Jehovah
The first message is a declaration of the deepest truth creating the certainty of ultimate restoration. It is that of the reign of Jehovah. The affirmation which is central to the message is contained in the words, "The Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously." Around that, the prophet grouped the facts which result from that reign.
The first is that of Jehovah's victory over the oppressors. In the day of His judgment He will visit them with punishment, and gain a complete victory over them as He gathers them together, and shuts them up as prisoners, and ultimately carries out upon them the full sentence of their judgment. His reign will be so full of glory, that though the high ones and the kings of the earth have been as the moon and the sun for splendour, they will be confounded and ashamed before Him.
The second is that of Jehovah's deliverance of the oppressed. This the prophet celebrated in a song which sets forth the Divine procedure, and the results immediately following. That procedure is based upon faithfulness and truth, and consists in the irrevocable destruction of the city and the palace, and those who have been in opposition. The immediate result will be the recognition by the oppressing people of the fact that Jehovah is the Succourer and Helper of His afflicted people; and their consequent rendering of glory to His name on that account. In figurative language, full of beauty, the song sets forth the fact of the strength and tenderness of the Divine care for the oppressed. In the day of distress and storm, Jehovah has been their protection; so that while the weak and oppressed are protected and sheltered, the strong who are oppressors, are made weak and brought low.
The result of this activity of Jehovah will be that of the establishment of a new order which the message describes. In the mountain of the Lord he will make a feast, and cause light to shine upon the darkened nations, which will issue in the ending of all sorrows, and the wiping away of all tears.
Thus the whole description of the reign of Jehovah sets forth the fact that He will destroy those who oppress His people, and deliver those who have been thus oppressed, with the result that all nations will be brought into the place of the knowledge of Himself, while all the evils which have afflicted them will vanish away.
The Recognition by His People
The second message reveals the fact that the people of Jehovah will recognize this fact of the reign of Jehovah in the day of restoration.
The confession of this recognition is first made, "Lo, this is our God." For His appearing the people have waited, and recognizing His activity, they rejoice in His salvation.
The evidences of the truth they confess are those of His victory won over their enemies. These enemies are comprehensively described as Moab, perhaps because at the moment of the prophetic utterance, there were some special circumstances fastening attention upon the hostility of Moab. The picture of the discomfiture is vivid, as the enemy of the people of God is seen attempting to swim in the midst of the polluted water of the dunghill, while his fortress is completely demolished.
The Song in the Land of Judah
Naturally following the messages dealing with the causes of the restoration are those which set forth its characteristics. Of these the first is the song which will be sung in the land of Judah in the day of Jehovah's ultimate victory.
The first note of this song is that of praise for the deliverance wrought, which is set forth first by a description of the new order, and then by a declaration of the process by which that order has been established.
In dealing with the new order the song puts into contrast two cities; the new created by the activity of Jehovah, and the old destroyed by Him. The new city is a city of strength, whose walls and bulwarks are salvation. Its inhabitants are righteous people, who keep truth. To them, and to them only, the gates stand open. The security of the city is that of the government of Jehovah. The man whose mind is stayed on that fact, because he trusts in Jehovah, is kept in perfect peace. The foundation rock, the rock of ages, is Jehovah Himself.
All this is demonstrated by the destruction of the old city, whose people have been humbled, which is itself laid in the dust, and trodden down by the feet of those who had been oppressed.
This song of praise for deliverance then celebrates the process by which the victory has been won. It is the way of uprightness. The activities of God are the activities of uprightness, by which He makes level a path for the just. While it is the way of uprightness, it is also the way of judgments. In the midst of these. His people have waited for Him, while their desire has been towards His name and His memorial. In what may be considered as a parenthesis to the song to be sung in the land of Judah, the prophet declared that his soul had desired Jehovah in the night, and affirmed his determination to seek Him diligently because of his consciousness that the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness in the pathway of the Divine judgments. To show favour to the wicked is to allow him to continue in unrighteousness. It is only by judgment that he can be brought to upright dealing resulting from recognition of the majesty of Jehovah.
The song then rises on to a yet higher plane, that of praise for Jehovah Himself. The hand of Jehovah is lifted up, but the people do not see it; yet they shall discover Him through His zeal for His people. The triumph of Jehovah is that of victory over the very lords who have had dominion over His people, and consequently victory over them, as they abandon these lords, and yield their allegiance to Him. The increase of the nation, and the enlargement of the land glorify Him, and Him alone.
Again the song becomes one of praise for deliverance. Looking back it describes the pain and the travail of the past; the days when in the midst of chastening, they poured their prayer out to Jehovah; the days during which all their efforts were unavailing against their enemies; the days of their long-continued and disastrous failure. The new condition is as resurrection out of such death. Those dwelling in the dust awake and sing.
Remembering that he was still speaking in the midst of the circumstances of judgment, and that its processes must proceed to consummation, the prophet ended the song with a call to the people of God, urging them to quietness and patience "until the indignation should be over-past"; assuring them that all that which he had already uttered, would come to pass, because Jehovah was coming forth to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.
The Judgment of evil Forces
The next message is brief and figurative, but perfectly clear as to its intention. The day of the judgment of Jehovah will be a day in which He will destroy with His sword the forces of evil. If the figures of speech were created by the prophet's immediate outlook, it is almost certain that "the dragon that is in the sea" refers to Egypt, because the term "the sea" is constantly used of the Nile. It may be that the "swift serpent" referred to Assyria; and "the crooked serpent" to Babylon. Perhaps the main value of the passage is to be discovered in the revelation of the methods of evil suggested by the descriptions; its swiftness, its crookedness, and its cunning.
The Restoration of the Vineyard
The final message dealing with the characteristics of restoration is a song of the vineyard, which stands in striking contrast to the song of the vineyard in the earlier part of the prophecy. That first song told of the care of Jehovah for His vineyard, of its failure notwithstanding, and of consequent judgment determined against it. This is the song of restoration, and it first presents the glorious picture, and then describes the governmental process.
The care of Jehovah is declared in language full of beauty. He first affirms its fruitfulness in the word, "a vineyard of wine, sing ye unto it"; and then declares the constancy of His vigilance, and the ceaselessness of His diligence, on its behalf.
In the presence of the fruitfulness of the vineyard Jehovah declares, "Fury is not in Me"; nevertheless if briers and thorns were against Him, He would destroy them; unless, - and the figure of thorns and briers is dropped, - the wicked will take hold on the strength of God; in that case he also may make peace with Him. The final description ia again that of the fruitfulness of the vine which is seen taking root, breaking out into blossom and bud, and ultimately filling the face of the world with fruit.
The process of such restoration is that of judgment, and this the message now sets forth. A ruined vineyard is always the result of failure, and upon such failure Jehovah can have no compassion. Nevertheless judgment has always been under restraint, but He has never smitten His own people as He smote those by whom they were smitten. If the word "in measure" is correct, - about which there is admittedly some doubt, but which is nevertheless in harmony with the thought of the passage, - then the teaching is emphasized that judgment has always been in strict justice, and only with a view to correction.
That is emphasized by the next clear declaration that by this judgment, even of the rough blast in the day of the east wind, the iniquity of Jacob is purged. The purpose of judgment is the taking away of sin, and the destruction of idols, in order to fruitfulness.
Once again the prophet described the judgment itself; in its result, that of the utter desolation of the city; and in its reason, that of the folly of the people, and the consequent inability of Jehovah to show compassion or favour.
The first of the two final messages dealing with the consummation of restoration reaffirms the truth already stated that Jehovah will gather together the remnant of His faithful people within the land; the terms, "the flood of the River," and "the brook of Egypt," referring to the boundaries of Palestine. These are to be brought together by the most careful selection, one by one.
The final message takes an even wider outlook. When those within the land are gathered, a trumpet is to be blown, and the people scattered further afield will respond, and the whole united nation will worship Jehovah in the holy mountain at Jersualem.
Thus the final word of the ministry exercised among the faithful remnant refers to them alone. When they are gathered from far and near, and are united in the worship of Jehovah, all those larger issues of restoration with which the prophet has been dealing, will be accomplished.
CHAPTER 14. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: CONCERNING THE CHOSEN; FIVE WOES - ISAIAH 28:1-32:20
Prophecies of Judgment
Third Circle. Public Ministry
Here, with an almost startling suddenness, we find the prophet again engaged in a public ministry, the messages of which occupy all that remains of the first great division of the book.
The atmosphere was that of political intrigue, and the prophet plunged into the midst of the public life of the people with passionate earnestness and strong determination to save Judah from the contemplated folly to which they were being advised by one political party.
The historic setting is that of the threatened invasion of Jerusalem by Assyria under Sennacherib; and the political, that of the attempt which was being made to enter into secret treaty with Egypt against Assyria. To this intrigue Hezekiah was at first a party, but was delivered by the influence of Isaiah.
The circle has two movements, the first concerning the chosen; and the second concerning the world.
Concerning the Chosen
The first movement of this final circle of ministry is concerned with the chosen people, and consists first of a group of five woes against the chosen; and secondly of one final woe against Assyria.
Five Woes against the Chosen
These five are clearly marked in that each begins with the word "Woe." They all deal with the political situation, and set the whole state of affairs in the light of the government of Jehovah. They denounce a false hope, a false religion, a false intrigue, a false treaty, and a false trust.
A false Hope
In this message we have a graphic revelation of the difficulties with which Isaiah had to contend, and of his unswerving loyalty to truth. In the course of his dealing with those in opposition, he used such words as enable us to see the situation. The message consists first of an illustration, and secondly of its application.
An Illustration. Ephraim
While addressing Judah through the rulers, he spoke as to Samaria, the capital of the Northern kingdom, describing it as "the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim" because Ephraim had become the dominant tribe. When these words were spoken, in all probability that Northern kingdom had already been carried away captive by Assyria, and the prophet was quoting from some message delivered long before, which had foretold that doom. His purpose in doing so was to show Judah that the judgment of the Lord had fallen upon Ephraim for sins similar to those which Judah was committing. The "mighty and strong one" of the Lord, was the Assyrian powder which had been the instrument in His hand of judgment upon Ephraim. Ephraim had been false to its covenant through the seductive and destructive influence of wine; and therefore it had been judged. Nevertheless in that judgment Jehovah had been a crown of glory, a diadem of beauty unto the residue of His people. The prophet's use of the term "the residue of His people" would seem to have had reference to Judah who, because of a greater measure of loyalty, had been spared.
The application of his illustration immediately follows, introduced by the words, "But these also have erred through wine," that is, the residue, spared according to the prediction of the earlier prophecy, have fallen through the same snare.
The first part of the application, while in the words of the prophet, yet serves to give us a picture of how his message was received, and reveals him in conflict with the scorners. It opens with a vivid picture of an unhallowed carousal in which priest and prophet were alike overcome by strong drink. With unutterable scorn he described the scene upon which he had broken in; the table full of vomit and filthiness, so that there was no place clean.
Then in satire he repeated the taunt which they flung at him, "Whom will he teach knowledge?" that was the taunt of the priest; "Whom will he make to understand the message?" that was the taunt of the prophet. They mocked at his method because of its simplicity, and declared, with the lilt and accent of drunkenness imitating him, that such teaching was only for children.
That taunt he then answered by declaring that because they would not hear him, the message to which they would be compelled to give attention would come by strange lips, and in another tongue. They had been offered rest and refreshment, but because they declined to hear, the word of Jehovah would come to them in simple and halting speech, which they would not be able to understand, in order that they might be visited with punishment.
The prophet, turning from his satirical rebuke of the scorners, demanded that they should hear the word of Jehovah, and revealed his knowledge of the fact that they were indulging a false hope in view of the imminent invasion by Assyria. Whether the prophet knew the details of this hope is not evident from this first address. His terms are indefinite, but reveal the fact that they considered that they had made such a covenant that the overflowing scourge should pass through, and should not come nigh to them. This covenant the prophet described as one with death and with Sheol, and so fashioned his speech as to make them declare that they had made lies their refuge, and under falsehood had hid themselves. Of course they had made no such declaration, but it was his interpretation of the hope they were indulging.
In the presence of that false covenant, he declared the word of the Lord God. He would lay in Zion a sure foundation, and the only true security would be that of trust reposed in that foundation. By righteous judgment all false refuges would be swept away, and unholy covenants disannulled. The overflowing scourge, from which they imagined they were safe, passing through would tread them down in judgment.
The prophet closed this word of God concerning their covenant with a stinging declaration, full of satire and of contempt for their policy, "The bed is shorter than a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." That is to say, their hope was false.
Upon the basis of this word he uttered his warning, declaring that Jehovah would rise up in judgment, which he described as "His strange work," "His strange act"; because the activity of judgment is always strange to the heart of God. He finally appealed to them to cease their scorning, lest their bands should be made strong.
From this appeal he proceeded in a passage full of exquisite beauty to declare, by a series of illustrations drawn from agriculture, that the judgments of God are methodical, and perpetually move to purpose. The plowing of the plowman is not for the sake of plowing, but preparatory to the sowing of seed. The sowing of the seed is also characterized by discrimination, fitches being sown in one way, cummin in another, while wheat and barley and spelt are sown in yet other ways. All this wisdom on the part of the plowman is the result of the fact that God instructs him aright, and teaches him; the prophet's meaning being that the God Who teaches discrimination to the plowman, is Himself discriminative in every process of judgment.
Again, in threshing, the same principle obtains. Fitches, cummin, bread corn, all are deal with in different ways, and this also is the result of the teaching of Jehovah, Who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.
Thus while the rulers were indulging a false hope, Isaiah by satire, instruction, and appeal, attempted to turn them back to confidence in Jehovah.
A false Religion
In this message the prophet denounced the false religion out of which the false hope had sprung. The reason of all political failure is religious failure, and with this fact he now dealt. The message consists first of the pronouncement of judgment against the city of religion; secondly of the pronouncement of judgment against the people of religion; and finally a declaration of the reason of the judgments.
The Judgment of the City of Religion
His woe was pronounced against Jerusalem, whom he addressed as Ariel. There is doubt as to the meaning of this word, and therefore as to the reason why the prophet made use of it in this connection. The Targum interprets it as meaning the Altar-hearth, and this accords perfectly with the fact that the burden of this message is that of the denunciation of a false religion. The city is addressed as the place of the true altar of God. She is seen as indifferent, adding year to year by the rotation of her feasts. Against that city Jehovah will move in judgment, in order that she shall indeed be Ariel, that is, the true altar of God. The process of the judgment is graphically described, and the distress of the people vividly set forth.
The judgment which the prophet described would pass. The foes laying siege to the city would be driven like dust and chaff, and that suddenly. The discomfiture of the enemy would be brought about by the visitation of Jehovah in thunder, in earthquake, in noise, in whirlwind, and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire. All this is a figurative description of the judgment which fell upon Assyria. The distress of the enemies following upon this discomfiture is graphically described. They who had hoped to possess will find themselves defeated. They have dreamed of eating and drinking, but in the moment of waking they find themselves faint and hungry.
The Judgment of the People of Religion
The judgment upon the people of religion is next described, first as that of blindness. They are drunken and they stagger, because Jehovah has withheld from them prophets who are eyes, and seers who are the true heads of the people. Consequently the true vision or outlook upon all national affairs is concealed, so that neither the learned nor the illiterate are able to read and understand the signs of the times.
The Reason. False Religion
The final movement in this message is that of the prophet's revelation of the reason for the judgments which he had described. It was that of the falseness of their religion. The people drew nigh with mouth and with lips but their heart was far from God, and the fear they had of Him was simply that which they had learned by rote. Out of that religion of formalism had grown the false hope already denounced, and Jehovah announced His determination to work wondrously among them, so that they should discover the folly of the wisdom of their wise men.
A false Intrigue
Having thus delivered his message against the false religion, out of which the false hope sprang, the prophet proceeded to utter his woe against the false intrigue, by which the rulers were hoping to secure the safety of Judah. The message consists of an unmasking of the conspirators, and a declaration of the truth of the coming deliverance.
These rulers were working in the dark, seeking to hide their counsel from Jehovah, believing that in secrecy lay the probability of success.
Relentlessly the prophet unmasked the real meaning of their intrigue. They were reversing the true order of things, counting the potter as though He were clay, treating Him as though He were not the sovereign Lord, or as though He were devoid of understanding.
The coming Deliverance
He then broke out into a fine description of the coming deliverance, and it is to be carefully noticed that the deliverance described is a reversal of the judgment resulting from false religion.
After describing the restoration in general terms by the declaration that Lebanon would be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest; the prophet dealt particularly with his subject by showing that the first characteristic of the deliverance would be that of the restoration of sensibility, in that the deaf would be able to hear the words of the book, which had been sealed; while the eyes of the blind would see.
It would be also a restoration of order. The meek and the poor who had been oppressed, would rejoice; and the terrible one and the scorner who had been in power, would be brought to nought. Judgment had been perverted, but in the hour of deliverance this would be so no more.
The final deliverance will be the restoration of true religion. When the name of the Holy One of Jacob will be sanctified, and men will stand in awe of the God of Israel, then those that err in spirit will come to understanding, and those that murmur will learn instruction; that is to say, that by the restoration of religion, there will be the restoration of true statesmanship.
A false Treaty
Now for the first time the prophet named the policy against which his protest was uttered. Having rebuked the false hope in which the rulers were indulging, denounced the false religion which made such a hope necessary, and exposed their false method of intrigue, he now named and denounced the false treaty with Egypt. This he did by showing first its uselessness; and secondly, its needlessness.
The prophetic woe is pronounced against the secret treaty because of its rebellion. The people are seeking counsel, but not of Jehovah; are weaving a web to hide themselves, but not of His Spirit. They are going down to Egypt to seek help from Pharaoh, without taking counsel of Jehovah.
It is next denounced because of the shame of it. The princes and the ambassadors are seeking help from a people unable to render help.
In a parenthesis under the heading, "The burden of the beasts of the south," the journey of the ambassadors is satirically described. They are wandering through the land of trouble, whence can come only the things of ferocity and harm, bearing with them their riches to a people unable to profit them.
The uselessness of the journey is declared in the fact that even though Egypt help, her help will be in vain, and to no purpose, the help of words rather than of works, because of which the prophet described her as "Rahab that sitteth still." He was instructed to write this fact on a tablet, and to inscribe it in a book that it might witness to them for ever.
The message then affirmed that the failure of the treaty would be manifest. It was conceived in rebellion by those who declined to hear the law of the Lord, who charged their seers not to see, and demanded that their prophets should speak smooth things, without reference to God. Such action must issue in confusion. If they put their trust in oppression and perverseness, the sin of such action would constitute a wall of defence which would inevitably give way before the onslaught of Jehovah, Who would break it in pieces so small, that not one would be found large enough to take fire from the hearth, or water from the cistern.
From this stern word of denunciation vibrant with thunder, the prophet turned to a speech full of tenderness and of grace, by which he set forth the needlessness of the false treaty with Egypt.
The first movement in this teaching is one in which the prophet revealed the secrets of safety. The first is that of waiting on God. There are no words in the prophecy more full of beauty than those in which this truth is set forth, "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."
In a parenthesis he declared their failure in this respect, and its result. They had said they would flee upon horses. "Therefore," said the prophet, "shall ye flee." They had declared, "We will ride upon the swift." "Therefore," said the prophet, "shall they that pursue you be swift."
This parenthesis is immediately followed by a word full of grace, revealing the consequent secret of safety, that namely, of the waiting of Jehovah. Even though they had refused to wait on Him, He will wait for them until they are restored to willingness to wait for Him.
The next argument in setting forth the needlessness of the false treaty is that of the description of the blessings of salvation, which will result from returning and rest, from quietness and confidence.
The people will be restored to their own city. There will be an end of sorrow; even though they eat the bread of adversity and drink the water of affliction; vision will be restored to their teachers; and they will hear the word of definite guidance.
These restored people will cease from idols, defiling them, and casting them away as unclean.
The result of the restoration of the people, and the cessation of idolatry will be that of the restoration of the land. The rain will fall and the harvest will follow. Pastures will be provided whereon cattle will feed. Rivers and streams will flow from the mountains and hills. All this however, will come about through a process of judgment which the prophet described as "the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall." It will be a day of intense light in which Jehovah binds up the hurt of His people, and heals the stroke of their wound.
The final argument in demonstration of the needlessness of the treaty is that of a description of the method of deliverance. It will be accomplished by the activity of Jehovah which the prophet described by figures of speech full of fiery force.
The result of that activity will be the song of His people, a song in the night, springing from gladness of heart as they gather to the mountain of the Lord, and to the rock of Israel.
That song will be caused by the fact of the destruction of Assyria, which destruction will be brought about by the voice of Jehovah. It will be a destruction producing rejoicing among those who observe it. It will be destruction final and complete, a destruction by fire kindled by the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone.
This foretelling of the destruction of Assyria by the action of Jehovah alone, was intended by the prophet to finally emphasize the needlessness of the attempted treaty with Egypt in the presence of the peril.
A false Trust
The final woe is against that false trust in Egypt, which in the previous message the prophet had shown to be useless and needless.
The message consists of a remarkable contrast, the first part being an unveiling of weakness, or a vision of vanity; and the second an unveiling of strength, or a vision of virtue. Each of these may be divided into the prophet's argument and the prophet's appeal.
An Unveiling of Weakness. A Vision of Vanity
The Prophet's Argument
He first denounced anew the alliance with Egypt, declaring the sin of it to be that it was a false trust in horses and chariots, because they are many, and in horsemen because they are strong; consequent upon the fact that the people had failed to look to the Holy One of Israel, and to seek Jehovah.
He then revealed the folly of this trust, first by contrasting Jehovah with Egypt. Jehovah is wise, so that all their plotting cannot circumvent Him, and He will certainly proceed against the workers of iniquity. With fine satire the prophet declared that the Egyptians were men, that their horses were flesh, and that when Jehovah stretches out His hand all fail together.
He then described the attitude of Jehovah; first in judgment, as the One in Whose power the people as surely are, as is the prey when in the grasp of a lion, the One Who will not be affrighted by all the shepherds who come forth against Him; and then in His determination to protect, to deliver, to preserve Jerusalem.
