The Fulfilment of Prophecy

Let us conjure up in our minds an incident recorded in the Scriptures, which to the casual observer would be most trivial. Paul had arrived in Rome, a prisoner, and on the third day of his stay in that city he called together the chief Jews to talk with them. They appointed a day and met him in his own lodgings to hear what he had to say. It was a long talk, for Paul in his fervency for the truth and for them, knowing what was at stake, expounded, testified and persuaded from early morning to the close of the day. It was a momentous day, for the fate of a people hung upon the issue, and those obstinate Jews sealed that fate, for Paul closed his labours with them with this solemn pronouncement, "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet to our fathers, Saying, Go to this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore to you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."

There was no further hope for that unhappy generation. The quotation is from Isaiah 6, and goes on to tell of the cities of Israel being wasted without inhabitant and the houses without a man, and of the land being utterly desolate. And so it turned out. The leaders of the people refused to listen to Isaiah when he spoke to them. It was nothing to them that he had seen the glory of Jehovah and that his lips had been touched with a live coal from the altar; they had no heart for his message from God, and the solemn words quoted by Paul were first pronounced against them. Yet that did not seal their fate. They had another opportunity when Jehovah, dwelling among them full of grace and truth, spoke to them Himself, but they spurned their opportunity, and again the solemn words were uttered, revealing alike their condition and doom (John 2). Yet such was the wonderful long-suffering of God, that their fate was not sealed by their rejection of the Lord Himself. God spared them for another testimony, for the Lord prayed for them, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The third and final testimony was that of the Holy Spirit through Paul, and their rejection of that was final. For eight hundred years God had waited, but now at last Isaiah's solemn prediction was fulfilled. Jerusalem was destroyed and the site of it ploughed up, the land became a wilderness and the men of it were scattered to the ends of the earth, as they are to this day.

Yet God is full of mercy, and Isaiah spoke not only of the judgment of a stubborn people but of a remnant — a holy seed, that should spring up again, just as an oak tree springs up after being cut down (v. 13