The Prophefs Appeal
In view of this revelation of the attitude of Jehovah, the prophet appealed to the people to turn to Him from Whom they had deeply revolted.
Anticipating their obedience, he described how in the day of their return, they would cast away their idols. The final movement in his appeal is that of a new declaration that the Assyrian would fall, not by the sword of man. Their true policy therefore is that of thus turning to Jehovah, and casting away their idols.
An Unveiling of Strength, A Vision of Virtue
The Prophet's Argument
In the presence of this false trust which he had denounced, the prophet proceeded to reveal the true trust, as he described the coming Kingdom. This will be set up under a King Whose reign in righteousness will result in the establishment of order, and the consequent creation of refuge and refreshment for all such as are in distress.
The eyes of the seer were granted a vision of the ultimate perfection of the Kingdom of heaven set up on earth, around the Person of One Whom he spoke of as a Man Who is to be "a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
The wisdom of trust in that King and that Kingdom is then set forth by a declaration of the results issuing therefrom. The first will be that of the restoration of conscience. Eyes will see, and ears will hear, the heart will understand, and the tongue will bear testimony accordingly. As the result of such trust there will follow a recognition of character, so that the fool will not be called noble, nor the crafty be said to be bountiful.
In a parenthesis he contrasted the activities of the vile person or the fool, and the instruments of the churl or the crafty, with the thought and the activity of the liberal or the noble.
The Prophet's Appeal
Evidently conscious of how different were the circumstances in the midst of which he was exercising his ministry from those of the coming Kingdom, the prophet uttered his great appeal. In the early days of his ministry during the reign of Uzziah, he had fiercely denounced the sins of polluted womanhood, recognizing the close connection between the corruption of the rulers and the pollution of womanhood. These woes have been addressed to the rulers, and now the final word is again that of an appeal to the women. He called them to abandon their ease and their carelessness, to gird themselves with sackcloth, because of the judgment which was imminent, in which they would be afflicted, by the destruction of the city, and the desolation ensuing therefrom.
The next word is one in which the prophet described the day of restoration which he saw beyond the process of judgment, a day in which the Spirit from on high would be poured out, and the wilderness would become a fruitful field.
In that day the bases of life would be judgment and righteousness; and the effects, quietness and confidence.
The final word of the section in which the prophet dealt with the chosen, is in the nature of a soliloquy, in which in a graphic sentence he described the imminent judgment; "It shall hail, in the downfall of the forest; and the city shall be utterly laid low"; and then the peace following thereupon, in a word equally graphic; "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth the feet of the ox and the ass."
CHAPTER 15. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: CONCERNING THE CHOSEN; WOE AGAINST ASSYRIA - ISAIAH 33:1-33:24
Prophecies of Judgment
Third Circle. Public Ministry
The Woe against Assyria
In the last woe of the five against the chosen in which the prophet exposed and denounced the false trust, he declared that the Assyrian would fall with the sword, not of man. Throughout his denunciations of the chosen people for turning from God and placing confidence in their own political intrigue with Egypt, the prophet consistently maintained that Assyria would be defeated by Jehovah.
His teaching concerning the chosen ended with a final message, the burden of which was that of the pronouncement of woe against Assyria. It has two distinct movements, the first dealing with the judgment on Assyria, and the second with the resultant peace of Israel.
The Judgment of Assyria
The actual woe against Assyria consists of the declaration of its doom; the affirmation of the prophet's confidence; and the description of the doom.
The Doom declared
The method of Assyria was that of spoliation and treachery; and in her activities she had seemed beyond the reach of vengeance. The woe of the prophet declares that judgment will fall on her in kind. As she has spoiled, she shall be spoiled; as she has dealt treacherously, she shall be dealt with treacherously.
The Confidence of the Prophet
The affirmation of the prophet's confidence began in prayer. He cried unto God for help in the time of trouble. The prayer immediately merged into an expression of assurance, first in God, by Whose lifting up the enemies of Israel are scattered, and therefore for Israel as he saw her gathering the spoil, and leaping upon the prey. The affirmation ended with a statement of the reason of the conviction. To the prophet's vision, Jehovah was exalted, and therefore deliverance was certain.
The Doom described
The description of the doom was introduced by a statement of the conditions obtaining at the moment when Isaiah was delivering his message. Without the walls Assyria's valiant ones were taunting the chosen. Israel's ambassadors were full of distress.
The reason of that distress was that of the desolation wrought by Assyria, in all the country lying beyond, which desolation the prophet described.
Finally the activity of Jehovah in judgment upon Assyria was announced. In the presence of the desolated country, and the distressed ambassadors, the great word of Jehovah was heard, "Now will I arise, saith Jehovah; now will I lift up Myself; now will I be exalted." As a result, the plans of the Assyrian will be chaff, their activity stubble. A consuming fire will devour and destroy the enemies of Israel.
The last word on the judgment of Assyria was a challenge by the prophet spoken to those outside the walls, the valiant ones of Assyria; and to those near at hand, the distressed ambassadors of Israel. The former were called to hear, and the latter to acknowledge the might of their God.
The Peace of Israel
In dealing with the peace of Israel which will result from the judgment of Assyria, the prophet again emphasized the fact that it would be based upon purity; proceeding to describe the peace resulting therefrom; and ending both the immediate message, and the whole of his public ministry, with a comprehensive unveiling of the whole situation.
The consciousness that Jehovah is acting in judgment upon Assyria as a consuming fire produced a wholesome fear within the walls of Jerusalem. The sinners who had been guilty of excesses were filled with fear; and the godless who had turned to Egypt were seized with trembling. Looking out upon the destruction wrought by the fire of the Divine judgment, they inquired "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?"
To that inquiry the prophet immediately gave a full and clear answer. The man able to dwell in fire is the one sharing the holy character of the God of fire; and who consequently walks righteously and speaks uprightly; he whose conduct toward his fellow man is that of righteousness. Such an one finds rest in fire, salvation in the God of fire. His position is one of fellowship with God; he dwells on high; Ms defence is that of the strength of God, the munitions of rocks; his sustenance is assured by God, his bread is given, and his water is sure.
The description of the peace consequent upon such purity follows in immediate connection. The pure in heart see God, and seeing God, see also all the breadth and beauty of His Kingdom. "Thine eyes," that is the eyes of the pure, "shall see the King in His beauty"; "They," that is the eyes of the pure, "shall see the land" of magnificent distances.
The pure heart will muse on the terror of judgment, but only in wondering amazement, that it has passed. Those who in arrogance claimed tribute, and counted the towers with a view to destruction, disappear; the fierce people are not seen.
Instead of the beleaguered city filled with distress, the city of God is manifested; the centre of worship, the city of solemnities, a place of quietness, in which men dwell at peace; a dwelling place of strength that cannot be destroyed.
The comprehensive Unveiling
The final words concerning the chosen constitute a comprehensive unveiling of all the truths which the prophet had been declaring.
First Jehovah is seen in majesty; the city without a river will be, by virtue of His presence, a place of broad rivers and streams of defence, over which opposing ships will not be able to pass in order to destroy. The presence of Jehovah will be that of perfect government, He being the Judge, the Lawgiver, and the King.
Having thus revealed the all-sufficient Jehovah, the prophet referred once more to the insufficient policy which he had condemned. The tacklings are loosed, they could not strengthen the foot of their mast, they could not spread the sail. While this was true, the lame took the prey, that is to say, the wisdom of the wise was demonstrated folly, and the folly of the faithful was demonstrated wisdom.
In a brief word he described the all-sufficient restoration; material restoration so complete that the inhabitant will not say, "I am sick"; because spiritual restoration is perfect, in that the people will be forgiven their iniquity.
CHAPTER 16. PART A: PROPHECIES OF JUDGEMENT: PUBLIC MINISTRY: CONCERNING THE WORLD; DESOLATION AND RESTORATION - ISAIAH 34:1-35:10
Prophecies of Judgment
Third Circle. Public Ministry
Concerning the World
The final message of the prophet in this first division was the result of his world-wide outlook. It has to do with the government of God over all the nations and the whole earth. The same principles obtain in this wider exercise of sovereignty and power, and the message deals first with desolation; and secondly with restoration.
Terrible indeed is the description of desolation presented to the view by this message of the prophet, as he first declared the Divine purpose of judgment, and then made use of Edom in illustration.
The nations, the peoples, and the whole earth are summoned to hear the sentence of judgment determined against them. The prophet declared the fact of Jehovah's indignation, and announced His determination to act in a judgment which would involve the whole earth, and the host of heaven.
Without anything approaching definiteness of statement, there is yet clearly evident in this passage, the prophet's recognition of the inter-relation between the material earth and that spiritual world so closely surrounding the earth, so constantly influencing it, and yet so little recognized by its inhabitants. The heavens are involved in the judgment because they have been involved in the sin. In the ultimate day of judgment wherein God will deal finally with evil, the material facts, such as the darkening of the sun and the turning of the moon into blood, will be related to the severe judgment of Jehovah falling upon the hosts of spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. To this aspect of judgment the prophet undoubtedly referred in this message.
Edom as Illustration
From this wide outlook the prophet passed to a description of the judgment of God on Edom, which illustrates the larger truth already declared.
The doom of Edom is first stated. Judgment falls upon Edom, having been completed in heaven; this statement being in harmony with that which has preceded it, and revealing the fact that in the economy of God, judgment always falls first upon those spiritual forces which have been the instruments in the downfall of man and the ruin of the earth; and then upon those who have been so influenced. When the spirit of judgment touches the earth, the work is terrible and triumphant. It is here described as a slaughter amounting to sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. In the second division of the prophecy this same act of judgment is referred to as introducing an order of peace. (See 53:1).
In that passage, and in reference to the terrible judgment accomplished, the language of Jehovah is that "the day of vengeance was in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come." Here, in the midst of the declaration of the judgment, the prophet declared, "It is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense in the controversy of Zion."
The last movement is that of a description of the result of the judgment on Edom. The destruction is complete and final. The land is made uninhabitable for man, and utterly unproductive.
The scene of desolation is most graphically portrayed. The land becomes the dwelling place of every kind of wild beast and bird, and is haunted by evil spirits.
All this is so positively under the government of God, that the prophet shows that over the desolation He still reigns; and that the mating and the nesting of these wild creatures will be under His control as they fulfil the purposes of His will.
The last word of the prophets of the Lord is never that of judgment and desolation, but always that of peace and restoration. The message of restoration here stands in immediate and startling contrast to that of desolation. Yet it bears the closest relation thereto, for desolation is judgment, and restoration is the peace resulting therefrom.
In this message there are three movements. The prophet first affirmed the fact; secondly revealed the method; and finally described the process.
The Fact affirmed
As in the declaration of coming desolation, the whole earth was described as brought into confusion and emptiness, this poem of restoration opens with a description of the restoration of Nature to order and to beauty. To the desert there is to come the glory of Lebanon, and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon.
In all the gladness, beauty, and fruitfulness of the earth, men are anew to see the glory of Jehovah, the excellency of God.
The Method revealed
The prophet addressed those who were weak and feeble, calling them to courage in view of the fact that this restoration will be affected by the very processes of judgment which he had described. Again it is important that we should notice the connection between the declaration in the midst of the message of desolation, "It is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense in the controversy of Zion," and this declaration, "Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you." Thus the message of hope to the weak and feeble consists of an explanation of the vengeance already described. Through that vengeance God will move to this victory.
The Process described
Finally the prophet described the issues of the coming of God in judgment, which are also the experimental processes through which the people will pass to the realization of peace. In judgment God will act alone. "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the peoples there was no man with Me." In the administration of the victory He will associate with Himself the people who have been aflaicted.
The first note in the process is that of the renewal of spiritual discernment. The spiritual dulness of which the prophet had so constantly reminded them, and which he had so consistently condemned, will pass away; "The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." The necessary issue of that will be that in place of the spiritual disability which is ever the outcome of spiritual dulness, there will be spiritual ability which always follows spiritual sensitiveness. This renewal of spiritual discernment will result from the breaking out of waters in the wilderness and of streams in the desert; figures of speech which anew set forth the grace and beneficence of the judgments of Jehovah.
The second and consequent note in the process is that of the restoration of material blessing which the prophet described in such a way as to show the intimate relationship between spiritual condition and material prosperity. Instead of the mirage, with its promise of refreshment, and despair-producing failure; there will be the pool and the springs of water. Instead of the wild confusion of desolate places, traversed by evil beasts; there will be a highway so straight and plain that "wayfaring men, yea fools, shall not err therein." This is to be known as the way of holiness. The highway of material prosperity is secure because it is the way of holiness.
The final note of the process is that of the triumphant return of the ransomed of the Lord along this prepared highway, with singing and with joy; and their coming into possession of gladness and joy as the circumstances of sorrow and sighing flee away.
Thus the final note in the prophecies of judgment describes the conditions of perfect peace. This note is taken up in the final division of the prophecy which opens with the words, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people." As this division closes with the promise of the creation of a highway for the people by Jehovah, the first appeal of the final division is one in which the people are called to make a highway for Jehovah. The inter-relation is interesting and important. Here we refer to it only in order to emphasize the fact that these two prophetic divisions of the book of Isaiah interlace and constitute one great prophecy.
CHAPTER 17. PART B: HISTORICAL INTERLUDE: HEZEKIAH'S TROUBLE - ISAIAH 36:1-36:22
The central division of the book of Isaiah consists of a brief historical interlude, the main value of which is that of the revelation of relationships between the prophet Isaiah and king Hezekiah which it affords. Four matters are dealt with, which may briefly be summarized as those of Hezekiah's trouble; Hezekiah's prayer; Hezekiah's sickness; and Hezekiah's folly.
Of these the first two are chiefly valuable as they give us incidents which happened during the period of Sennacherib's invasion, and thus help us to an understanding of the latter part of the first division of the prophecy.
The latter two give us the account of two experiences in the life of the king, the one personal, and the other political; and prepare us for the final division of the book, the burden of which, as to the first fulfilment of some of its messages in history, is occupied with the defeat of Babylon by Cyrus. These two events culminated in Isaiah's blunt prophecy of the taking captive of Judah by Babylon, and the final division looks on to the ultimate overthrow of Babylon, and the consequent restoration of the chosen people.
This is the story of the threatened capture of Jerusalem by Sennacherib, the approach of whom, had led the rulers to attempt an alliance with Egypt.
After a victorious campaign in which he had been successful against all the fenced cities of Judah, Sennacherib sent the Rabshakeh with a great army to Jerusalem. Upon arrival he commenced operations by a conference with Eliakim, who was accompanied by Shebna, his secretary; and Joah, the chronicler.
Rabshakeh's Taunt of the Rulers
Evidently hoping to take possession of the city without fighting, he delivered an address to these men, which they were to report to Hezekiah. This address was of the nature of a taunt, and was intended to show his knowledge of their political intrigues, and his profound contempt for them.
Affirming his knowledge of the fact, he declared that trust in Egypt was useless, describing it as a bruised reed upon which if a man lean, it would pierce his hand.
If on the other hand, Hezekiah was trusting in Jehovah, was it not true that Hezekiah had taken away His high places and His altars, commanding that the people should worship at one altar only? This was a skilful attempt to bring the king into discredit with the people for having broken down the pillars, and cut down the Asherah, and destroyed the idolatry of Jerusalem.
Proceeding, in a tone of irony he suggested that Hezekiah should make a wager with the king of Assyria, offering if he would find two thousand riders, that he would provide him with horses for them. This again was an ironical reference to the fact of his knowledge that Judah had been looking toward Egypt for horses.
Again changing his line of attack, he laughed at the weakness of these people.
His final word was the most subtle of all, in that he declared that the king of Assyria had come up against Jerusalem by the command of Jehovah. This would seem to suggest that he knew not only of the intrigue with Egypt, but of the influence of Isaiah, who had declared that the coming of the Assyrian host was part of a Divine programme in judgment.
The Fear of Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah
The deputation from Judah now requested him to speak in the Syrian language, in order that the people on the walls might not understand what he was saying. The reason of this request may have been their fear lest his attempt to bring the king into discredit should succeed, and perhaps also their fear lest this declaration that he was acting under the commission of Jehovah should fill the minds of the people, already verging on panic, with a new and superstitious dread.
Rabshakeh's Address to the People
So far from acceding to their request, the Rabshakeh immediately seized upon the suggestion, and spoke directly to the people assembled on the wall, and that in their own language. He warned them against trusting in Hezekiah, who would be unable to deliver them, and against allowing Hezekiah to appeal to them to trust in Jehovah.
It was a skilful attempt to destroy confidence in both political parties in Jerusalem; that which was trusting to intrigue with Egypt, and that which, under the influence of Isaiah, was trusting in Jehovah.
He urged this appeal by promising that if they would yield to the king of Assyria, they should be deported to another land wherein they should have peace and plenty.
His final argument in addressing the people was one of warning against trusting in Jehovah. The gods of other peoples had been unable to deliver them out of the hand of his master, from which he argued that their God, Jehovah, was equally powerless.
The Silence of the People
The influence of Hezekiah was greater than the Rabshakeh imagined, and in all likelihood greater than Eliakim thought. He had commanded the people that they should not answer any word from the king of Assyria, and they were obedient to the charge.
The Fear of Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah
The address of the Rabshakeh however filled the heart of the deputation with fear, and they returned to Hezekiah with all the signs of mourning, and reported to him the words of the representative of Sennacherib.
CHAPTER 18. PART B: HISTORICAL INTERLUDE: HEZEKIAH'S PRAYER - ISAIAH 37:1-37:38
The story of Hezekiah's action makes it appear probable that until this time he had wavered between the party hoping for help from Egypt, and that under the influence of Isaiah. This is the account of immediate communication between the prophet and the king.
Hezekiah and Isaiah
On receiving the report of Eliakim and those associated with him, the king immediately, in the attitude of penitence, entered the house of Jehovah, the place of sanctuary.
In the mean while he sent Eliakim and Shebna to the prophet with a message which declared his sense of the danger, confessed the futility of all political schemes, and acknowledged that his only hope was in Jehovah. He described the day as one of trouble and of rebuke and contumely. When he said, "The children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth," he admitted the uselessness of all the preparations which had been made, and the helplessness of the city in consequence. That his message was one of repentance is evident from the fact that in this address to Isaiah he spoke of Jehovah, twice over, as "the Lord thy God"; and in the fact that he asked that Isaiah would intercede for the remnant.
The answer of the prophet was immediate, as in the name of Jehovah he bade Eliakim and Shebna to charge the king not to be afraid, because Jehovah would Himself deal with Sennacherib, filling him with panic, bringing to him a rumour which would hasten his return to his own land ; and following him there, cause him to fall by the sword.
Hezekiah and the Letter
In the mean while the Rabshakeh returned, not to Lachish, whence he had been sent, but to Libnah, another of the fenced cities of Judah against which Sennacherib had proceeded. There Sennacherib heard a rumour that Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, was coming out to fight against him. He then determined to make one more attempt to bring about the capitulation of Jerusalem, by sending messengers with a letter to Hezekiah. This letter was a warning to the king not to be deceived by his God, because the gods of other nations had been unable to deliver them.
On the reception of this letter Hezekiah again went into the house of the Lord, this time in the attitude of quietness and confidence resulting from his returning and rest. His prayer was characterized by reverence, simplicity, and directness. In the invocation he addressed Him as Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, and confessed Him the one all-sovereign, and mighty God. His petitions were two; first that Jehovah would hear and see; and secondly that He would save His people from the hand of the oppressor, to the glory of His own name. Between the petitions, with an artless simplicity, he admitted in the presence of Jehovah the truth of the claim of the king of Assyria, that he had overcome the gods of the nations; but accounted for his victory by the declaration, "They were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone; therefore they have destroyed them."
Following the prayer, the prophet sent the king a message declaring the sin of Sennacherib, and announcing the Divine determination concerning him.
The sin of Sennacherib consisted in the fact that he had reproached and blasphemed the Holy One of Israel. His coming with the multitude of his chariots to the height of the mountains and the innermost parts of Lebanon, had been a coming in arrogance and in pride.
In all this he had failed to recognize the fact that he had been the instrument of Jehovah. The message of Jehovah concerning him was one which declared His knowledge of the smallest detail of his action, and His determination to force him back by the way which he had come.
In confirmation of this, the prophet gave a sign to Hezekiah. The first phase of the message concerning this sign referred to its continuous character for the space of three years. Its immediate character was that of the departure of Sennacherib without entering the city, without shooting an arrow, or casting a mount against it; and the last word of the message of the prophet to the king was that of the declaration of the fact which through all this period he had emphasized, expressed in the word of Jehovah, "I will defend this city to save it, for Mine own sake, and for My servant David's sake."
The Judgment on Sennacherib
In a brief paragraph the story of the fulfilmeDt of the immediate sign is given. The army of Sennacherib was destroyed, and the king himself fled to Nineveh, where the judgment of destruction by the sword overtook him in the house of his god.
CHAPTER 19. PART B: HISTORICAL INTERLUDE: HEZEKIAH'S SICKNESS AND FOLLY - ISAIAH 38:1-38:22
The third story is that of the sickness of the king, and consists of an account of his deliverance; the record of the psalm he sang; and the addition of a postscript.
The phrase "In those days" with which the story opens, and which is also employed in the same story in the book of the Kings, most naturally suggests that this sickness occurred during the time that the Assyrian hosts were in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and this view is supported by the fact that when Isaiah declared to him that his prayer was heard, he added, "I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city." If the sickness is to be interpreted by the psalm which resulted therefrom, we may safely speak of it as a method of chastisement by which the king was brought into a larger spiritual experience, out of which in all probability grew his penitence, as expressed in the message of repentance to Isaiah and the request for his intercession.
When he was seized with sickness, Isaiah went to him and charged him to set his house in order, because he would die.
When he heard this message, he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to Jehovah, beseeching Him to remember how he had walked before Him. The whole story suggests that his sickness was due to failure on his part.
In answer to this prayer, the prophet was sent by Jehovah to the king to declare that his prayer was heard, that his life would be prolonged fifteen years, that the city should be delivered out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and in response to Hezekiah's appeal for a sign, as the postscript to the chapter will show, to grant him the sign of the return of the shadow on the steps.
Immediately following the story we have the psalm of thanksgiving over which the title is written. The psalm falls into two parts, the first expressing his mourning in the day of affliction. He lamented the fact that his life was about to be cut off at noon day, that therefore he would no longer be able to observe the processes of history, under the government of Jehovah; that he was being cut off from all strength, waiting only for the end; that he was cut off from the sense of peace.
Suddenly the note of lamentation is overwhelmed by that of adoration, in the celebration of the gains of suffering. Out of this experience of darkness a dignity of life is gained; henceforth he will go softly, that is in solemn procession, with added dignity. There is moreover the gain of spirituality; for out of these things of darkness he has come to the consciousness of the life of the spirit. There is also the gain of peace; for he is delivered from the body of corruption, and his sins are cast behind the back of God. Finally there is the gain of ability to testify to the goodness of God; for it is the living that are able to praise Him among the sons of men.
It is interesting to note the limit of the outlook of this psalm. It would appear that he had no clear consciousness of the life beyond the grave.
The final two verses of the section declare that which is omitted from the first part; the first concerns the means which the prophet had commanded should be adopted for the healing of the king; and the second chronicles the fact that Hezekiah had asked for a sign which was granted in the going back of the shadow on the steps. The coming up to the house referred to in this request for a sign, is in all probability that described in the previous section, when in penitence he turned to Jehovah.
The last brief record is of the folly of the king. After his recovery there came to Jerusalem an embassy from Babylon, ostensibly to congratulate him thereupon.
That their real motive was sinister is made evident by the attitude of Isaiah when he came to the king and rebuked him.
Hezekiah, flattered by their coming, exposed to their view all his treasures, and thus revealed secrets which should have been hidden from their eyes.
The prophet sternly rebuked him, and foretold the ultimate issue, namely that the very things which he had shown them should one day be carried into Babylon, and that his issue would be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. All this was literally fulfilled.
The answer of Hezekiah was one of submission and of thankfulness, as he recognized that for the remainder of his life there would be peace and truth.
CHAPTER 20. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PURPOSE OF PEACE; PROLOGUE - ISAIAH 40:1-40:11
Prophecies of Peace
We now commence the study of the Prophecies of Peace which, like the Prophecies of Judgment, fall into three sections, dealing in turn with the purpose of peace; the Prince of peace; and the programme of peace.
The Purpose of Peace
In declaring the purpose of peace the prophet first uttered a foreword of explanation; and then dealt successively with the majesty of Jehovah; the manifesto of Jehovah; the messages of Jehovah; the might of Jehovah; and the mercy of Jehovah.
The first paragraph constitutes a prologue to the whole division. This prologue opens with a declaration which indicates the burden of all that is to follow; describes the making of a highway for God; and closes with a commission to announce the good tidings to Jerusalem.
The opening words of this section, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," reveal the burden of all that is to follow to the end of the book. As in the first division all the messages were based upon the fact that the judgment of God proceeds to peace, so in this third, the master-thought is that of the establishment of peace by the processes of judgment. The supreme note of the first division was that of judgment. The supreme note of the last is that of peace.
It is important here that we should recognize the close connection of these opening words with the closing paragraph of the first division. As we have seen, the second division is historic, and is only of value as the events chronicled help to explain the reason and method of the prophetic teaching. In the prophecies of judgment the final outlook was upon world-wide desolation, followed by world-wide restoration. The last words of that section were, "Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." The first words of the present division are, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God." The connection and relation is self-evident.
The message of comfort to be delivered is first summarized. The prophet is charged to "speak comfortably," that is to the heart of Jerusalem, because "her warfare," that is the long-continued period of her trouble, "is accomplished," "her iniquity is pardoned," and the measure of her chastisement is ended, seeing that she has received "double for all her sins."
In all the earlier messages the dominant thought was that the purpose of judgment is peace. The burden of this last division is that when judgment is accomplished, peace will be the result.
In figurative language the prophet then described the way by which Jehovah would proceed to the accomplishment of this purpose. Two voices were heard, the first telling of the advent of Jehovah; and the second announcing the certainty of His victory.
The First Voice
The first voice was one which called upon the people to prepare the way of the Lord. This involved the proclamatiou of His advent. There is a recognition of the desolation in the use of the words, "the wilderness" and "the desert"; and also of the restoration to be accomplished by the fact that the Lord is to pass through the wilderness, and find in the desert a highway for His progress.
A description of the preparation necessary then follows. The valleys of depression are to be lifted; and the obstructing mountains and hills are to be lowered; all is to be made straight and plain for the progress of Jehovah. Without entering into any details, the prophet then declared what the coming of Jehovah would mean. His glory would be revealed, and all flesh would see. The absolute certainty of these things lay in the fact that the mouth of the Lord had spoken it.
The Second Voice
The second voice bade the prophet, "Cry," With immediate readiness the response was an inquiry as to the nature of the proclamation, "What shall I cry? "The answer affirmed the frailty of humanity against the power of Jehovah as He moves forward upon the highway of His purpose. Again the certainty of His overcoming might is declared to be that "the word of our God shall stand for ever."
The final movement in the Prologue is one which chronicles the fact of the commission given to the prophet, and of his obedience thereto. Two things were necessary to the declaration of the message. The first is that the messenger should ascend the high mountain, that is, that he should come to the place of vision. The second is that with strength, and without fear he should deliver his message.
The whole burden of the message was then given to him in the one brief and inclusive declaration, "Behold, your God." The eyes of the people had all too long been fixed, either upon their foes, or upon their own princes and rulers. The former had proved too strong for the latter. The latter had failed to fulfil their duties toward God and toward His people. Therefore the supreme and inclusive word of the prophecy of hope and comfort was, "Behold, your God."
The prophet immediately gave utterance to the twofold truth concerning Jehovah, which in subsequent messages he would explain in detail, both as to its nature and its method. The first declaration is concerning Jehovah as the mighty One, Who is coming for active administration, and Whose might is irresistible. The second is concerning Him in His Shepherd character. The first settles the question of the foes who will be unable to stand before Him. The second is prophetic of the restoration of the people who are scattered and wounded through the failure of their rulers.
CHAPTER 21. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PURPOSE OF PEACE; MAJESTY OF JEHOVAH - ISAIAH 40:12-40:31
Prophecies of Peace
The Purpose of Peace
The Majesty of Jehovah
In elaboration of his declaration of Jehovah as the Mighty One, the prophet first presented Him in His majesty. This he set forth as to its essential nature; by comparison with false gods; and as demonstrated in different ways.
The essential majesty of Jehovah is revealed first in His might. This is seen in the perfect adjustment of creation; the measured waters, heaven meted out, the dust comprehended, mountains and hills weighed. Every phrase suggests moreover, the perfect ease with which Jehovah accomplishes these things. The whole creation is seen as known, ordered, and upheld by the might of Jehovah.
It is revealed also in the fact of His wisdom. This is stated in the form of questions which dmit of no answer save such as recognize the fact that Jehovah acts without instruction and without advice.
This essential might is finally demonstrated by His government of all that which, in unaided wisdom and all-sufficient might. He has created. The things which man ever thinks of as great - the nations, the isles of the sea, the mountains, and the beasts - are characterized by their littleness when placed in comparison with Himself.
In view of this manifestation of essential might, the prophet then suggested, declined, and proved the impossibility of, comparison. The whole movement of the prophetic utterances was aimed at recalling the people from their idolatry to the recognition, worship, and service of Jehovah. In successive deliverances the comparison between idols and God will be wrought out in fuller detail. It is now suggested in the form of questions. In view of the essential might, wisdom, and government of God as manifesting His majesty, the inquiry is raised as to who can be likened to Him; or what idea, apart from the truth concerning Himself, can be placed in comparison with Him. To the mind of the prophet the question is enough to reveal the impossibility of comparison.
He immediately turned however to the illustrations of idolatry, describing the image of metal which the workman melts, and a goldsmith covers with gold, and the image of wood made of the most durable tree. These are the work of men who are desirous of gods that will last. The whole of their effort is demonstration of this desire; and yet as the prophet describes their activity, their failure is self-evident. He does not argue the impossibility of comparison, because it is unnecessary to do so. The vision of the majesty of Jehovah in the might and wisdom of His creation, and in the perfect ease of His government, reveals the unutterable folly of any attempt to supplant Him by the feeble work of men who themselves are as nothing when compared with Jehovah.
Finally the prophet showed that the majesty of Jehovah is demonstrated in creation; in actual government on earth and in the heavens; and in the method of grace with Israel.
The people were reminded of the majesty of Jehovah in creation by allusions to their own sacred writings as the prophet inquired if they had not known, or heard, or been told the story of beginnings, and of the foundations of the earth. To accept the truth of the declarations with which they were familiar must be to recognize the superlative and incomparable majesty of Jehovah.
That majesty is seen moreover, in His perfect government. He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and in His presence humanity is infinitely small. The whole created order He encompasses as He stretches the heavens around the earth as a curtain, and constitutes them a tent in which He dwells Himself. The figure is one of striking beauty and suggestiveness. By it the prophet calls attention to the earth and the encompassing firmament, like a curtain of gauze, as the Hebrew word suggests; and reminds them that within that curtain, enwrapping the whole earth, is the presence of Jehovah. That is not His final and only dwelling-place. It is but a tent, and suggests His nearness to all the earth and the inhabitants thereof. This God is more than a presence. He is actively reigning, and within that activity the great ones of the earth are completely under His control, and of themselves, as apart from His will, find no stability.
That government moreover, extends to the heavens which like a curtain form His tent of nearness to the affairs of earth. Again challenging men as to whom they will liken God, he bids them gaze beyond the earth, and into the wonders of the heavens, and see that these also have their origin in God; that His government is over them; that by His wisdom they are marshalled as an army; and in His strength they are upheld and sustained.
Finally turning to the people in direct address, and appealing to them on the basis of their history, the prophet demonstrated the majesty of God as revealed in His grace. The darkness of the circumstances in the midst of which these words were spoken, and the failure of their vision, had led them to an unbelief which declared that their way was hid from Jehovah, and their Judgment passed away from God. In the light of the truths which the prophet had been re-enforcing as to the nearness and government of God, he inquired as to why they should make such assertions.
Did they not know His inherent strength, that the everlasting One, the Creator, was incapable of fainting or of weariness?
This strength moreover, was at the disposal of those in need of it. All human strength in itself inevitably fails. Even the youths and the young men, those in the period of life characterized by buoyancy and ability, must inevitably faint and fail and fall. Humanity rightly related to God cannot so fail. The condition of strength is that men should wait upon the Lord. When that condition is fulfilled, even though there is a fainting and a weariness, there is also a renewal of strength. The experience of such renewal the prophet described in words remarkably chosen and arranged so as to reveal the greatness of the strength available to those who wait upon the Lord. Whereas we might be inclined to think that the progress of ability would be from walking to running, and from running to flying, the prophet commences with flight, and then speaks of running, and flnally of walking. Herein he recognizes the true and deepest experience of human need. In the day when it is possible to spread the wings and fly, there is less consciousness of the need of help than in the day of running upon the dusty highway; and the hour when man is most conscious of the need of help is that in which he can no longer spread his wings in flight, or hasten along the highway, but must walk patiently and persistently. Yet for all these days there is strength in God. In the day of flight, those who wait upon the Lord mount as eagles, that is, with perfect ease. In the day of running, those who wait upon Him are able to continue without weariness. In the day of walking, they are able to walk without fainting.
The majesty of Jehovah is revealed to men by the grace in which with patience He succours and sustains His failing and fainting people, even more than by the splendour of His government of the universe, or by the awe-inspiring wonder of His creative might and wisdom.
CHAPTER 22. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PURPOSE OF PEACE; MANIFESTO OF JEHOVAH - ISAIAH 41:1-42:25
Prophecies of Peace
The Purpose of Peace
The Manifesto of Jehovah
Having thus announced the majesty of Jehovah, the prophet proceeded to utter His manifesto. This manifesto falls into three parts. The first consists of an introductory challenge; the second contains the central proclamation; while in the third the prophet utters his resultant appeal.
The introductory challenge
In this section there are four movements. In the first Jehovah challenges the people as to Cyrus; in the second He declares His purpose of peace for Israel; in the third He repeats His challenge, but this time to the idols; and in the fourth He answers His own challenge.
The Challenge of Jehovah as to Cyrus
Jehovah calls the islands and the people to come near to judgment, that is, to consider what He has to say.
He then challenges them as though they were living in the midst of the circumstances which he foretells. (Note: It may be as well for the writer immediately to draw the reader's attentioa to the fact that he treats these prophecies as predictions, rather than as meditations after the events. The fact that Isaiah could know nothing naturally, or by the foresight of a statesman, of the events he described, does not for a moment matter. It rather adds value to the writing. Of course those who commence by denying the possibility of prediction must discover some other explanation of these writings. Those, on the other hand, who believe with Peter that men spake from God as they were borne along ("as a ship is carried and caught along by a mighty wind," Rotherham) into the distant scenes, have no such difficulty. As Dr. Thirtle points out, that which impressed Cyrus, according to the tradition handed down by Josephus, was the "venerable age" of the document in which he found a "forecast of the offices which he could discharge, and these associated with his very name." Of course again, if prediction is 'per se' impossible, then Josephus' tradition is discredited. But is prediction impossible by God through men? If not, then the discrediting of a tradition upon an unproven hypothesis does not prove the tradition to be untrue.)
The challenge opens and closes with the question "Who?" Between these inquiries, the campaign of Cyrus is described. In reading the paragraph it is important that we should observe the difference between the pronouns when they refer to Cyrus, and when they refer to Someone Who is acting behind and through Cyrus. In the declaration, "He giveth nations before him, and maketh him rule over kings," both these persons appear; the "He" having reference to Someone authorizing and empowering Cyrus; the "him" having reference to Cyrus himself. That is also true in the next declaration, "He giveth them as dust to his sword, as the driven stubble to his bow." The supreme Person is described by the first pronoun "He"; and Cyrus as instrument by the pronoun "his." In the third part of the declaration the singular pronouns all refer to Cyrus. "He pursueth them and passeth on safely; even by a way that he had not gone with his feet." Thus Cyrus is seen passing on his conquering way, and that way is that of victory over new territory. The challenge is as to Who is acting behind Cyrus, and using him.
The answer is then given, "I the Lord, the first, and with the last, I am He."
In the presence of the victorious campaign of Cyrus the peoples will be filled with consternation, and will resort to methods to ensure their safety. All this is described. The fear of the peoples is first set forth, then the confederacy by which they Avill encourage each other is declared, and finally a picture is given of the making of new gods, evidently with the hope that they will deliver the people from the conquering might of Cyrus. Thus in the challenge there is a recognition of the comparison or contrast described by the prophet when he was dealing with the majesty of Jehovah. He is seen using Cyrus, while men make gods to deliver them from Cyrus.
The Purpose of Peace for Israel
In immediate contrast with the picture of the troubled peoples, there follows a declaration of Jehovah's purpose of peace for His own people. They are chosen and kept. Looking back they are seen as the seed of Abraham, the friend of God. At the present moment in spite of all their troubles, they are not cast away; and the promise is made to them of Jehovah's abiding presence, and of His continued activity on their behalf.
This activity is then set forth in the declaration that all their enemies shall suffer discomfiture, and that Israel seeking for their foes shall be unable to find them. All this as the result of Jehovah's help.
Finally their restoration is promised, first to that strength which will enable them to overcome their enemies; secondly to that prosperity which is expressed under the figure of material well-being and fruitfulness; and finally to the fulfilment of the original purpose for which the nation was created, that namely of witness to other peoples and nations, of the power and government of Jehovah.
The Challenge repeated
Again the challenge of Jehovah is heard. In the previous case it was a challenge to the people as to who was God. This time it is a challenge to the false gods, and calls upon them to produce proofs of their intelligence and ability. They are asked first to explain the past; and then to foretell the future; or finally with evident satire, to do something either good or bad which may make an impression.
The challenge ends with a word of supreme contempt, which declares that they have no being, that they are able to do nothing; and consequently affirms the wickedness of those who worship them.
Jehovah's Answer to His own Challenge
The last movement in this introductory challenge is one in which Jehovah answers in detail the questions asked. In the first place, speaking of the future as present, He again definitely declares that it is He Who has raised up Cyrus, and Who has ordered his victorious campaign.
Having made this claim, the comparison between the false gods and Jehovah is again made by the repetition of an inquiry, as to who had declared these things beforehand, for whoever had done so must be vindicated by the fulfilment of prediction. Among the false gods there had been no speech. Jehovah had declared, and had given to Jerusalem "One that bringeth good tidings."
The conclusion of the introductory movement is that of the declaration of the silence of the gods, and consequently of the vanity of idolatry.
The Central Proclamation
The manifesto now presents the great Servant of Jehovah. In the introductory challenge Jehovah has revealed Himself as governing the affairs of men, as He has claimed that even Cyrus the conqueror acts under His control; and as He has revealed His ideal of persistent purpose for Israel as His chosen servant. The prophetic vision now sees that government focussed in a Person Who acts, not merely as Cyrus does, under the compulsion of Jehovah, but in conscious harmony with Him; and Who unlike Israel, who has failed and necessitated the action of the Divine patience, never fails, but abides the perfect instrument of the Divine government, both in grace and in judgment.
This central proclamation falls into two parts. The first focusses attention upon the Servant of Jehovah; while the second presents Jehovah in His relationship to His Servant.
The Servant of JeJiovah
The proclamation of the prophet first deals with the manifestation of One Who fulfils the perfect ideal of the Servant. In Himself He is described by Jehovah as "My Servant," and is seen as One upheld by Jehovah.
In His personal relation to Jehovah He is described by Jehovah as "My Chosen" and as One in Whom Jehovah delights.
His equipment for service is described by Jehovah as "My Spirit," and that Spirit is put upon Him by Jehovah.
His mission is then briefly described in the words, "He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." While the statement is a brief one, it is full of suggestiveness in the light of the history of Israel. The purpose for which Israel, the seed of Abraham, was chosen and preserved, was that of blessing to the other nations. Where Israel had failed, the ideal Servant of God would succeed. "He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles."
The proclamation then describes the method of the Servant of God. The citation of this passage in the New Testament by Matthew (See Matthew 12:20), enables us to understand it more perfectly. In the accomplishment of the purposes of Jehovah, His Servant has first a mission of grace, and then a mission of judgment.
The mission of grace will be characterized by quietness and the absence of all the things which men usually associate with the methods for the establishment of a kingdom. "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street." Moreover, during the time of such operation of grace, His method will be that of patience towards His enemies. "A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench." The bruised reed is the emblem of weakness weakened; and the smoking flax of that in which the principle which will ultimately destroy it, is already at work. During the period of the mission of grace the Servant of God will not hasten the end in either way; He will not break the bruised reed, nor will He extinguish the fire which is already destroying the flax. He will wait patiently.
Beyond the method of grace there will be that of judgment. The prophetic word is, "He shall bring forth judgment in truth." In Matthew's quotation of the prophecy, he interprets it by linking this declaration concerning judgment to that immediately preceding it.
- "A bruised reed shall He not break.
And smoking flax shall He not quench.
Till He send forth judgment unto victory";
thus making it evident that in the hour when His method becomes that of judgment, He will break the bruised reed, and quench the smoking flax.
Finally He declares the might of the Servant of Jehovah in words which put Him into immediate contrast with the enemies with whom during His mission of grace He is patient, but whom He will finally destroy in the day of His judgment. "He will not fail," that is burn dimly, as does the smoking flax; "nor be discouraged," that is bruised as is the reed; "till He have set judgment in the earth." And just as in dealing with the majesty of Jehovah the contrast between the false gods and Jehovah was set forth, so here the enemies of the Servant of Jehovah are revealed in their weakness in contrast with Him in His might.
Jehovah and His Servant
The relation between Jehovah and His Servant is now declared. All the truth dealt with in the section setting forth the majesty of Jehovah, is repeated in condensed form as He is declared to be the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth; and of the people.
His Servant is the "Called" of Jehovah. He is moreover sustained by Him; and finally He is appointed, in that He is given in order to the blessing of the nations. His work amongst them is that of illumination and deliverance from all bondage.
The proclamation concerning the Servant ends with the word of Jehovah in which He declares that He will not give His glory to another, nor His praise to graven images. The evidence that His claim to glory is warranted is found in the fact that the things He declares beforehand come to pass.
The Resultant Appeal
The manifesto ends with a section which contains first a song of confidence; secondly a renewed declaration of the purpose of Jehovah; and finally an appeal of the prophet to his people.
The Song of Confidence
As a result of the vision of the Servant of Jehovah, and of His relationship to Jehovah, the prophet immediately broke forth into a song of confidence, in which he called upon the whole earth to give glory to Jehovah. His appeal is universal. The song must ascend from the end of the earth, and all must take part therein; both such as go down to the sea, and all that is therein; both the islands, and those who dwell thereon. The wilderness, the cities, and the villages of the lands beyond the holy land are to join in the anthem, with the inhabitants of Sela, which is the rock.
The song is to be that which ascribes the glory to Jehovah, and the reason is that He is going forth upon a campaign in which He will be victorious over His enemies.
The Purpose of Jehovah
The prophetic word now changes into the actual language of Jehovah in which, speaking in the abiding tense of His own existence, He declares that His passion, long restrained in patience, is now to become active in power. All that was said concerning the method of the Servant of God is now spoken by God as of Himself. He has long time holden His peace, been still, and refrained Himself in the method of grace which does not "cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street." Now the method will change, and He will cry out, He will gasp and pant, will make waste mountains and hills, and will proceed, as the song of the prophet has declared, as a mighty man for the establishment of judgment.
The issue of this activity of His passion will be the establishment of peace. The needy will find succour; the blind, that is His failing people, will yet be led into the realization of His original purpose; and this succour of the needy will be accompanied by the confusion of all idolaters.
The Prophet's Appeal
Again the prophetic note changes to one of direct address to the people. The people deaf and blind, are urged to hear and to look. That description of them is then elaborated. They are blind and deaf even though the Divine purpose for them is that they should be servant and messenger of God. They have seen, and yet have not observed.
The law had been given for righteousness' sake, that is in order to their fulfilment of purpose. But because of their disobedience thereto, they have suffered, and have become a people robbed and spoiled, snared in holes, hid in prison houses, a prey, a spoil.
In view of these things the central appeal is then made in the form of a question, "Who is there among you that will give ear to this? that will hearken and hear for the time to come?"
The manifesto closes with a word about Jacob's suffering. All that which he has passed through, is the punishment of his sin; and in spite of it all, he remains unresponsive.
CHAPTER 23. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PURPOSE OF PEACE; MESSAGES OF JEHOVAH - ISAIAH 43:1-45:25
Prophecies of Peace
The Purpose of Peace
The Messages of Jehovah
Following the manifesto, we have a series of seven messages of Jehovah, each introduced by the words "Thus saith Jehovah." The burden of these messages is that of the purpose of Jehovah for and through His people. They deal with His perpetual purpose for His people; His present purpose of deliverance; His power in contrast with that of idols; His declaration of essential might; His charge to Cyrus; His ultimate purpose for Israel; and His purpose for the ends of the earth.
His perpetual purpose for his people
This message is intended to teach the unchangeableness of the Divine purpose, and falls into two parts; the first of which deals with the fact of the perpetual attitude of Jehovah; while the second declares His present purpose in the light thereof.
His perpetual Attitude
The constancy of the attitude of love is affirmed in promises which gain their force from the fact that they appeal to deliverances already wrought. Jehovah first calls to remembrance the things of the past, using them as illustrations of His present purpose. Passing through waters and through rivers, walking through fire, they are to be safe as they have been safe under similar conditions. As Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba have been given as the price of the ransom of Israel, so men will still be given for their sake, and peoples for their life. Thus the past is revealed as merging into the present.
Because of the abiding presence of Jehovah, it is affirmed that He will gather His scattered people together; thus the present assures the future.
Then the promise is definitely made of deliverance determined upon, as the result of which the north must give up, and the south must not keep back; and all this because of His past dealing with them, which is summarized by the use of three words, "I have created," "I have formed," "I have made " - the first suggesting that original activity of God which is essential causation; the second that method which, as in the case of the potter with the clay, is that of sovereignty; the third being the simplest word which recognizes the fact that the instrument is the result of the activity of Jehovah. Thus the future is declared to depend upon the past.
His present Purpose
Jehovah then declared that His immediate purpose was that the blind people who yet have eyes, and the deaf who still have ears, should be brought forth. The explanation of this figure of speech is found In the prophet's appeal at the close of the manifesto, in which he described the failure of the people of God by declaring their blindness and their dulness of hearing. From this condition it was the present purpose of Jehovah to deliver them, that so they might fulfil His original purpose for them.
Again the nations and the peoples are challenged either to foretell events and justify their foretelling by witnesses, or else to acknowledge that the testimony concerning Jehovah is true. This challenge is a reference to the first movement in the manifesto of Jehovah in which He appealed to the peoples and the idols in the same way.
Having thus challenged the nations and peoples to produce their witnesses, Jehovah proceeded to declare that His people are His witnesses and His servant. The truth to which they were to bear testimony was truth concerning Himself. In order to do this it was necessary that they should know and believe Him. Upon the basis of such knowledge they were to declare that He is the only God; moreover that He is Jehovah, and that beside Him there is no Saviour. All this He had declared by His dealings with them, and therefore they were to be His witnesses. Therein is a revelation of His original purpose for His people. Israel was intended to be an instrument testifying to truth concerning God.
Finally, notwithstanding the fact that Israel has sadly failed, her ultimate deliverance and fulfilment of vocation as witness is certain because of what God is, and of what He is able to do. The message ends with an announcement and a challenge, "I will work, and who shall reverse it?" This declaration of purpose is rendered powerful by the history of His dealings with His people from the beginning, and by the fact of His abiding presence with them. His purpose is unchanged and unchanging, and His power is equal to the accomplishment thereof.
His Present Purpose of Deliverance
The second message takes up the theme at the point where the first left it, and describes in greater detail Jehovah's present purpose of deliverance. It consists of a declaration concerning the destruction of their foes; an appeal to Israel; and a promise.
Destruction of Foes
Again introducing Himself as Jehovah, the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, He affirms His determination to destroy their enemies. This He does first by a declaration of His activity, and an affirmation of His purpose. He is already at work, for He has sent to Babylon, and His purpose is the capture and discomfiture of the people thereof.
Because such a declaration might appear unlikely. He repeats the truth concerning Himself that He is Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, its Creator, and its King.
To this word of self-revelation He adds one which reminds them of His power as it had been manifested in His deliverance of His people from Egypt when He made a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; when He brought low all the power of Egypt, utterly destroying it.
In the midst of this declaration, and for the encouragement of faith, He appealed to past history, which thej were in danger of forgetting, or were failing to consider.
The things of the past are to be superseded by the new, which things are illustrated again by historic reference. As in the past He had made a way in the wilderness, and given them rivers in the desert, so will He do again; and all in order that His chosen people, which He had formed for Himself, may set forth His praise.
Appeal to Israel
The second movement in the message is that of an appeal to Israel, in which their sin is first described. It was first the sin of forgetfulness. In spite of all His purpose for them, and deliverances wrought on their behalf, they had forgotten Him, and had been weary of Him.
This forgetfulness had expressed itself in neglect. This complaint of Jehovah must be considered side by side with other of the prophetic messages. It was not actually true that these people had abandoned the outward observances of worship. There was a sense in which God was weary of their oblations and their sacrifices. The neglect lay deeper, and consisted in the fact that their offerings were those of mechanical observance, rather than the gifts of loving adoration and service.
The final note of their sin was that by sinning they had inflicted injury upon God, making Him to serve, and wearying Him with their iniquities.
Having described the sin, in words full of grace, He uttered the declaration of His pardon, and called them to dealing with Himself, in order to their own justification. There is the most intimate relationship between the declarations "Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins. ...," and "I even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake; ... let us plead together ... that thou mayest be justified," While sin inflicts injury upon God, the grace that consents to bear the injury makes possible the provision of pardon for the sinner, and opens the way for that dealing with God whereby the sinner may be justified.
The last word of the appeal is one which explains their punishment. All the evil which has happened to them, in which Jacob has been made a curse, and Israel a reviling, is the result of their sin against Him.
The final movement in the message is that of a gracious promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of God, and a description of the blessing and the refreshment and renewal which shall come to Israel, and the consequent influence which will be exerted upon other people.
Jehovah first reminds them of the relationship existing between His people and Himself. He speaks of Jacob as His servant, of Israel as His chosen; again declaring that Israel owes its existence to Him, and that He will still help. Upon the basis of this relationship He utters the great "Fear not," and proceeds to declare His purpose of blessing; first under the figure of water, and of streams upon the thirsty land, and upon the dry ground; and then definitely in the promise of His Spirit upon the people of His love. As the grass springs when the rains fall, and as the willows grow by the water-courses, so will His people prosper and flourish as the result of the outpouring of His Spirit.
As the result of this renewal of His own people, blessing will flow to others. The revelation of Jehovah through the prosperity of His people will constrain others to submission to Him, who in turn will bear His name, and share their privileges; all of which is according to His first and perpetual purpose for them, and through them for the world.
His Power compared with that of Idols
The third message is one in which Jehovah compares His power with that of idols. It falls into three parts. The first is a declaration that Jehovah is the only God; the second sets forth the folly of idolatry; while the third is again an appeal to Israel.
Jehovah the only God
Re-aflfirming His relation to His people as King and Redeemer, Jehovah declares Himself to be the last, and that beside Him there is no God.
These facts are demonstrated as He is seen knowing, declaring, and appointing; in all of which He is alone, having neither rival nor competitor.
Because these things are so, the people are appealed to, not to fear. They themselves are the witnesses of the truth of the declarations.
The Folly of Idolatry
Then follows a remarkable passage setting forth the folly of idolatry. The people who make a graven image are themselves vanity or confusion.
Their work is unprofitable, and they, as the witnesses of their gods, are blind and ignorant; and therefore are not ashamed. Attention is fastened upon the unutterable folly of the image-maker by the question, "Who hath fashioned a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?" The emphasis of the question is on this first word "who." The vision of the unprofitable idol is in itself a revelation of the vanity of the idol-maker.
With fine satire the whole process of the making of an idol is then described. Catching up the thought suggested by the inquiry "Who," it is declared that of such an one even his fellows shall be ashamed.
In demonstration of this, the process of the making is described. Men put their strength into the fashioning of an idol of metal, and as the result of the exercise of strength, they become hungry, and strength fails, but there is none to feed. Others work in wood, making gods with their own tools after the likeness of a man, whose only ability, when made, is that of remaining in the house. These gods of wood are made out of the chosen trees of the forest. The process of the nourishing and choosing of the tree is described, and the satire of the description consists in the fact that the making of a god is the last activity. Of the tree, man makes a fire to warm himself and to roast his meat, and when his own needs have been supplied by his own activity, with what remains of the tree he makes a god which he worships, and asks it to deliver him.
The madness of it all is that idol-makers are so blind that they are not conscious of the folly of their procedure. This blindness is the most appalling nemesis of idolatry.
The contrast between Jehovah, the first and the last, knowing, declaring, appointing; and the idols made by men, unable to help men, is graphic.
The Appeal to Israel
The message ends with an appeal to Israel to remember. The appeal is based first upon the fact of the relationship of Israel to God; and secondly upon the fact that God has not forgotten Israel.
The second word of appeal is introduced by the declaration of grace, that Jehovah has blotted out transgressions and sins, and urges His people to return to Him, because He has redeemed them.
The final note is that of the song of redemption. The heavens and the earth, the mountains, the forest, and every tree are called to the exercise of praise because Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob, and will glorify Himself in Israel. This message dealing with the power of Jehovah as compared with that of idols ends with a joyful recognition that His purpose of peace will ultimately be accomplished as His own people are restored to the fulfilment of their true function in His economy.
His Declaration of Might
The fourth message is a brief one, but full of strength and beauty as it majestically sets forth the might of Jehovah in three movements; the first of which is of the nature of a backward look; the second dealing with the continuous fact; and the last declaring the immediate action.
The backward Look
Again reminding His people of His relation to them as Redeemer and Creator, Jehovah declares His might in the material realm. He is the Maker of all things, and that in the loneliness of His power. The illustrations are inclusive, and are those of the heavens stretched forth, and the earth spread abroad.
The continuous Fact
Continuing, He claims that His might is manifested in His government in the moral realm. He frustrates the operations of evil, and confirms the intentions of good. Moreover, it proceeds to the accomplishment of purpose, and that in spite of all appearances to the contrary. Jerusalem desolate, shall be inhabited. The cities of Judah destroyed, shall be built. The forces that oppose will be overcome, the deep will be dry, and the rivers also.
The immediate Action
The last word in the declaration of might brings the thought back to that which is to be immediately accomplished in the days to which the prophet is looking on. This Jehovah, powerful in the material realm, governing in the moral, is moving forward towards the restoration of His people by the appointment of Cyrus who will perform His pleasure; and by declaring His purpose that Jerusalem shall be built, and the foundation of the temple shall be laid.
His Charge to Cyrus
The fifth of these messages of Jehovah consists of His charge to Cyrus. The first part is an introductory word presenting the man; then follows the charge itself; and finally a solemn word of protest is uttered against objections to the Divine choice of the instrument.
In the last message dealing with the might of Jehovah its immediate activity was indicated in the declaration that Cyrus would act as Jehovah's shepherd, performing all his pleasure. In the present message Cyrus is first presented as the anointed of Jehovah. He is seen as an instrument for the accomplishment of the Divine purpose; and in order thereto he is anointed, appointed, and sustained to subdue nations. In order to this Jehovah declares His purpose of preparing the way by loosing the loins of kings, that is, filling them with fear, and opening doors before him.
The charge to Cyrus is introduced by promises which are intended to be his strength in the carrying out of the Divine purpose. The promises are that Jehovah will go before him to make the way plain, breaking down all obstacles, and that He will give him the spoil of his victories; and the purpose of all this action on the part of Jehovah is that Cyrus may know that He is Jehovah.
Cyrus is thus to be used of God for the sake of Jacob and Israel. Moreover even though Cyrus does not know God, He will gird him, in order that the wider world from sunrise to sunset may know that Jehovah is God, and beside Him there is none else.
The immediate charge ends with the declaration of the ability of Jehovah first in the material world, in that He forms the light and creates darkness; and secondly in the moral world, in that He makes peace and creates evil, that is calamity. The whole movement of the activity of Jehovah is then figuratively set forth. Kighteousness is to descend from above, and the earth is to open that she may be fruitful in salvation. Thus it is declared to Cyrus, that God is the source of righteousness; and that it is His power which over-rules the affairs of earth, so that the kingdom of heaven which is righteousness, is set thereon.
Protest against 0bjections
The last section of the charge to Cyrus is of the nature of a protest against objections. The idea of the employment by God of a man outside the covenant, and of another nation, was entirely contrary to the pride and prejudice of the Hebrew people. The same attitude of mind is discovered and dealt with more fully in the prophecy of Habakkuk. Here there is no argument in defence of the action of Jehovah other than that of the assertion of His sovereign right. Thus is revealed the folly and uselessness of rebellion in this matter.
The folly is illustrated by the figure of the clay in revolt against the potter, and of the child in rebellion against its parents. It is finally stated directly by words challenging the attitude of those raising objection. If, as some suppose, the words of Jehovah here should be read as though they were questions, "Do ye ask Me of the things that are to come? Concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands, do ye command Me?" the intention of protest is evident. If, on the other hand, we are to read the passage as it appears in our translations as an imperative, it is still evident by the illustrations already referred to, that the imperative is satirical rather than of the nature of a positive command. For men to raise objections to Jehovah's choice and use of instruments is as foolish as for clay to criticise the potter, or for a child to protest against its begetting and its birth.
The uselessness of such protest is revealed in the light of the original right of Jehovah, based upon the fact that He is Creator; and finally it is declared in the light of His present action, and of the fact that the method and the purpose of that action are what they are. The method is that Jehovah raises Cyrus in righteousness, and His purpose is that Cyrus shall build His city, and let His exiles go free, and that not for price or for reward.
This whole charge to Cyrus is a revelation of the facts of the actuality and perpetuity of the Divine government, not only over His own people, but over the whole world for the sake of His people, and over His people for the sake of the whole world. If they fail, He will lay His hand upon a man of another nation, and lead him on a campaign of conquest in order to the accomplishment of His purpose, and the restoration of His failing people.
The central teaching of the charge may be said to find clearest expression in the words addressed to Cyrus, "I have surnamed thee though thou hast not known Me. ... I will gird thee though thou hast not known Me." While men may frustrate and postpone for a period the accomplishment of the Divine purpose; while instead of the preparation of straight paths for God, men may by rebellion compel the necessity for the circuitous route, they can neither dethrone Him nor prevent His ultimate triumph. He compels all men and all movements to contribute towards that end.
His Ultimate Purpose for Israel
Immediately following the charge to Cyrus, the sixth message re-affirms the ultimate purpose of Jehovah for His own people.
That purpose is first the submission of the peoples who by their labour and their merchandise will contribute to the prosperity of Israel. This they will do in complete submission. The inspiring cause of such submission will be the discovery by these people of the fact that God is in the midst of His own, and that beside Him there is no God.
The words immediately following this declaration concerning the submission of the peoples, "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour," constitute a parenthesis. Whether they are the words of the people as they come into the place of submission to Jehovah, or whether they are the words of the prophet is open to question. I should personally be inclined to treat them as the words of the prophet, an exclamation of the recognition of the mystery of the Divine method, and an admission of the wisdom thereof as demonstrated by the final issue. In that case they constitute a further answer to the folly of those who protest against the choice of such an instrument as Cyrus.
Such submission of the peoples will be the occasion of the ultimate shame of idol-makers, for they will go into confusion together.
In immediate contrast to the shame of such, Israel will be saved with an everlasting salvation, and will neither be ashamed nor confounded.
Again in this picture of His ultimate purpose for Israel His larger intention of blessing to the distant nations is recognized and plainly declared. In Him alone there is salvation for His own people and all the peoples. Apart from Him there is nothing but shame and confusion.
His Purpose for the Ends of the Earth
As in the charge to Cyrus, His larger purpose of Self-revelation to all, from the rising of the sun and from the west, was declared, the last of the seven messages deals with that purpose particularly. In this message there are three movements, in the first of which there is declared the original purpose in creation; then the purpose of the seed of Jacob; and finally the call to the peoples based upon these facts.
The Purpose of Creation
Again affirming His own sovereignty, and that beside Him there is none else, Jehovah declares that He formed the earth and made it, that He established it and created it not a waste, but that it might be inhabited. All creation prior to man is thus set in relationship to him. In all the processes of the Divine activity man was in view, and the creation of the earth was but the preparation of a home for him.
The Purpose of the Seed of Jacob
Having thus created the earth and its inhabitants, He did not leave them without witness. His speech had not been in secret in a land of darkness. As the purpose of the creation of the earth was not that it should be a waste, so His choice of the seed of Jacob was not that it should be a waste. His method with men is that of speaking and declaring; and the purpose for which the seed of Jacob was chosen was that they should constitute an instrument through which He might reveal Himself.
The Call to the Peoples
On the foundation of these assertions of purpose in original creation, and in the seed of Jacob, the call to the nations is uttered.
The declarations which immediately follow suggest to the peoples a comparison of idols with Jehovah. In the light of all that had been said in previous messages concerning the method by which men make idols, and their uselessness, it is now affirmed that such as carry the wood of the graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save, are without knowledge. In immediate contrast the peoples are called to take counsel together, and to recognize that the God Who has persistently and from ancient time showed and revealed these things of righteousness is the only God; and that He is a just God and a Saviour.
In view of these things the great invitation of infinite grace is uttered to the ends of the earth as they are called to look to Jehovah and so to find salvation. This invitation is emphasized by the declaration of Jehovah's determination that every knee must bow to Him, and to Him every tongue must swear. It is within His purpose that all shall come to Him in submission and in confession. The method of the acceptation of this invitation is foretold as the recognition that righteousness and strength are to be found only in Jehovah. Through that recognition men will come to Him.
The final word of the last of these messages is the declaration that in Jehovah all the seed of Israel shall be justified and shall glory; and this word, interpreted in the light of the teaching of the messages, includes the thought that His purposes of illumination and blessing for the ends of the earth must inevitably be realized.
CHAPTER 24. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PURPOSE OF PEACE; MIGHT OF JEHOVAH - ISAIAH 46:1-47:15
Prophecies of Peace
The Purpose of Peace
The Might of Jehovah
The fourth movement in this section of the prophecy celebrates the might of Jehovah, as manifested in the downfall of Babylon. The message falls into two parts; the fall of Babylon determined; and the fall of Babylon described.
The fall of Babylon Determined
In dealing with the Divine determination to destroy Babylon the prophet first contrasts the idols of Babylon with Jehovah; then utters the challenge of Jehovah; and finally declares His counsel.
The message opens with a graphic picture of the idols being hurried away for safety, carried upon beasts of burden. Bel and Nebo, the chief of the Babylonian deities, are represented as crouching in the attitude of weakness and of fear. The idols are seen placed upon the beasts. With infinite scorn the prophet describes them as "the things that ye carried about." These false gods, so far from being able to deliver those who trusted in them from captivity, are themselves carried by the people into captivity. The central thought of the picture is that of gods that have to be carried. In immediate contrast the prophet presents Jehovah as the One Who carried His people. This He has done from birth, and this He declares He will do until old age. There is again an affirmation of that so often insisted upon, that He is the Creator, and the corollary is insisted upon anew, that He will carry, and will deliver.
In the light of that contrast Jehovah utters His challenge, asking to whom they will liken Him, make Him equal, or compare Him.
The only answer possible to the idolater would be that of suggesting his god. Therefore the challenge ends with a description of the idol, which shows at once the unutterable folly of any such comparison. The idol is made. It has to be carried, and when set in its place is unable to move. When one cries unto it, it can neither answer nor save.
All this sets forth the sin of Babylon, and opens the way for the declaration of the counsel of Jehovah which has determined upon the destruction of Babylon.
Of this the first word is addressed to the transgressors, that is, those among the people of God who are in rebellion against Him; in all probability those to whom the prophet had before referred, who protested against the idea of the use of Cyrus as an instrument of the Divine procedure. These are called upon to remember first the former things which had demonstrated the fact that Jehovah was God and that there was none beside. This had been shown in the fact of His "declaring the end from the beginning"; "saying. My counsel shall stand"; "calling the ravenous bird from the east." He had announced what He would do, and this very calling of Cyrus, contrary to all which the transgressors thought fitting, was in itself evidence of His power. In the hearing of these transgressors the affirmation is then made, "I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass."
The second word concerning the counsel is addressed to the stout-hearted, that is, to the actual enemies of Jehovah who are called upon to hearken to Him. To them He affirms His determination to bring near His righteousness, to place salvation in Zion, all of which constitutes the declaration of His determination to destroy Babylon.
The Fall of Babylon Described
The prophecy is now addressed to Babylon itself, and describes its judgment in language full of force and beauty. That description is fourfold, and deals with the process which beginning with degradation, proceeds through disgrace and desolation, to complete destruction.
First the degradation of the city is foretold. From the place of delicacy she is to pass to that of grinding and of shame. The city that has claimed to be the "virgin daughter of Babylon" characterized by all the refinements of luxury, is to sit in the dust without a throne. Nay more, she is to enter into the experience of slavery and of shame, and the Agent of the degradation is Jehovah Himself Who declares, "I will take vengeance, and will make truce with no man." The prophet was careful to explain that this is the word of Jehovah Himself, as he described Him by the names and titles which he had made use of in the messages which have been considered; "the Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts, the Holy One of Israel."
The place to which Babylon comes is moreover to be a place of disgrace. She is to sit silent in the darkness, and no more to be called "the lady of kingdoms." She who has borne that title because of her supremacy over many peoples, is to sit without speech and without light in disgrace.
The sin of which this disgrace is the punishment the prophet declared in words attributed to Jehovah Himself. He had been wroth with His own people, and had made Babylon the instrument of their punishment. Babylon had made use of the opportunity to crush and oppress the people of God, showing them no mercy, and laying the yoke heavily upon them.
Moreover this she had done in a pride of heart, without compassion, and in forgetfulness of the inevitable nemesis of such action toward another people.
Continuing, the prophet showed that the disgrace will issue in desolation. The city given to pleasure, full of pride, pride which expressed itself in language which can only be used accurately by God, "I am, and there is none else beside Me"; pride which had declared that the city could never be moved, and never know sorrow; is to be rendered childless and widowed in a day, and that in spite of her sorceries, and the abundance of the enchantments in which she had placed her trust.
In dealing with the desolation the prophet finally declared the relation between this pride and punishment. Babylon had trusted in her wickedness, had said that none saw her.
By reason of her wisdom and her knowledge she had been perverted until she had used the offending words, "I am, and there is none else beside me." Therefore said the prophet, evil would come upon her, and mischief fall upon her; and these things should come in such fashion that Babylon in her blindness would be unable to detect the first beginnings of judgment.
Finally the prophet declared that the judgment would be the utter destruction of the city. He challenged the city to stand up against the processes of the Divine judgment; and called upon her to let her astrologers, and stargazers, and monthly prognosticators, save her from the threatening peril.
All would be of no avail. The fire would destroy them as stubble. It would be a fire, not for comfort, but for burning; and so terrible would be the destruction, that those who had traflflcked with the city from her youth would abandon her.
The last word to the city which had put her trust in idols, in enchantments, in all wickedness, is "there shall be none to save thee."
CHAPTER 25. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PURPOSE OF PEACE; MERCY OF JEHOVAH - ISAIAH 48:1-48:22
Prophecies of Peace
The Purpose of Peace
The Mercy of Jehovah
The last section of the division dealing with the purpose of peace is of the nature of an appeal to the people, and deals with the mercy of Jehovah. It describes Jehovah's methods, gives an illustration, re-aflflrms His purpose, and utters the final word.
In demanding the attention of the people the prophet recognized the fact of their failure. The message was evidently addressed to the remnant; and even that remnant had failed. He recognized the Divine purpose for the whole nation when he spoke of the house of Jacob, called by the name of Israel; but he also recognized that such purpose was being fulfilled in a remnant, when he described the house of Jacob as having come forth out of the waters of Judah. This remnant of the tribe of Judah whom the prophet had in view, he addressed as the house of Jacob only because he saw how that remnant was the medium through which the Divine purpose was being carried forward towards its fulfilment in the person of the servant of Jehovah. Nevertheless the remnant was in itself a failing one; swearing by the name of Jehovah, making mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, that is with inward sincerity; nor in righteousness, that is with outward loyalty. Nevertheless they called themselves of the holy city, and stayed themselves upon the God of Israel. They failed, but there was still the principle of faith manifest in their attitudes, and to that Jehovah made His appeal, and through that He moved forward towards the accomplishment of His purpose.
Having thus summoned this remnant to attention, the prophet proceeded to declare that the method of Jehovah had been that of prophecy and performance. The former things He had declared from of old. Here the reference could not have been to Cyrus, for whether near or distant, he was still seen as approaching. It was rather a reference to the continued method of God with this people - that of prediction. The things He had foretold He had always accomplished.
His reason for adopting this method of prediction was that of the obstinacy and defiant rebellion of His people. The fact of the foretelling of events by the prophets of Jehovah made it impossible for them to attribute the events to idols. As had been the case with regard to former things, so now it was with regard to new things. Things which the people had not known, of which they had not heard, and concerning which they could not say, I knew them, were now being revealed to them; and that again because of their habitual treachery, and their constant transgression.
The whole point of this declaration of the method of Jehovah is that of insistence upon the predictive element in the prophetic teaching, as showing that all the processes were under the government of God. The prophet was careful to show that these things foretold were immediately created, and not from of old; that is to say, the events referred to were not merely the natural outcome of human forces, but would result from the will of Jehovah, of which His word is ever the accomplishing agent.
The abiding purpose of God, that His name should be glorified, was finally declared as the reason of His mercy. For the sake of that name His anger was deferred, and His chosen people were not destroyed. The refinement of His people cannot be accomplished by the process of material fire, as in the case of silver, but by that of mental and spiritual fire in the furnace of affliction. Through all such processes Jehovah was preparing the instrument for the fulfilling of His will, and the glorifying of His name.
The message then proceeded to give an illustration of this method of prophecy and performance - first introducing Jehovah by names and titles, and then by recounting deeds of power which set Him anew before the mind in His glory and majesty. "I am He," "I am the first, I also am the last," are declarations characterized by simplicity of language and sublimity of conception. Jehovah is the Creator, at Whose bidding all the things of the earth and the heaven stand up together.
Again challenging them as to which of them has declared these things, that is, in the sense of prediction, Jehovah's choice of an instrument for the doing of His will is declared. His servant is seen as one whose work it is to perform the Divine pleasure on Babylon, and that because he is called by Jehovah, and brought by Him, in order to the accomplishment of His purpose. Whereas the first fulfilment in history of this prediction was in the person of Cyrus, its ultimate and perfect and spiritual fulfilment never came until the coming of that perfect One of Whom all prior to Him had been but imperfect foreshadowings. Again the prophet challenged those to whom his appeal was made to come near and hear as Jehovah declared that He had not spoken in secret, that is, that He had distinctly foretold; and moreover, that through all the processes He had been present. This declaration ends with words that are very remarkable. "And now the Lord God hath sent Me; and His Spirit." These words are undoubtedly the words of God, and yet they are words of One Who speaks as being sent, and of being sent in fellowship with the Spirit of God. This aflflrmation is not only obscure, but without meaning, if it is made to refer only to the coming of Cyrus; whereas it is full of illumination if it is understood of Him Who, being with God, was God; but Who ever spoke of Himself as sent by God; and Whose whole life and ministry in the world was one of co-operation with the Spirit of God.
Again, the purpose of God is declared to be that of the profit and peace of His people. He is Jehovah, the Redeemer and the Holy One of Israel. He is Jehovah, the God of Israel, teaching to profit. Whose commandments being obeyed, peace as a river results, and righteousness as the waves of the sea. This purpose of peace is determined upon by God; and the prophet, with his vision still occupied with the future, cried to the people to go forth of Babylon, because Jehovah had redeemed His servant Jacob. He Who in the past had led them through the deserts without thirst, causing waters to flow from the rock for them, was still their Redeemer.
This first division dealing with the purpose of peace ends with the solemn affirmation that there is no peace to the wicked. Thus while the purpose of God has been clearly shown to be that of peace. His people were solemnly warned that this purpose could never be realized in their experience while they persisted in wickedness.
The picture presented to the mind by this first division is that of the chosen people of God under circumstances of danger and of difficulty almost amounting to desolation. The prophetic word to them is pre-eminently one of comfort. That comfort is based upon the fact of the majesty and might and mercy of Jehovah. He is seen by the prophet in all His essential and demonstrated glory, and by comparison with Him the weakness and vanity of idols is manifest. The burden of the prophet is that of the manifesto of Jehovah, wherein He affirms His purpose of blessing, and claims as evidence of His power, the fact of the foretelling of events. At the centre of that manifesto is the proclamation concerning the Servant Who is to accomplish all His will. In view of that proclamation a series of messages to His people are delivered by the prophet, and finally His might is revealed in the predicted downfall of Babylon, and His mercy in His purpose of redemption for His people. Thus all the teaching of the division centres in the prediction concerning the Servant of Jehovah. The next division presents that Servant in fuller detail, and shows how the purpose of peace will be realized through the Prince of peace.
CHAPTER 26. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PRINCE OF PEACE; SUSTAINED THROUGH SUFFERING - ISAIAH 49:1-53:12
Prophecies of Peace
The Prince of Peace
This section, in which the Prince of peace is most clearly revealed, falls into two distinct parts. The Servant of God is seen, first sustained through suffering; and secondly singing in triumph. As the prophet described this Servant of God, his reference sometimes seems to have been to the nation of Israel, sometimes to Cyrus, and yet constantly to One differing from, and greater than either. It is impossible to those who have the New Testament, and who believe in its authority, to fail to recognize the Messianic value of this section. The principal element of the prophetic utterances is that of the principles of the Divine activity; and these are seen partially fulfilled in different ways, but all finally fulfilled in the one Servant of God.
Sustained through Suffering
In presenting the picture of the Servant of God sustained through suffering, the prophet dealt first with Jehovah's call, and secondly with His Servant's answer.
The call of Jehovah to His Servant has three movements dealing with the values of that call; first, as to His Servant; secondly, as to Zion; and thirdly as to Jehovah Himself.
As to His Servant
As in the case of the manifesto of Jehovah in the previous division, the isles and the peoples are called upon to listen and hearken to the declaration of the call of the Servant of God. It is chronicled in the words of the Servant Himself, Who declares the fact of His call, first affirming His ordination to service from His birth, and then recognizing how perfectly He was equipped for His work, which work however was that of an instrument in the hand of Jehovah. Thus created, equipped, and kept for service, the word of Jehovah described Him as "Israel, in Whom I will be glorified," thus placing Him in immediate and striking contrast to the national Israel which had so grievously failed.
The reply of the Servant declares the comparative failure of His mission, but nevertheless affirms His confidence that His judgment is with Jehovah, and His recompense with His God, This apparent failure produces no discouragement because He recognizes that in the hand of Jehovah He is an instrument for the accomplishment of a Divine purpose, and in that fact He rests.
In answer to that word of confidence the Servant, still speaking, tells of the confirmation of His call by Jehovah. Again referring to the fact that He was appointed to service from birth, He does so even more emphatically in that He no longer speaks of Himself as called from birth, but as formed from birth to the fulfilment of His office.
The first purpose is the bringing again of Jacob to Jehovah, and the gathering to Him of Israel. This is immediately followed by an explanation which in the Revised Version is fittingly placed in parenthesis, in which the Servant of God recognizes the honour conferred upon Him, and the fact that God is His strength.
The first purpose, of blessing to Jacob, was however too light a thing for Him, and He was destined for world-wide influence, to be "a light to the Gentiles," and "My salvation unto the end of the earth." That the pathway of the Servant must be that of suffering proceeding to triumph is then explicitly stated. This is the appointment of Jehovah Who is again, as so often before, described as the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One. The Servant of God will be despised of men, abhorred of the nation, a Servant of rulers; but kings and princes will arise and worship as the result of His appointment by Jehovah.
The mission of the Servant of God is then described in the language of Jehovah Himself. This mission is first referred to as the answer of Jehovah to His Servant, the truth involved being that of the perfect conformity of the desire of the Servant of Jehovah with the purposes of Jehovah Himself. The sustaining power of Jehovah is declared. In the acceptable time, that is, at the right moment, in the fulness of time, according to the foreordination of God, Jehovah answers the desire of His Servant, in a day of salvation; in the day in which, in fellowship with Jehovah, His Servant accomplishes the work of salvation, Jehovah is His Helper, and through all the process Jehovah preserves Him. The outcome of this is the ability of the Servant to carry out the purposes of Jehovah, and this is declared in the promise that He is given as a covenant to the people. The results of this are the establishment of the earth, and the bringing of the people into the inheritance of desolate heritages.
In language full of poetic beauty the work is then described. Those who are bound are to be set at liberty, and those who are in darkness are to pass into the light. They are to feed and find pasture on places hitherto barren. They are neither to hunger nor thirst, neither to be smitten by mirage nor sun, because they are to be led by Jehovah Himself. His mission will moreover result in blessing to those who are afar off. They are to be gathered from the distant places. In a burst of song the description of the mission ends, and the reason of the song is that Jehovah hath comforted His people, and will have compassion upon His afflicted.
As to Zion
The call of Jehovah is now given in its bearing upon Zion.
Zion complains that Jehovah has forsaken her, and the Lord, her sovereign Ruler, has forgotten her.
The reply to this complaint is in the nature of an affirmation of His unfailing love, and the certainty of her deliverance. The supreme illustration of human affection is suggested in the question, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" Nothing can be more unlikely than such forgetfulness, and yet, in order that the constancy of the Divine love may be affirmed, it is admitted that she may. Zion is graven upon the palms of Jehovah's hands, and notwithstanding her present ruin and desolation, He sees her walls. His love is an unfailing love. The certainty of her deliverance is then declared. Those who have destroyed her, and made her waste, shall be expelled; and her children and the peoples will gather themselves to her, and they shall be her glory. The places now waste and desolate shall be too strait for those who shall crowd to her in the day of her restoration; and all this in spite of that present experience in which the city is bereft of children, and is seen desolate as a widow, left alone. The deliverance is certain, and its glory will be such as to surprise Zion, and make her exclaim, "Who hath begotten me these? "
As to Jehovah
Having thus dealt with the call of Jehovah as to His Servant, and as to Zion; the last movement describes it as to Jehovah Himself. This description is first an answer to the inquiry of Zion as to whence the children have come who crowd to her in the day of restoration. It is He Who will lift up His hand to the nations, and His ensign to the peoples, and these shall come to Zion bringing back her sons and her daughters. Kings and queens shall be the nursing fathers and mothers of the bereft and desolate city, and shall yield allegiance to her.
The promise is so great and gracious that an exclamation of surprise and of wonder escaped the lips of the prophet, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives be delivered?" and the answer of Jehovah is clear that these things will be accomplished because He will act in contention with, and judgment against, all those who oppress Zion, so that all flesh will know that He is the Saviour, the Eedeemer, and Mighty One of Jacob. Such is His description, concerning her.
Returning again to the complaint of Zion that she is forsaken of Jehovah, and forgotten of her Lord, He charges her to produce the bill of divorcement, or to find creditors to Whom He has sold her. The two great figures of relationship so often occurring in the prophetic writings are here recognized, the first being that of the ancient people of God as betrothed to Him, and the second that of their being His possession. With a fine irony, which is nevertheless the irony of unfailing love. He demands evidences that He has divorced her, or sold her to creditors.
He then proceeds to give His own answer to the challenge as He declares first the real reason for that desolation which finds them in captivity, and put away from fellowship with Him. The reason is that of their own iniquities, and their own transgressions. Turning the complaint against them, He inquires, "Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called was there none to answer?" It is not that He had forsaken them, but that they had forsaken Him. They had broken the covenant, and failed to respond to the call of His love. Nevertheless, in spite of all this. His love has not failed, and He demands, "Is Mine hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver?" and He answers this inquiry by reminding them of His power as it had been manifested in their own history, both in the way of deliverance and the way of judgment.
The whole movement of this call of Jehovah is full of the revelation of His grace and His power, and fastens attention upon the fact that He will accomplish His purposes of peace through the One Whom He has called and ordained. The call of the Servant is first recorded, and ends with the wonderful picture of the glorious restoration which will ultimately result therefrom.
In circumstances of desolation Zion is filled with despair, and her complaint Jehovah answers first by the aflftrmation of His unfailing love, and then by the proclamation of His determination to deliver; and He denies His own unfaithfulness to covenant, as He reveals the reason of all the suffering through which His people have passed to be that of their sin.
His Servants Answer
This section records the answer of the Servant to the call of Jehovah, and falls into three parts. The first of these is an expression of His consecration to suffering; the second describes the ministry of suffering; while the third deals with the completion of suffering.
Consecration to Suffering
This paragraph is full of value, as it reveals the attitude of the ideal Servant of God, and thus reveals the secrets of His endurance, and of His ultimate triumph. It first tells of His consecration to the work, and then aflftrms His courage.
The consecration of the Servant of God is the act of God, to which act the Servant responds in dedication. Two brief words declare the method of that consecration. "The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of them that are taught," "the Lord God hath opened Mine ear."
The first reveals the fact that the message which the ideal Servant is to deliver is one which He has received from God. Moreover, it is a message in harmony with the constant thought of this division of the prophecy, that of comfort; for its purpose is the sustenance of such as are weary. The phrase, "the tongue of them that are taught," is a very suggestive one, showing, as we have already indicated, that the message delivered by the Servant of God is one which He has received from God. The patience with which God imparts His message is suggested by the declaration, "He wakeneth morning by morning." The first act of consecration to service on the part of God is this of imparting the truth in such measure and in such form as are necessary for the accomplishment of His purpose.
The second fact in that consecration is expressed in the word, "The Lord God hath opened Mine ear," which means far more than that He makes His Servant listen. That has already been stated in connection with the declaration of consecration by the imparted word. It suggests the idea that God makes His Servant willing to hear, in order to declare things which will bring Him into conflict with those to whom His message is to be delivered. This is seen in the immediate declaration, "I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward." The word "opened" here must not be confused with one occurring in Psalm 40:6. That word means digged, or pierced, or bored; and in that connection has reference to the ceremony of the boring of the ear against the door-post in token of submission. Here the thought is that of consecration by constraint of the will to listen to whatever Jehovah has to say.
Such listening will compel speech, which will provoke opposition, and knowing this, the Servant of God dedicates Himself in answer to the consecration by consenting to the suffering involved, expressing this dedication in the words, "I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting."
The courage of the Servant of God is the immediate result of His consecration by God, and finds expression in declarations which show that He proceeds upon His way in the evident assurance of fellowship with God.
In a ministry in the midst of opposition. He is equipped for courageous loyalty to the purpose of God by assurance that He will not be ashamed, because He knows that in such an attitude the Lord God will help Him.
In a ministry which must be one of conflict against the adversary, in full assurance of His ability to overcome, He challenges the adversary to come near, because He knows that the Lord God will help Him, and His ministry therefore will be one of victory with God. Thus in the consciousness and power of an intimate fellowship with God, His Servant faces the pathway of obedience, knowing that it must be a pathway of suffering, but knowing also that its ultimate end must be that of triumph.
The Ministry of Suffering
The Servant of God thus consecrated to suffering, and full of courage in the contemplation of it, enters upon a ministry of suffering. This section which embodies the principles and reveals the method of the ministry of the one great Servant of God Who is ever in view, does nevertheless peculiarly apply to the ministry of the prophet himself among a people in days of darkness and desolation. In this ministry there is first a word which separates the people into two camps; then three messages delivered to the faithful; and finally three to the afflicted.
The word separating the people, divides between those who are faithful to Jehovah, and those who, turning their back upon Him, walk in the way of their own counsels.
The faithful are described as in circumstances of darkness, but nevertheless walking in the fear of the Lord, and in obedience to the voice of His Servant.
On the other hand are such as are also in darkness, but they are attempting to create a light by fires which they have kindled. Those true to God are commanded to trust in the name of Jehovah, and stay upon God. Those seeking to walk in the light of their own fires are told that they shall lie down in sorrow. Having thus uttered the separating word, the messages which follow are to those who fear the Lord, and obey the voice of His Servant.
Messages to the Faithful
These messages are all calculated to cheer and comfort those who are in the midst of circumstances of darkness. The first is a call to courage; the second is the cry of courage; and the third declares the cause of courage.
The Call to Courage
In order to inspire the hearts of those who walk in the darkness with courage, the prophet called them to look back, to look on, and to look around; in each case in order that they might observe the working of Jehovah.
The backward look must remind them that their origin was in God. Their father Abraham was called by God, and by Him blessed and made many. The introduction of the name of Sarah emphasized the fact of the Divine power as it reminded them that the whole nation resulted from an activity beyond the natural. Therefore the prophet spoke of the rock whence they were hewn, which was not Abraham, but Jehovah. The vision of Jehovah in the backward look produced the alfirmation, "Jehovah hath comforted Zion," and that in spite of the fact that at the moment the circumstances were those of sorrow and of desolation.
The onward look therefore must be one of confidence, for righteousness had not been destroyed, and must inevitably triumph in the salvation of the peoples. The heavens and the earth will vanish away, but the salvation of Jehovah will be for ever, and His righteousness cannot be abolished.
Therefore the look around, even though it be upon darkness and upon the hatred and opposition of men opposed to Jehovah, cannot produce fear; for those who know righteous- ness, and in whose heart is the law of God, know also that His enemies must be destroyed, and His purposes of righteousness and salvation fulfilled.
The Cry of Courage
In answer to that call to courage, based upon the certainty of the Divine power and activity, there follows a great cry of courage expressed in three ways as the result of an upward look, a backward look, and a look into the future.
The upward look is fixed upon Jehovah; and the strength of His arm, as revealed in the victories won in ancient times, being remembered, the cry ascends, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord."
The backward look rests upon that mighty deliverance wrought for the people when they were delivered from the bondage of Egypt by the way of the divided sea; and finds expression in the declaration that the victory there was won by this same arm of the Lord.
The onward look, out of such conviction of the present resource and of past triumph, is one of assurance; and expresses itself in the declaration of the certainty of the return of the ransomed to Zion, and the ending of all the circumstances of darkness and of desolation.
The Cause of Courage
Whereas the call to courage, and the cry of courage, have been evidently the result of the vision of Jehovah, and the assurance of His faithfulness; the underlying cause is finally declared as in the words of Jehovah Himself. All that the prophet has said to the people, and in the name of the people in the spirit of courage, is said in answer by Jehovah Himself; and the answer is to an upward look, a look around, and an onward look.
As in their weakness they look up, Jehovah answers by the declaration, "I, even I, am He that comforteth you," and proceeds to rebuke them for any fear of man that may tarry in their heart, declaring that such fear is the outcome of forgetfulness of Him, Jehovah, their Maker,
Looking around, the exile is seen in captivity, oppressed, and passing to death; but the declaration of Jehovah is that of His presence and power, even in the midst of the tempestuous sea.
The final word of Jehovah is addressed particularly to His Servant, and declares that which had been already aflflrmed, that He has put His words in His mouth, and covered Him in the shadow of His hand, in order that He may ultimately restore both the heavens and the earth, and be able to say unto Zion, "Thou art My people."
Thus these messages are all calculated to create courage. In the cry to courage they are challenged to look back to Abraham, to look on to the nearness of God's activity, to look round without fear in the presence of opposition. Their cry of courage is due to the fact that they first look up to the arm of the Lord, and then look back and remember how He has delivered, and finally and consequently look on in the assurance that He will deliver. The declaration of the cause of courage is full of comfort as fear is rebuked as being due to forgetfulness of Jehovah, and Jehovah is pledged by His might to succour and establish His people.
Messages to the Afflicted
The messages to the afilicted are of course to the same persons, but have to do principally with the fact of their affliction, setting it in the light of those certainties of deliverance which have been emphasized in the previous messages. The first affirms the end of suffering; the second describes the beginning of strength ; while the third announces the return of Jehovah to His people.
The End of Suffering
The first message is one in which Jerusalem is called upon to awake because the end of her suffering is approaching. It is in some sense an answer to her cry, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord." That was the cry of confidence; this is the answer of grace. The declaration is made that she has drunk and drained the cup of her sorrows.
This declaration is immediately followed by a graphic picture of her suffering. She has been bereft of her children, so that none of them have been able to take her by the hand and lead her. Overtaken by desolation and destruction, there has been none to bemoan her, and none to comfort her. Her sons have fainted and failed because of the judgments of God.
This cup of her affliction and suffering is to be taken out of her hand and put into the hand of such as have afflicted her.
The Beginning of Strength
The second message calls upon Zion to awake and put on her strength and her beautiful garments, in view of the fact that she is to be cleansed from all internal defilement. It is a further answer to the cry of courage in the midst of the messages of the faithful, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord." As we have seen, that cry has been answered in grace; and now it is answered in such a way as to show the responsibility resting upon Zion. While she is to be delivered by the interference and action of Jehovah, she is herself to resume her true position, shaking herself from the dust, loosing herself from bonds.
Though she had been sold into slavery for naught, her redemption is determined on by her God, Who already had delivered her from Egypt and from Assyrian oppression, and Who in the presence of the present oppression, is still active.
By this deliverance she is to know the name of Jehovah as that of the One Who is able to accomplish His purpose.
The Return of Jehovah
The third message to the afflicted describes the return of Jehovah to His people. The fact of this return is announced by runners and watchmen, the burden of their good tidings being the re-afflrmation of the abiding truth expressed in the word, "Thy God reigneth."
The return of Jehovah to Zion brings restoration and blessing, and results in an outburst of song. The waste places sing together in celebration of the deliverance. The cry of courage asked for the awaking of the arm of Jehovah, and for its clothing with strength. The song celebrates the answer, "Jehovah hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations."
The final movement of this message based upon the certainty of the return of Jehovah is that of a call to the people to cleanse themselves by separation from all unclean things, and ends with the announcement that Jehovah will go before the people, leading and guiding them, and the God of Israel will be their rearward, protecting them from all their enemies.
The Completion of Suffering
This final movement of the section which presents the Prince of peace as sustained through suffering, gives the profoundest unveiling, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, of that suffering whereby the perfect Servant of God accomplishes His will, and thus makes possible the restoration of the sinning people, and the ransom and redemption of all peoples.
Here the value is most evidently Messianic. It is impossible to think of these words as fulfilled in the experience of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any other than Jesus of Nazareth. There is a sense in which the principles revealed were expressed and exemplified in these great prophets of the past. Devoted to the will of God, and heroically proclaiming His word in the midst of a rebellious people, they were misunderstood and suffered accordingly; but in no sense were their sufferings vicarious. No healing for the wounds of their people resulted from their wounding. The prophet's own personal experiences are revealed here in a measure, but they are merged and almost lost sight of in the larger experiences of the perfect Servant Whom he describes. It is of great value that we notice the connection between the opening words here, "Behold, My Servant shall deal wisely," and the closing words of the section dealing with the consecration of the Servant to suffering, "Behold, the Lord will help Me." In that central section dealing with the suffering ministry, as we intimated in considering it, the prophet's own experiences were more patent. Now he proceeds to describe the actual sufferings of the Servant of God, Whose consecration to the pathway of suffering he had announced.
This movement falls into three parts. The first describes the ultimate triumph; the second deals with the pathway of suffering; and the third again, and in greater detail, declares the ultimate triumph.
This story of the profoundest sorrows of the Prince of peace is placed between declarations of His triumph through His sorrows.
The Ultimate Triumph
Of that Servant, Who in perfect abandonment to the will of God, and in absolute confidence in His sustaining power can say, "Behold, the Lord God will help Me"; the Lord is able to say, "Behold, My Servant shall deal wisely, He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high."
This lifting up and exaltation is of a twofold nature. It is first the elevation of conspicuous sorrows. This is seen in the reason assigned for the astonishment of the people. "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men." It is also the elevation of conspicuous success, as the final words declare, "So shall He sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths at Him."
Two little words, "as" and "so," give this key of interpretation. It is by the way of sorrow that success is realized. "As many were astonied ... so shall He sprinkle many." The astonishment was caused by the marred visage and form. By that suffering which astonished, He startles the nations and silences the kings. Thus the first movement of the prophetic word in setting forth the completion of the suffering of the Prince of peace, is an announcement of the ultimate triumph, and the revelation that this triumph will be the result of a process of pain, which will astonish the world.
The Pathway of Sufering
In this paragraph we reach the infinite depths, and analysis seems almost irreverent. There is however, a very clearly defined movement, and we may trace it in all reverence. The prophet described first the rejected ministry; secondly, the vicarious suffering; and finally the atoning death of the Servant of Jehovah, Who is the Prince of peace.
The Rejected Ministry
The first paragraph describes a rejected ministry. If the opening words expressed the experience either of Isaiah or Jeremiah or a prophet of Israel in some other day, it is noticeable that the writer almost immediately diverted attention from himself, by speaking or writing in the third person, as of another; and this method is maintained to the end of the section. The ministry described is that of One Who was entirely misunderstood; "a tender plant" before Jehovah, a root full of the potentialities of all loveliness, and this "out of a dry ground"; that is, out of circumstances which had never produced anything of excellence; yet to the eyes of those who saw Him, without form or comeliness, and devoid of beauty.
Therefore "He was despised and rejected of men"; and consequently in His own experience, "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"; and therefore again, still more emphatically, One from Whom men hid their faces, because they held Him in no estimation. This is a prophetic picture of the Prince of peace in the midst of the circumstances of desolation, walking misunderstood on the lowest plane of the degradation resulting from sin, though Himself the perfect Servant, dealing wisely. It is the picture of the suffering of a ministry of light in the midst of darkness, and the growing intensity of that suffering is remarkably set forth. Full of beauty in the eyes of God, but without beauty which men desire; therefore by them despised. The result of this attitude filled His heart with sorrows, the evidences of which were discoverable in the marred visage. This made no appeal to men other than that of making them turn their faces from Him, while they held Him in no estimation.
The Vicarious Suffering
The prophetic word immediately proceeds to an explanation of the real nature and value of the suffering of the Servant of God. It was vicarious suffering. He was suffering not only with them, but for them; bearing their griefs, carrying their sorrows. The appalling degradation of man is revealed in the fact that these sorrows were looked upon as Divine judgments upon the Sufferer. "We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
With an abrupt "But," the prophet corrects the false view, and in clear and stately-language tells the truth about the suffering of the perfect One. This statement needs no exposition. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."
The whole truth, both as to human sin, and the method of the Divine grace, is finally summarized in the declaration, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
The Atoning Death
Finally the uttermost of suffering is reached in the death of the Sufferer. To this death He gave Himself in that awe-inspiring strength of devotion which found its expression in dignified silence.
So far as man was concerned. His death was the ultimate in human oppression. Men cared nothing that He was cut off out of the land of the living, and they gave Him burial with the wicked.
The inner meaning of the death is revealed in the words that flame with the light of infinite grace in the midst of the passage, "For the transgression of My people was He stricken."
The Ultimate Triumph
Again the ultimate triumph is declared; and again, and with more of detail, it is set in relation to suffering.
The first movement declares that the pathway of pain leads to prosperity. There was a sense in which Jehovah put Him to grief, but it was in a holy and loving co-operation which had nothing in it of conflict, as between His Servant and Himself. By the way of the bruising, the grief, and the offering of His soul, the Servant passes to the triumph of the new race, and the endless life, and the victories of Jehovah.
The figure changes, and the same truth is repeated as the prophet shows that through the travail of the Servant the triumph is won. The newborn race of justified ones, springs from the travail and the birth-pangs of His unfathomable sorrows.
The whole movement ends where it began. The beginning spoke of an exaltation of conspicuous sorrow, and of conspicuous success. The final note is that of a glorious exaltation resulting from a pouring out of life in a death in which sins were borne, and sinners prayed for.
Again let it be said that to suggest that these words had fulfilment in any other than the Christ of the New Testament is to reveal an ignorance of their height and depth and length and breadth of meaning, only equalled by the blindness of those who saw no beauty in Him that they should desire Him, and who therefore saw nothing over which to grieve in His sorrows and in His death. It is a remarkable fact, not lightly to be ignored, that every writer of the New Testament with the exception of James and Jude, makes reference to this particular paragraph, and links it to the story of Christ.
CHAPTER 27. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PRINCE OF PEACE; SINGING IN TRIUMPH - ISAIAH 54:1-57:21
Prophecies of Peace
The Prince of Peace
Singing in Triumph
We now come to the second section in the division which presents the Prince of peace. It deals with the triumphant singing resulting from the completion of the work of the suffering Servant of God; and it consists of three clearly defined movements; first, the song of assurance; secondly, the prophet's consequent appeal; and finally, a description of the administration following the victory.
The Song of Assurance
This song sets forth the glorious fact of the restoration resulting from suffering; celebrating it first as to its grace, and secondly as to its glory.
The Grace of Restoration
In language full of exalted enthusiasm the song describes the blessings resulting to the people of God from the accomplishment by His Servant of His purpose through suffering and death. There is an almost startling abruptness in the first word, "Sing," as it follows the final declaration of the previous paragraph, "He poured out His soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Out of that unfathomable sorrow there emerges the song which celebrates restoration. The intimate connection between the sorrows of the Servant, and the song of the ransomed must not be lost sight of. The whole emphasis in the first movement of the song is on the exceeding grace which makes such a song possible. The effects are traced to their original cause.
The first movement is one of rejoicing over the enlargement of the people. The barren and the destitute become fruitful and prosperous, and this so abundantly that it is necessary to enlarge the tent, and to lengthen the cords. The children of the restored nation are seen spreading through all lands, possessing the nations, and carrying with them the blessings of prosperity as they make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
The second movement reveals the cause of this prosperity. The widowed and desolate nation is restored and comforted. In an earlier part of the prophecy, Zion had been represented as complaining "Jehovah hath forsaken me; and the Lord hath forgotten me." This complaint was answered by the challenge of Jehovah, "Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, wherewith I have put her away? or, which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you?" That figure is now taken up, and the song declares that Jehovah of hosts is Husband and Redeemer of Zion; and that restoration to His favour and fellowship is the secret of the prosperity manifested in the increase of children, and enlargement of the borders.
Finally the forsaken and troubled wife is described as pardoned and at peace. The forsaking was only for a moment, and was necessary in order to the restoration. The kindness of Jehovah is everlasting, and His covenant of peace with His people will abide.
Thus the effect of restoration is traced to the activities of His grace, the movement being from the outward manifestations to the eternal sources in the heart of God.
The order of experience is that first of His mercy, resulting in a covenant of peace; and this must be explained by all that has gone before with reference to the suffering of His Servant. Growing out of that covenant, the nation is restored to a fellowship with Him, which is described under the figure of the marriage relationship, and as a fellowship that results in fruitfulness. The ultimate issue and experience is that which the song first celebrates, of a great and gracious prosperity, and the. enlargement of all life.
The Glory of Restoration
The song continuing, now celebrates the glory issuing from grace, the whole emphasis in this second part being upon the glory. Here again the description proceeds from the material effect through the moral rectitude which preceded it, to the might of Jehovah which was at once the originating cause, and the abiding safeguard of the blessings. Zion is still addressed as in the midst of trouble, "afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted," and in figurative language glowing with colour, and flaming with light, her material magnificence is described. She is seen as a city full of glory and of beauty, a city of strength and of safety, her stones, her foundations, her pinnacles, and her gates all radiant. All is suggestive of final and abiding stability in that she is built and beautified by the most precious things of earth.
Passing from the description of the things of external magnificence, the song reaches a higher level as it describes the moral rectitude of the people, which is the true cause of the splendour of the outward conditions. Beginning where all moral and spiritual values must begin, with the children, the song declares that they shall all be disciples of Jehovah, and consequently their peace shall be great. The civic strength shall be that of righteousness, and therefore from this city of God, all oppression will be banished, and fear and terror will be unknown. This is a perfect description of civic life at its highest. Children who are disciples of Jehovah, grow into a manhood which insists upon righteousness, and is intolerant only of oppression. Where these conditions obtain, the city must be one full of peace, and free from fear.
Finally the city thus established, and the people thus restored to true relationship with God, and consequent true inter-relationships, are impregnable. Enemies may gather together against such a city, but their coming will not be by the will of God, and consequently they will fail. There have been a smith and a weapon which have destroyed, which have been the creation of Jehovah; the inference of the statement being that this exercise of judgment has been due to the failure of the people morally. Where there is the fulfilment of the ideal, no enemy will be able to gain any advantage over the city, and no weapon formed against her can prosper. The final statement of the song, "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness which is of Me, saith Jehovah," repeats the truth perpetually taught throughout this second part of the prophecy, that the way of restoration is that of the Divine activity, and that the righteousness which ensures the strength and safety of the people is provided by Jehovah. When the fall of Babylon was declared, and the promise was made, "I place salvation in Zion," the declaration was made, "I bring near My righteousness ... and My salvation shall not tarry." Since that declaration of the purpose of peace, the Prince of peace has been seen, traversing the pathway of His sorrows, and triumphing over sin therein; so that now the last note of the song of restoration declares " their righteousness is of Me, saith Jehovah."
The Great Appeal
Immediately following the song, we have the prophet's appeal. It is an appeal made in the consciousness of the victory won by the Servant of Jehovah, and the consequent possibility of restoration offered to the people. While the message is continuous, there are two special emphases. It first recognizes the need, and utters an appeal; and then utters an appeal on the basis of the consciousness of resource.
The Need and the Appeal
The need is inferred in the opening invitations. The message addresses those who are thirsty, hungry, and who are without money; and does so by declaring to them that there is perfect provision for all their need; water and bread, wine and milk.
That the description is not of material things but of spiritual, is evidenced by the fact that whereas the people are described as without money, it is nevertheless declared that they are spending money for that which is not bread. The message is to a people who have turned their back upon their own spiritual birthright, who are attempting to satisfy themselves with the things of the dust, and who are proving that the money they possess is not current in the realm whence the true water of life, and the bread of the spirit, are to be obtained.
The argument declares the unutterable folly of their attitudes and activities, in that they are spending "money for that which is not bread," and their "earnings for that which satisfieth not." The corrective for all this false activity on the part of the people is that they should hearken, and so find the true sustenance of life.
To these people the appeal is that they should give attention, and Jehovah promises that He will make an everlasting covenant with them. This covenant is the result of the work of the Servant of God Who is given for a Witness to the peoples, and as a Prince and Commander. The result of obedience, and of the consequent covenant, will be the fulfilment of the original purpose of God for His people; they will become the centre of attraction and blessing to nations beyond the covenant.
The Appeal and the Resource
All that which has been said leads up to, and is consummated in the central appeal. This appeal is first uttered in general terms, and then in particular detail.
The general appeal recognizes the attitude of the Divine grace. While the people are thirsty and hungry and poverty-stricken in all spiritual matters, Jehovah is yet near, and may be found. Their responsibility is that they seek and call upon Him. While they are conscious of feverish unrest and dissatisfaction, all they need is at their disposal in the One against Whom they have sinned, and upon Whom they have turned their back. There can however be no appropriation of supply save by definite action on their part. They must seek, they must call upon God.
The particular appeal is characterized by the most remarkable clearness and simplicity of statement. So much is this so that even in the fuller light of the Christian revelation it abides as a clear and remarkable statement of the way of human salvation. It first indicates human responsibility, and so explains how men may seek and call upon the Lord in the words, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord." It then utters the Divine promise, and supremely demonstrates the attitude of God in grace, "He will have mercy upon him ... He will abundantly pardon." So important is this that it is well for us to consider it with care. Human responsibility is stated first as to the manifest attitude, "Let the wicked forsake his way"; then as to the activity of the mind, which must precede, "the unrighteous man his thoughts"; and finally as to the inclusive fact, which is at once the inspiration and accomplishment, "let him return unto the Lord." Every way of wickedness is due to rebellion against God. Therefore return to God is in itself a thought of righteousness, and issues in righteous conceptions; which, in turn, produce ways in harmony with the Divine purpose.
Yet by such obedience, man is not restored. It is the condition of restoration. Restoration is an act of the Divine grace, an act of God. He it is Who in mercy pardons.
All this must also be interpreted in the light of the revelation of the Servant of God, Who through suffering makes possible this attitude of Divine grace. The announcement that God will have mercy, and will pardon, is the result of all the process described in the fifty-third chapter.
The prophet then proceeded to his argument with the people in favour of such return to God on their part; and the argument must be taken in close connection with the declarations as to human responsibility and Divine promise, already made. The wicked is to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought; and that because the thoughts of God are not the thoughts of the unrighteous, neither are the ways of the wicked the ways of God. This difference in thought has resulted in the difference in the way; and man's only restoration to blessing is that of turning from his own thought and way, in order to accept the thought and the way of Jehovah.
He then clearly declared what the difference is between the Divine and human thought and way, in the words, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." The thoughts of God for man include the heavens and all eternal things. The thoughts of man for himself have excluded the heavens; and he has attempted to discover satisfaction in the things which are only of the earth. The result has been that the ways of man have been ways of the earth, while the ways of God for man would have included all the facts and the forces of the heavens.
From this false conception and conduct of human life, a man is called to return to the Lord, and to accept His thoughts, and to walk in His ways.
Finally the prophet declared the resources which are at the disposal of man as he returns. These may be summarized as a perfect law, and a perfect life.
The perfect law is first described under the figure of rain and snow, which falling from the heaven, do not return, but produce the results of fruitfulness in the earth. Thus the distinction between heaven and earth, as indicating the difference between the Divine and human conceptions, is maintained. In order to satisfaction in the earth, it is necessary that there should be this gift from the heavens. Passing from the figure to the actual fact, the prophet declares that as are the rain and snow to the earth, so is the Word of God to the life of man. Man attempting to satisfy himself with the earth, fails. Man living in the law of God, thinking according to the Word of God, which is the revelation of the will of God; finds the secret of his own life as he realizes the purposes of God.
The appeal ends with a description of that perfect life which results from obedience to the Word of God, which is full of poetic beauty and suggestiveness. Such life is to be one of liberty and joy. In the power of it, men go out with joy, and are led forth with peace. The figure is that of escape from all bondage and all limitation into the spaciousness of a great liberty. The joy is to be that of the true apprehension of the things of the earth; or perhaps it would be more correct to say that it is the joy of bringing the things of the earth to their fulfilment. Mountains and hills break forth into singing before the people who are living according to the law of Jehovah. The trees of the field break out into glad applause under the influence of these people. The presence of redeemed humanity issues in the redemption of Nature. Instead of the thorn, there comes up the fir-tree; instead of the brier, there springs the myrtle-tree. The sons of God in the power of His life, and according to His law, bring to the whole creation the forces and healing of renewal.
Everything reaches its finality in the glorifying of Jehovah. This declaration not only reveals the fact that this is the ultimate purpose of human life, but also that Jehovah is only satisfied and glorified when human life comes to its fulness of realization.
This division dealing with the Prince of peace closes with a section setting forth certain aspects of the administration of the kingdom, which may thus be summarized: the welcome to strangers; the judgment of evil; the restoration of the contrite; and the final word.
The Welcome to Strangers
The message of welcome to the strangers is intended for the comfort of those who by reason of the promises of restoration made to the people of God are likely to be discouraged. The stranger will probably say, "The Lord will surely separate me from His people"; and the eunuch, in view of the hope of the growth of the nation, may declare, "Behold, I am a dry tree." Both of these are comforted.
The message of comfort to them is introduced by a call to the chosen people, in which their responsibility is declared in the charge that they keep judgment, and do righteousness. These are the things in which they have signally failed, and therefore the prophet now reminded them of the resources at their disposal for obedience. Jehovah declares, "My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed"; and here, as constantly through this whole movement, we must interpret the meaning of the affirmation by the revelation of the Prince of peace, Who, as Servant of God, brings salvation and righteousness near. By fulfilment of this responsibility, in the strength of this resource, the people come to the realization of blessing. There is a balance between the renewed statement of conditions upon which blessing is realized, and the first charge. That charge was to keep judgment and do righteousness. The condition of blessing is that the man shall do this, that is, righteousness; and the son of man hold fast by it, that is, by judgment. Two illustrations are given; the first that which has been through all the history of the people of God the sign of complete sanctification to His will, the keeping of the Sabbath; and the second that of the conduct which harmonizes therewith, the keeping of the hand from the doing of evil.
Into these covenants of responsibility and of blessing the stranger is admitted. The probable laments are forbidden, and the promises of Jehovah are uttered. To the eunuchs the promise is made of a memorial, and a name in the house of God, better than that of sons and daughters; but the blessing to them is carefully conditioned upon their observance of responsibility. They also are to keep the Sabbaths, and choose the things that please God, and hold fast by His covenant. To these childless men, such obedience will result in a name that shall not be cut off.
Identical responsibilities are laid upon the strangers. The conditions upon which they are received are that they join themselves to the Lord to serve Him, to love His name. They also must keep the Sabbath and hold fast by the covenant. These responsibilities being fulfilled, they are welcomed to the holy mountain, and to all the joy of the house of prayer. Their offerings and sacrifices are acceptable, and that because the house of the Lord is a house of prayer for all peoples.
The final word reveals the prophet's understanding of the fact that in the administration of the kingdom there will be a wider application than that to the chosen people. Jehovah will gather the outcasts of Israel, but He will also gather others, who, in association with His own, will enter into all the blessings of covenant relationship.
The Judgment of Evil
While there is welcome for all who submit to the Lord, there is to be the severest judgment of evil, even when manifested among the chosen people. To the declaration of that judgment the prophet next turned, dealing first with the spiritual leaders; and secondly, with the apostate people.
The spiritual Leaders
In an abrupt and almost startling transition the prophetic word changes from the tone of comfort to that of severity. The beasts of the field and the beasts of the forest are summoned to devour. If the marginal reading here, which suggests that this summons is one addressed to the beasts of the field to devour the beasts of the forest be adopted, then the beasts of the forest are the false shepherds, through whose failure the flock has suffered. No material difference is made in the real teaching of the message; for if the suggestion of the text be followed, that both beasts of the field and beasts of the forest are called to devour, then those to be devoured are not the sheep of the flock, but the dumb dogs, who cannot bark. This opening cry to the beasts, brief and forceful, is the announcement of judgment upon the false spiritual leaders.
The reason of this judgment is then declared in detail, and with tremendous force. It is first that of the pollution of the leader. The prophet declared that they are ignorant; - blind, without knowledge, dumb dogs, unable to bark; that they are indolent; - dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. This double charge reveals their failure to fulfil their true shepherd function. He then showed that that failure is due to what they are in themselves, as he described them as being greedy; unable to understand, they are seeking their own way, and their own gain; moreover, they are sensual; loving wine, and turning the days into opportunities for carousal.
The result of this is then set forth. It is that of the suffering of the godly, and the indifference of the godless to that suffering. This is always the effect produced when the spiritual leaders of a people become sensual and selfish. Those who under such rule walk in uprightness, find no resting-place other than death and the grave. The men who are the true strength of a people perish, and pass away; and because their value is not understood, their perishing is not mourned.
The apostate People
Still dealing- with the judgment of evil, the prophet declared that the people who yield to the evil influences of their leaders are also to be judged. These are summoned to hear their own denunciation. Their sin has been exalted and manifest, and their judgment is to be conspicuous and complete; and with these things the prophet dealt particularly.
The terms of the summons at once reveal the prophet's estimate of the heinousness of the sin of the people. He described them as "sons of the sorceress," and as "the seed of the adulterer and the whore"; which descriptions significantly emphasized the prophet's conceptions of the supremacy of spiritual relationships. He was speaking undoubtedly to those who after the flesh are of the chosen people; but because they have followed in the sins of idolatry and unfaithfulness to the great covenant with Jehovah, which had been the sins of their fathers, they are thus described. The suggestiveness of this description is the more remarkable in the light of the first movement in this description of administration, in which the prophet had declared that strangers, that is, those not the actual seed according to the flesh, are admitted to all the benefits of the covenant upon the fulfilment of conditions; while here he described the actual children according to the flesh, by terms which put them outside all the benefits because of their continuity in the sins of idolatry and unfaithfulness.
His charge against them is threefold
Their attitude is that of insolence as is revealed by the questions which he asked. They sport themselves against Jehovah, they make a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue.
This description of the attitude of insolence merges into the charge of idolatry, which vindicates his description of them as "the seed of the adulterer and the whore"; and that this was the intention of the prophet is seen in the fact that he said, "Are ye not children, a seed of falsehood?" as he commenced to describe the idolatries. These idolatries, as we have seen, have been exalted and manifest. They have been indulged in the valleys; the chosen people have descended to the most degrading rites of heathen superstition in that they have sacrificed their children. To the smooth ones, that is, the deceitful ones, the deceitful gods of the valleys, they have made their offerings. Their idolatries moreover have been upon the high and lofty mountain. They have invaded the sanctity of the household, which sin the prophet described as peculiarly that of spiritual harlotry, of unfaithfulness to the covenant with Jehovah the supreme symbol of which He had made that of the marriage relation. Even their policies had been affected by harlotry, in that when dealing with kings through their ambassadors, they had debased themselves to this underworld of evil.
Finally their sin had been that of their complete and overwhelming infatuation. Wearied with the length of the way, they had nevertheless been persistent therein; and that because they had been enslaved by a false fear, the outcome of the fact that they had forgotten God.
For these reasons judgment must fall upon the apostate people in the hour of the administration of the kingdom. The judgment will take the form, first of exposure. Jehovah will declare the righteousness of the people, that is, will show its hollowness and reveal the fact of the profitlessness of all idolatry. Upon such sin, vengeance must fall, and when it comes, the rabble of the idols in which the people have put their trust, will be unable to deliver, for the wind of the Divine wrath will sweep them away.
In this judgment however there will be discrimination, for he who trusts in Jehovah will possess the land and inherit the holy mountain; and such a remnant will create a highway, along which Jehovah will travel for the establishment of the Kingdom, as in cooperation with Him, they prepare the way, and remove the stumbling-blocks.
The Restoration of the Contrite
Yet again the declaration of administration turns to such as are contrite and penitent. There is no break in the message, for those referred to in the closing sentences of the paragraph dealing with the judgment of evil, are now described in greater detail, and their relationship to Jehovah is declared.
This passage is full of beauty, first as it describes the Speaker, Jehovah. His essential glories are named in brief sentences, full of dignity, and of beauty.
He is "the High and lofty One." This is peculiarly Isaiah's vision of God. It was this vision of the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, which had called him to a higher plane of prophesying. It is the vision of One Whose supremacy is established, and whose government is victorious.
He is the One "that inhabiteth eternity." This word translated "eternity" really suggests ultimate duration in the sense of perpetuity. Its significance is that of being without beginning and without end. It is the ever present now. Man thinks and speaks in terms of his own limitation, of the then, of the where; but in every when and in everywhere Jehovah is. It is one of the sublimest words of the Old Testament in its revelation of all that we now mean by eternity. To whatever limit our imagination can carry us, of time or of space, we find God. Again the thought is that of Isaiah, who in the great vision of the coming One in the earlier movements of the book, described Him as "the Father of eternity."
His "name is Holy." This is a declaration of the character of God, the root signification of the word being that of purity.
Having thus described the essential glories of Jehovah, the prophet then referred to the activities of His grace. These activities proceed from two bases of operation. God dwells in the high and holy place, and also with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit. Into such a spirit He brings all the forces and resources of His own abiding place. Into that abiding place of holiness He brings all the need of the contrite and humble spirit.
The purposes for which He thus dwells in the high and holy place, and with him of contrite and humble spirit, are those of revival, that is, of renewal of life.
All this is an unveiling of the glory and the grace of Jehovah, and prepares the way for the great proclamation which immediately follows.
The first word of the proclamation is one which declares the limitation of wrath. Jehovah announces that He will not contend for ever, neither will He be always wroth, for if He did, those with whom He dealt would faint away, and be destroyed.
The reason of the wrath had been that of the sin, and the persistence therein, of His people.
Now he will proceed with the activity of grace. This is declared by a statement, "I have seen his ways, and will heal him," which most evidently refers to the condition of the contrite and humble spirit which had already been described. These ways are responded to by healing, leading, and restoration.
The whole value of the mission of the Prince of peace is declared in the great words, "Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near, saith Jehovah; and I will heal him."
The Final Word
This section of the division revealing the Prince of peace ends with the same solemn affirmation with which the first division, dealing with the purpose of peace, ended; that there is no peace to the wicked.
Here it is even more emphatic, in that it is preceded by a declaration of the restlessness of the wicked. They are like the troubled sea which cannot rest.
Thus while in the great economy of God He gives to men the Prince of peace, His people were again solemnly warned that there could be no appropriation of the benefits of His ministry while they persisted in wickedness.
The picture presented to the mind by this second division is still that of the chosen people of God in the midst of circumstances of danger and difficulty almost amounting to desolation. The prophetic note is however, even more emphatically one of comfort as it presents the Servant of God, seen in the first division, in clearer outline and fuller detail. In Him the majesty and might and mercy of Jehovah, revealed in the first division, are seen merging into operation, which through suffering leads on to triumph. The next division, depending upon all that has been revealed of the purpose of peace, and of the Prince of peace, describes the programme of peace.
CHAPTER 28. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PROGRAMME OF PEACE; DECLARATION OF CONDITIONS - ISAIAH 58:1-59:21
Prophecies of Peace
The Programme of Peace
We now commence the last section of the prophecies of peace, which deals with the programme of peace. There are three distinct movements, dealing in turn with the declarations of conditions; the ultimate realization; and the principle of discrimination; the prophet ending all with a final word of application.
The Declarations of Conditions
The burden of this part of the prophecy is its insistence upon the necessity for morality according to the Divine conception. Whereas the purpose of Jehovah is peace, this purpose can only be realized on the basis of purity. While Jehovah through His Servant will bring near His righteousness and salvation, and accomplish the work; the work to be accomplished, in order to peace, is that of the realization of life according to the Divine intention. This subject is dealt with by the prophet in three ways. The moral requirements are declared; moral failure is confessed; and moral victory is won.
Moral Requirements Declared
The prophet revealed the moral requirements by a condemnation of formalism, and a description of true religion, thus emphasizing the fact that morality must be the expression of religion, and therefore that religion is only acceptable as it issues in morality.
The Charge to the Prophet
The first brief paragraph consists of the charge to the prophet. He is to declare to the people of God the fact of their sin, and he is to do it with courage, without uncertainty, and with insistence. In an understanding of their sin, they will be brought to a recognition of the conditions necessary for the establishment of peace.
The chief sin of the people of God consisted in the degradation of religion by formalism, and therefore formalism is dealt with in a passage which is perhaps the most striking in the Bible as revealing how near mere formalism approaches in outward appearance to true religion, and at the same time what an impassable gulf yawns between them.
The observances of formalism are those of orthodox and regular ceremonial, accompanied by intellectual delight therein. They seek God daily. They are as diligent in the ordinance of God as though they did righteousness; and in this activity they take delight. Can anything more be needed?
Immediately following this description of the observances of formalism, the prophet utters the complaint which it is making. These formalists complain of the Divine blindness, and the Divine indifference as they inquire why it is that God does not see their fasting, and that He takes no knowledge when they afflict the soul. This complaint reveals the fact that something more is needed, that there is a lack; and it clearly shows that the lack, even in the consciousness of the formalists, is that of God. An intellectual delight in the knowledge of His ways, and in the activity of drawing near, is not answered by the spiritual satisfaction of a true fellowship. Why is this?
The inquiry of the formalists is answered, and in the answer we have a revelation of the iniquity of formalism. These people, regular in religious observance, and taking intellectual delight therein, are living in a threefold sin. Their fasting is merely for their own pleasure, and while they fast, they are sinning against their neighbours in that they are oppressing their labourers.
While they fast they are sinning against themselves, because they are occupied with each other; and strife and contention and smiting with the fist of wickedness is the result. The purpose of their fasting is not that their voice may be heard on high, even though they complain that God is indifferent.
Finally the sin of formalism is that it is a sin against Jehovah. He has not chosen such fasting. He does not accept the outward and external attitudes and activities of men at worship, while they wrong their neighbours, contend among themselves, and in the deepest of their desire, are not seeking Him.
From this unmasking of formalism the prophet immediately turned to an unveiling of true religion, and that in the three applications already suggested by the revelation of the iniquity of formalism, those namely of neighbours, self, and Jehovah. In doing this he shows in each case the duty and the reward.
True religion finds its expression towards neighbours in setting them free from every; kind of bondage; and in the activities of caring for all those in need, the hungry, the poor, and the naked. Where that duty is fulfilled, light breaks forth as the morning, and the soul finds its healing, its strength, and its defence in Jehovah. Such religion brings the soul into that fellowship with Jehovah wherein His answer to the cry of the worshipper will be immediate, and the complaint of formalism be made impossible.
True religion finds its own self-expression in the activities already described. The true self-consciousness is that of compassion for the hungry, and desire to satisfy those who are afflicted. Where that is the condition of soul, light rises in darkness. There is the immediate consciousness of the guidance of Jehovah Who satisfies the soul, and the life is full of fruitfulness. Such life moreover, becomes influential in the restoration of waste places, and the reconstruction of a lost order.
True religion as to Jehovah, consists in delight in His will; and here once again the Sabbath is made the sacramental symbol of such delight. Where the soul delights in the will of Jehovah, its reward is that of delight in Jehovah Himself, which in turn issues in victorious and reigning life.
Moral failure Confessed
From that declaration of moral requirement, the prophet passed to the confession of moral failure; first by acknowledgment of the reason for national suffering, and then by definite confession.
The Reason for National Suffering
In dealing with formalism, the prophet had voiced the complaint of the formalists that God was blind and indifferent. Now he declared that the reason for the experiences of suffering, which made the people affirm of God this blindness and indifference, was not in Jehovah. "His hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear." All they suffered, as they had tacitly confessed, through the inactivity of Jehovah, must be accounted for in some other way. He is neither unable nor ignorant.
The real reason is then immediately declared. That which separated between them and God was the fact of their iniquities and their sins.
The declaration is followed by a terrible description of the sin of the people, first as to immoral conduct, and secondly as to the corrupt character out of which such conduct sprang.
The whole conduct of life is polluted. The hands, the fingers, the lips, the tongue are alike impure. In the affairs of human inter-relationship there is an absence of righteousness and truth, and the practice of deceit and lying.
All this results from a character which is utterly corrupt, and which the prophet describes in a series of graphic statements, in which the relations between the underlying conceptions of life and the resulting conduct are set forth.
As to conception they hatch basilisks' eggs, and weave the spider's web; with the result that whoso eats of the eggs dies, or if one be crushed, it breaks out into a viper; the webs they weave are useless as garments, for they are works of iniquity, and acts of violence. The activities of their feet tend to murder, because their thoughts are those of iniquity. Desolation and destruction are in their highways because they are ignorant of the way of peace. These are the causes of suffering, the reason why God neither hears nor answers.
At once the prophet uttered the confession, "therefore is judgment far from us," and so on. He described the suffering anew. It is that of the darkness of which the formalists complained, that darkness which is the answer to their desire for light. It is a darkness which issues in confusion. Because of lack of light, guidance is sought as blind men seek it - from the wall. Even at noon-day there is stumbling, and all essential strength is absent. The issue of this darkness and confusion is lamentation.
Finally in definite words, the actual confession is made. It expresses itself first in the language of conviction. Transgressions, sins, iniquities are before God, and known by the people. Then in detail these things are confessed. The root of all the trouble has been that of denying Jehovah and turning away from following God. The fruit growing from such root has been that of oppression, and falsehood; so that judgment and righteousness and truth are violated, and the man who would depart from evil is made a prey.
This is the true story of the cause of all the suffering, and the confession is complete.
Moral Victory Won
The last movement in the declarations of conditions sets forth the action of Jehovah whereby, in spite of all the failure, the moral victory is ultimately to be won. Its teaching stands out in clear relief in the forefront of the whole section; and the things already considered serve as background, throwing it up into brighter relief. It is a declaration of Jehovah's knowledge which the formalists have denied; of Jehovah's judgment in the presence of the lack of judgment amongst the failing people; and of Jehovah's Redeemer, appearing when the sinning people are unable to deliver themselves.
All that which has been confessed, Jehovah saw, and was displeased with. He saw moreover, that there was no intercessor, that is, no one able to interfere as between the sinning people and Himself in such a way as to bring salvation and establish righteousness.
In the presence of the conditions of sin and of helplessness which He thus knew, the action of Jehovah was that of Himself becoming what His people needed, in order to their salvation, and the vindication of His righteousness. The presentation of this fact is one which supremely emphasizes the loneliness of Jehovah in this activity. It was activity by His own strength, for "His own arm brought salvation unto Him; His righteousness, it upheld Him."
His judgment was accomplished in His own attributes. His coat of mail was righteousness, His helmet was salvation, His clothing was vengeance, and His envelopiug cloak was zeal. These are all things of His own nature, the attributes of His essence, which is Love.
His activity was for His own vindication a manifestation of His unalterable justice. According to man's deeds He must act; and His dealing with adversaries and enemies must be in the nature of recompense.
The ultimate purpose of this activity is that of His own glory, which glory is achieved only as men fear His name.
The expression of that knowledge and that judgment is finally the presentation of His Redeemer. The prophet declared that He will come to Zion, that is, to the abiding centre of that national life, the purpose of which was the glory of God in the blessing of the world. He will come moreover, to "them that turn from transgression in Jacob," that is to a remnant of faithful souls.
The result of His coming will be a new covenant of the Spirit and the Word to abide to perpetuity. This last declaration is addressed, by a transition of method, to the Redeemer Who comes to Zion; and the seed resulting from the advent of the Redeemer is that in which the Spirit and the Word are to abide for the accomplishment of the purpose of peace.
Thus the first condition for the carrying out of the programme of peace is that of a morality springing out of true religion. The condition upon which there may be a realization of such morality among a sinning and corrupt people, is that of their conviction of sin and confession thereof. Seeing that such conviction and confession cannot of themselves produce the fulfilment of the fundamental requirement, Jehovah becomes the Redeemer, and thus by His own activity brings the people to the fulfilment of the fundamental condition as He restores them to Himself.
CHAPTER 29. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PROGRAMME OF PEACE; ULTIMATE REALIZATION - ISAIAH 60:1-62:12
Prophecies of Peace
The Programme of Peace
The Ultimate Realization
Having insisted upon the fulfilment of moral conditions as the fundamental necessity in the programme of peace, the prophecy becomes a glorious description of the ultimate realization of the purposes of God. This description deals first with material prosperity; then with spiritual realization; and finally with vocational fulfilment.
The description of material prosperity may be spoken of as a portrayal of the dawning of a new day, and its waxing to high noon. It falls into four parts; the daybreak; the returning exiles; the established city; and the glories of the perfect day.
The central fact is that of light shining upon Zion. This must be taken in connection with the preceding section. Confession of sin has been made, and the activity of Jehovah as Redeemer has been declared. That is the light which is shining upon the people of God. The city is personified as one sitting amid prevailing darkness, but herself illuminated by the light and glory of Jehovah which shines upon her. In view of this she is commanded to arise and shine. The light that falls upon her is not for her alone, but for those who are in the darkness. The nations, seeing the glory of the restored people of God, crowd to the light. All this is the picture of the first flush of dawn.
The returning Exiles
The illuminated and illuminating city is commanded to lift the eyes, and look at the gathering of the peoples. Among those who come are her own sons and daughters, returning to the city long forsaken, but now revisited. Wealth of all kinds is poured into her, and is accepted as an offering made upon the altar of Jehovah, the first value of which is that it beautifies the house of His glory. The gathering of the peoples to the glorified city is poetically described as the fiight of doves to the windows. Their gathering, accompanied by their wealth, is for the glory of the name of Jehovah, and results from His glorification of His people.
The Established City
Those who are thus gathered to the glory of the light become workers who build the walls. Their kings, not as slaves, but by the constraint of the grace of the illumination, serve the city. The fear of invasion and destruction has passed away, and the gates stand open continually for the reception of the wealth of the nations. Nations or kingdoms that oppose must perish. All the precious things of the land will contribute to the beautifying of the sanctuary of God. The sons of those who in bygone days had afflicted the people of God will come in willing submission, and confessing that Zion is indeed the city of Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel.
The city that has long sat solitary and desolate will become the centre of all the nations, and will learn experimentally the great truth so often declared by the prophets, that Jehovah is Saviour and Kedeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
The high Noon
The last phase is that of the ultimate prosperity. Gradually the light has overcome the darkness as day has advanced, and now the perfect realization of the purposes of God is described.
It is first that of perfect government. The multiplying of the material prosperity is described in a poetic figure as the transmutation of all the lower to the higher. Gold is to supersede brass; silver, iron; brass, wood; and iron, stones; and all this because under the supreme authority of Jehovah, government will be vested in rulers who produce peace by promoting righteousness. The issue of this will be that violence, desolation, and destruction, which have so long abounded, even in the city of God, will be for ever banished.
The result of perfect government will be perfect glory. The true light of the city will be neither sun by day, nor moon by night, but the presence of Jehovah, and the manifestation of His glory.
Because such irradiation is abiding, there will be no sunset, and no shadows; and perfect gladness will be the outcome of the abounding righteousness of the people, who will inhabit the land for ever. The last word of the description re-emphasizes the constantly repeated truth that all this will be the result of the work of Jehovah, Who will hasten it in His time.
While this is the picture of material prosperity, it is nevertheless the revelation of the fact that such prosperity issues only from moral rectitude; and the supreme impression made upon the mind is that of the last note of the former section, that the glorious result is produced by the action of Jehovah Himself. He it is Who rises in glory upon His people. Nevertheless they are responsible in that they are called upon to respond to the light by arising and shining. As they do so, they come into the place of abounding blessing, and become the means of blessing to all those upon whom their light shines. Thus the ultimate intention of God for His people, that they shall be the means of blessing to others, is never lost sight of.
Passing from the description of material prosperity, the prophecy describes the inner secret, that namely of spiritual realization. This again falls into three parts; the first dealing with the anointed Messenger; the second with the priestly people; and the last consisting of the resulting song. The whole of this is really the language of the Servant of the Lord, Who is the Prince of peace, the One through Whom the purpose of peace is fulfilled.
The anointed Messenger
This first paragraph affords a new description of the Servant of the Lord as to His equipment. His mission, and His victory.
The fact of the equipment is declared in the brief but suggestive opening sentence, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me." Of course this becomes most interesting in the light of the use made of this passage by Christ, Whose whole mission, from the mystery of His conception in the womb of the Virgin by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, to His death upon the Cross when He offered Himself through the eternal Spirit, was fulfilled in the power of the Spirit.
In the description of His mission the prophecy first sets forth the first phase thereof, that of the preaching of good tidings, binding up the broken-hearted, the proclamation of liberty to captives, and the setting free of the prisoners. This is immediately followed by a brief statement that takes in the whole mission of the Servant of God. Its first phase is that of proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. Its second is that of proclaiming the day of vengeance of God. Its third is that of comforting those who mourn. It is impossible to read this without remembering at what point Jesus ceased His reading in the synagogue. He read the description of the first phase to which we have already referred, and the summarizing of it, ending with the words, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." The proclamation of the day of vengeance of God has not yet commenced, and consequently that which is referred to by the prophet as the comfort of all that mourn has not yet commenced. The last movement in this description of the mission deals with that final phase, the comforting of those who mourn. That will take place when Zion is restored, and the ancient people of God fulfil their true function of ministry in the world.
In tbe previous section dealing with material prosperity, when describing the high noon of prosperity, the prophet declared that the people of God should be the branch of His planting, the work of His hands, that He might be glorified. That is now repeated in this connection; for the restoration of Zion, and of the people thereto, will be in order that they might be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. Thus the ultimate victory of the Servant of God will be that of this restoration, in which the redeemed people shall take part, as they build the old wastes, and make to cease the desolations of many generations. In this work the nations who are blessed by their restoration will co-operate. Strangers will feed their flocks, and aliens be their plowmen and vine-dressers.
The priestly People
In that great future the people of God will fulfil the true office of priesthood. When Israel emerged from Egypt, the word of God to them had been, "If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me from among all peoples: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." This ideal has never yet been perfectly fulfilled by the Hebrew people, but it will be, as the result of the work of the Servant of the Lord; and then men will know them and name them as the ministers of God.
In that day they will enter into true co-operation with these nations, sharing their wealth, and boasting in their glory. It will be to them a day of compensation for all their shame, and the nations will share in that compensation. It is well to notice the change here from the pronouns "ye," and "your" as the people of God are addressed, to "they" and "them" and "their," as the nations are referred to.
The great new covenant with Israel is then declared, and the Servant of God being still the Speaker, speaks of Himself as "I, Jehovah." The foundation of the covenant is laid in the righteousness of Jehovah in that He loves judgment and hates robbery with iniquity. The nature of the covenant is an activity in truth, and therefore it is an everlasting one. The effect of it will be that His people, redeemed from shame, will exert an influence of righteousness among the peoples, who in their turn will recognize the truth, and submit themselves to it.
The message eoncemiiig spiritual realization ends with a song of praise, which is undoubtedly the song of the Servant of God, and therefore becomes also the song of the true Israel of God.
Jehovah is the fount of joy, and the reason of joy is first that of personal blessing. The Servant is clothed in salvation, and robed in righteousness by Jehovah; and therefore is seen acting in harmony with Jehovah, so that righteousness and praise spring forth before all the nations.
Having thus dealt with material prosperity, and with spiritual realization, the prophecy now describes in greater detail the vocational fulfilment. The new commencement indicates the fact that whether the message is part of the speech of the Servant of God, or that of the prophet himself, it is uttered in the midst of circumstances of incompleteness. The fulfilment is not yet, but it is certain. The description first deals with the restoration of the city as it speaks of the new names which she is to bear; secondly, it describes the watchmen, who look to the consummation; and finally affirms the certainty of the ultimate realization.
The New Names
The desire of the speaker is twofold. It is a passion for Zion, for Jerusalem; that there may be fulfilled in the experience of the city of God all the gracious promises which have been made; that her righteousness may go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth. As we have seen in previous considerations, the city is to arise and shine because the light of the glory of Jehovah falls upon her. That is the consummation which is desired. The deeper passion is for that which will result from such spiritual prosperity. Thereby the nations will see the righteousness and the glory, and Jehovah will be vindicated.
There is no uncertainty in the heart of the speaker, and the notes of certainty are declared by the fourfold use of the words "Thou shalt." First the city is to be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name. Secondly it is to be filled with glory as it becomes a crown of beauty in the hand of Jehovah, and a royal diadem in the hand of God. Thirdly, the old names of the city and of the land are to pass away. The city has been termed Forsaken, and the land Desolate. Finally, the city is to be called Hephzibah, that is, My delight is in her; and the land Beulah, that is, married.
The reason of the certainty is the constantly affirmed fact that the Lord delights in the city, and therefore God will yet rejoice over her as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride.
The certainty of ultimate fulfilment is made still more evident by this paragraph in which the prophecy describes the watchmen on the walls. These are the Lord's remembrancers, and their occupation is that of ceaseless intercession with Him on behalf of Jerusalem, until He make it a praise in the earth.
The answer to that intercession is then declared. It is the answer of Jehovah Who swears by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength, that He will accomplish all His purposes, and that the city shall be restored to prosperity. The oppression and spoiling which have so long continued, will cease; and the city will enter into all the prosperity of her own labour, as the result of the action of Jehovah.
With vehement desire the messenger turns to the people, charging them to prepare the highway, declaring anew the fact of the coming of salvation in the coming of One Whose reward is with Him. The result of this coming will be that of the restoration of the people to holiness through redemption, and so to influence.
A review of this section dealing with ultimate realization, will show the inter-relationship between those three facts, which constitute its divisions. While material prosperity is first dealt with, and the glory of the people in the day of ultimate realization is made perfectly clear, the central truth is that material prosperity can only result from spiritual relationship. It is only when the people of God realize the Divine ideal of priestly ministry that there can be the realization of material prosperity. Finally, the supreme value of spiritual realization, and of material prosperity, is that of the fulfilment of vocation. Not for her own sake is the city to be beautiful and prosperous, but in order that she may be a centre to which others may turn, to share in her blessings; and the deepest note of all is that of the glory of God, and the vindication of His honour in the world. Yet it is impossible to consider this whole section without coming to a new consciousness that the honour of God is vindicated, and that His name is glorified, as blessing abounds, and men are brought into realization of a perfect and abiding peace.
CHAPTER 30. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PROGRAMME OF PEACE; PRICIPLE OF DISCRIMINATION - ISAIAH 63:1-65:25
Prophecies of Peace
The Programme of Peace
The Principle of Discrimination
This final section of the prophecy sets forth anew the operation of the principle of discrimination in the methods of God. All the blessing which has been described can only result from holiness; and ere that can be established, there must be a period of judgment. At this point it is of supreme importance that we recognize the connection between what we are about to consider, and the declaration of the anointed Messenger concerning His mission. In our study of that, we drew attention to the fact that when Jesus cited the passage in the synagogue. He ended with the words, "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." The next phrase is, "the day of vengeance of our God." That is the theme of this final section. In the order of actual happening, all now to be described precedes the ultimate realization already considered. The prophet's declaration concerning the moral conditions which are necessary to restoration, and his picture of the ultimate realization necessitate this final teaching. How can there be perfect restoration and fulfilment of vocation? The answer to such an inquiry is contained in this last section which describes the pathway of judgment; records the prayer of desire; and finally presents the operation of judgment in the sifting of the people.
The Pathway of Judgment
This paragraph presents two pictures, that of the Warrior, and that of the conflict. It is important that we should at once note that the description is that of the Warrior returning from the conflict. While the conflict is described, it is from the standpoint of its completion.
The inquiry of the prophet reveals to us the vision which he saw. It was that of a Warrior coming from Edom, the word here being used as symbolic of all that was in opposition to Israel and to faith. This Warrior is seen approaching, not wounded nor weary, but glorious in apparel, and full of strength; and the prophet inquires, "Who is this?"
The answer to the inquiry comes from the Warrior Himself, "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." The words are brief, but they gather up into themselves all the values of the teaching of the recent parts of the book. They are the words of Jehovah, and they declare both His method and His pjirpose. His method is that of speaking in righteousness; His purpose is that of salvation, for the accomplishment of which He is mighty.
Recognizing the person of the Warrior, the prophet immediately inquires why His apparel is red, and His garments like one "that treadeth in the wine-fat." The vision is that of One Whose garments are sprinkled with blood in evidence of a conflict, from which He is emerging in victory. Of this appearance the prophet demands an explanation.
The answer is immediately given, and it first affirms the fact that alone, and without help from the peoples, the Warrior has, in anger and in fury, overcome all His foes.
The reason for His conflict is then declared in the words, "For the day of vengeance was in Mine heart, the year of My redeemed is come." The acceptable year of the Lord has passed, and the day of vengeance is also now accomplished. The Warrior has overcome in the strength of His wrath; but the passion of that strength has been that of the redemption of His own.
Again the story of His loneliness in conflict is told. There Avas none to help, but His own strength was sufficient; and all the foes opposing Him, His purpose, and His people, are overcome and destroyed.
An interpretation of this passage which suggests that it describes in any sense the work of Christ at His first advent, must result in the most hopeless confusion. This is not a picture of the wounding of the Servant of God, but of the wounding and destruction of all His foes. The actual field of blood is not seen, but only the Conqueror, as having at last, in vengeance and in fury, swept away the enemies of His people and His purpose. He returns in victory, and the year of His redeemed begins.
The Prayer of Desire
This whole prayer would seem to be of the nature of an interpolation upon the main teaching of this final section, which is resumed when the prophecy deals with the operation of discrimination in the sifting of the people.
The vision of the Warrior and His declarations appealed to the prophet. He was sensible of the absolute justice of the judgment described, and recognized that only by such activity could there be any hope. He therefore broke out into praise and prayer.
Praise and Confession
In language full of beauty the prophecy first describes the faithfulness of Jehovah to His people in the past. It declares the determination to make mention of the loving-kindnesses of Jehovah, of His goodness toward the house of Israel; and then gives two illustrations, the first of which describes His compassion for them in Egypt from which He was their Saviour; and the second, all His tender care of them during the period of their wilderness experiences. Thus His description looks back to the days in which, in spite of their rebellion and their grieving of His Holy Spirit, He cared for them and carried them. This produces confession of the fact that by rebellion and grieving of the Spirit He was necessarily "turned to be their enemy."
All this does but serve to renew the song of His loving-kindnesses, and the prophecy celebrates His remembrance of His people, His remembrance of how they had been delivered from Egypt, and of that consequent new deliverance wherein He brought them to rest, out of the wilderness into the land.
The praise and confession merge into a prayer, which is the prayer of one profoundly conscious of failure and of desolation; but equally conscious of the goodness and grace of the heart of Jehovah. It is first an expression of need, and then a cry of anguish. This is followed by remembrance of past Divine activity and confession of sin. Finally it is the cry to Jehovah to act on behalf of His people.
The Sore Need
In immediate and striking contrast with that rest which Jehovah gave to His people long ago, the prophecy describes the present condition as it appeals to Jehovah to observe it. The people are without evidences of the presence of God; without His power, as is suggested by the inquiry, "Where is Thy zeal and Thy mighty acts?"; and without His pity, as is suggested by the declaration, "The yearning of Thy bowels and Thy compassions are restrained toward me." That is the picture of the need, and the prayer utters its supreme argument as it declares, "Thou art our Father. ... Thou art our Father; our Redeemer." That need makes its own urgent appeal to Jehovah to return. The rest was soon broken, the people possessed but a little while, and the sanctuary of God is broken down, while the people themselves have become as those over whom Jehovah has never had rule.
This statement of need is followed by a great cry of anguish in the form of an appeal to Jehovah to rend the heavens, and to come in judgment against the adversaries. The cry is evidently the outcome of the vision of the Warrior, and expresses the earnest longing for the fulfilment of the process of judgment.
The great prayer changes its tone as looking back again to previous deliverances it remembers how Jehovah had in time past done exactly what now was sought. The mountains had flowed down from His presence. The principle is remembered that God works for him that waiteth for Him ; that He meets with him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness.
This remembrance produces a new confession of sin, and of the judgment which has fallen upon sin, as its necessary and proper result. God had been wroth, but the reason was that the people had sinned. They had continued long in the sin, and the question, "Shall we be saved?" expresses the profoundest sense of the sin. Uncleanness and pollution result in fading and in destruction. The final word of confession is that "there is none that calleth upon Thy name." It is an admission of the truth spoken by the Warrior, that when He looked, there was none to help.
The confession being made, the prayer ends in a great appeal. This appeal, opening with the word "But," is in all likelihood based upon that declaration of the Warrior to which we have made reference. He saw there was none to help, but He brought salvation. The confession has admitted that there is none that calleth upon the name of Jehovah. Nevertheless the cry is raised for deliverance.
The first note of it is that of submission. It recognizes that God is Father, that He is the potter. All the ruin of the people has resulted from their rebellion against these fundamental truths. That submission is made the basis of an appeal that Jehovah will not remember iniquity for ever, because the people are His. The final argument of the cry is the condition of the city of God. It is a wilderness, a desolation. The sanctuary is burned with fire, and all the pleasant things are laid waste.
The Sifting of the People
The first impression made by the opening words of this section is that it constitutes an answer to the prayer of desire. A closer examination will almost certainly lead to the conclusion that this is not so. The prayer which we have considered is one characterized by absolute sincerity, and is that of the prophet, or of the remnant of whom he is the spokesman. Our present section contains words that cannot describe such a person or people.
Treating the prayer as we suggested, as being an interpolation upon the main teaching, we find that now the Warrior seen in the first vision, again takes up His manifesto. Being victorious over His foes, and those of His chosen people. He now proceeds to deal with His own. In this section therefore we have a graphic description of the working of the principle of discrimination in the sifting of the people by God. The distinction is first drawn between the false and the true; the result of the sifting is then described; and finally the new order resulting is revealed.
The False and the True
The Divine distinction between the false and the true, even among His own people, is very clearly marked in this section, as it first describes the rebellious; then recognizes the remnant; and finally utters the doom of the rebellious.
The opening words, "I am inquired of by them that asked not for Me; I am found of them that sought Me not: I said, Behold Me, behold Me, unto a nation that was not called by My name," have no reference to Israel. Paul in his Roman letter cites them in such a way as to make this evident. (Note: See "Analyzed Bible. Epistle to Romans," page 153.). Thus it becomes all the more evident that this is a continuation of the manifesto of the Warrior. As the result of His judgment of the nations. He has brought them to recognition of Himself.
In striking contrast to this the rebellious among His people are described. His attitude toward them has been that of long-continued patience; "I have spread out My hands all the day," to which attitude they have replied by persistent rebellion, walking in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts; which description recalls the great appeal made by the prophet subsequently to the description of the work of the suffering Servant of God, where the ways and thoughts of the people are contrasted with the ways and thoughts of God.
Moreover, this rebellion has expressed itself in the most terrible practices of idolatry, and all the abominations connected therewith. The final fact in their sin was that of the hypocrisy which assumed the attitude of superiority over other peoples, in that they had said, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou."
These people were an offence to Jehovah and His determination to visit them with punishment is distinctly described.
The judgment is to be discriminative, because of the remnant, who in spite of prevailing failure, are loyal to Jehovah. This is taught by the figure of the wine found in the clusters. The activity of discrimination is to be that of bringing forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor; and the issue of discrimination is poetically described in the words, "Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down in, for My people that have sought Me."
The Doom of the Rebellious
The message immediately returns to a yet more definite and detailed declaration of the doom that must fall upon the rebellious. Their sin consists in their forsaking of Jehovah, and forgetfulness of His holy mountain, and their turning to idolatries.
These are destined to the sword, and must bow down to slaughter; and again the reason is declared that when Jehovah called, they did not answer; when He spake, they did not hear, but continued in evil courses.
The Result of the Sifting
The result of this process of sifting is then graphically described. The experience of the servants of Jehovah is contrasted with that of the rebellious people. The former are brought into the place of fulness and satisfaction. They eat, they drink, they rejoice, they sing. The latter are brought into the place of emptiness and sorrow. They are hungry, they are thirsty, they are ashamed, they cry and howl.
Finally the destiny of the rebellious and the good is placed in contrast. The rebellious leave their name for a curse, and are slain. The servants of Jehovah receive a new name; and by the fulfilment of the principle of relationship to the God of truth, find the secret of continuity.
The New Order
The ultimate issue of this process of sifting is the setting up of the new order, the establishment of the kingdom of God.
This is first described in the terms of the creation, a new heavens and a new earth created, in which there shall be no remembrance of the former things.
At the centre of that new order so far as the earth is concerned, there will be the new city of God, Jerusalem, a rejoicing, inhabited by a people who are described as a joy; such a city and people as give joy to God, because weeping and crying are no more heard.
The life of the people under these new conditions will stand in vivid contrast to all the conditions of desolation which have lasted so long. Life itself will be of prolonged duration. Life will no longer be cut off in infancy, nor become prematurely old. To die at the age of a hundred years will be considered premature, the death of a child; and a marking of the displeasure of God against sin.
The conditions of toil will be altered entirely in that the profits, that is, the values and results will belong to the toilers. Men will build houses and inhabit them; they will plant and eat. No words are needed to emphasize the contrast between these conditions, and those obtaining even at the present hour in human history.
Moreover, the life of the people will be a life of fellowship with God, a life of prayer heard and answered.
The final note of description is one which emphasizes the triumph of peace; the restoration of Nature to harmony, and the elimination of all ferocity, and the forces of destruction.
Thus end the great prophecies of peace. They have proceeded through a declaration of purpose, a description of the Prince, and teaching concerning the programme.
A comparison of the closing message of the first book containing the prophecies of judgment with this final word of the prophecies of peace will show the remarkable identity of thought.
There the prophet declared, "Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you"; and this affirmation is followed by a description which ends with the words, "No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go up thereon, they shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
The final paragraph of the prophecies of peace, following a description of the day of vengeance of God, opens, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth," and closes, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, saith the Lord."
CHAPTER 31. PART C: PROPHECIES OF PEACE: PROGRAMME OF PEACE; EPILOGUE - ISAIAH 66:1-66:24
Prophecies of Peace
The Programme of Peace
This final section is of the nature of an epilogue. The second prophetic division of the book opened with a prologue in which the burden of its messages was declared to be that of comfort for afflicted Jerusalem. Its principal divisions have been separated by the declarations; "There is no peace, saith Jehovah, unto the wicked"; "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." The thought of these declarations is repeated and elaborated in this final message. The whole teaching of the division is a revelation of Jehovah's determination to establish peace; but the fact that peace can never be established save upon the foundation of purity is never lost sight of. At last the prophet, with all the facts before him, of surrounding desolation and abounding sin, and of the established throne and persistent government of Jehovah, utters his final message. It falls into three parts; the last message to the formalists; the last message to the remnant; the last message to the world.
the Last Message to the Formalists
The last word to the formalists consists of a declaration concerning true worship; a denunciation of false worship; and the announcement of judgment thereupon.
In the declaration concerning true worship the prophecy reaches one of the most exalted positions of Old Testament writing. The prophet first declared heaven to be the throne, and earth the footstool of Jehovah; and by questions, revealed the truth that no place of worship created by man can either contain or confine Jehovah. All the things of which men would construct a temple have first been made by Jehovah. Therefore the inference is that the whole earth is sacred, and any place may be a place of worship.
This is further emphasized as he revealed the true spirit of worship, and declared that Jehovah receives the man who is of a poor and contrite spirit, and trembles at His word.
This declaration of what true worship is, prepares the way for his fierce denunciation of false worship. The expression of false worship is described by four things which in themselves are true and ordained in the economy of the chosen people; the killing of an ox, the sacrificing of a lamb, the offering of an oblation, and the burning of frankincense; but which things partake of the nature of four of the hateful practices of idolatry, the slaying of a man, the breaking of a dog's neck, the offering of swine's blood, and the blessing of an idol.
Thus false worship means the vitiation of true things, and the prophet proceeded to declare how this vitiation takes place. It is the result of disloyalty of heart. The people who choose their own ways, and delight in their abominations, degrade the true ceremonies of religion. Such ceremonies thus degraded are as hateful to God as are the abominations of idolatry.
The judgment of formalism is then declared. Its form is to be that of delusions and fears, which Jehovah will Himself bring upon them.
The prophet was again careful to declare the reason of the judgment to be the indifference of the people to Jehovah, and their persistence in wickedness.
The Last Message to the Remnant
The prophet immediately turned from the formalists to that remnant of faithful souls, who amid all the desolations have been true to Jehovah.
The Word of Comfort
They are described as obedient, in that they tremble at His word; as persecuted, in that they are hated of their brethren, and cast out for the sake of the name. The word of comfort to them is that not they, but the people who have persecuted them, shall be ashamed.
The Travail of Jerusalem
Then in forceful and graphic language he described the travail of Jerusalem. There is a voice of tumult from the city, a voice from the temple. It is the voice of Jehovah Who renders recompense to His enemies. All this means the travail and pain of the city, but the result of it is cited in language true to the figure. There is the birth of a man child. It is a thing of wonder that a land shall be born in a day, and a nation be brought forth at once; but it is nevertheless a fact, because Jehovah has brought to the birth, and consequently the travail of Jerusalem is her way into triumph.
The Triumph of Jerusalem
This leads him immediately to a description of the triumph of Jerusalem. The remnant are called upon to rejoice with her, and be glad for her, because of her restoration. Her children are to be satisfied within her, because Jehovah will extend peace to her like a river.
The final word of comfort is one of the most tender and beautiful in the whole of the Scriptures. "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem." It is an unveiling of the tenderest fact in the nature of God, and the result of it will be that the faithful souls who have been persecuted, and have suffered, will rejoice and flourish in the more perfect knowledge of Jehovah.
The Last Message to the World
The final movement in the epilogue is one characterized by breadth of outlook, and generality of statement. In it the prophet repeated in language full of dignity, his declaration of the coming of God as fire to judgment; declaring the wider issues to follow in the history of the world ; and finally announcing the destiny of good and evil.
The Coming in Fire
The description of the coming of Jehovah in fire emphasizes its majesty. His chariots will be like the whirlwind in order to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. The coming will be one of might as He pleads with all flesh, and searches out and destroys the evil, gathering all nations and tongues to the manifestation of His glory.
The Wider Issues
This leads to the declaration of the wider issues. The sign is to be set, and the news is to be spread to all the nations and to the isles afar off, that have never heard of His fame, with the result that all exiles, however far scattered, will be brought to Jerusalem as an offering to Jehovah.
The ultimate word is one full of august solemnity as it describes the irrevocable destiny of good and of evil. The new heavens and the new earth which Jehovah creates will remain before Him, as will also the people who fear His name; and the passing of the seasons will witness the regular assembly of all flesh for the purpose of worshipping in His presence.
Those who have transgressed against Him are beyond hope, and their carcases abide in the perpetual corruption of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched.
Thus the last word of the great prophecy; which has been uttered under the inspiration of the vision of the unshaken throne of Jehovah, a prophecy the burden of which is that of the Divine purpose of peace, and which first describes how judgment proceeds to peace, and secondly describes the peace which issues from judgment; is a note of solemn warning, which may be expressed in the words already twice repeated, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."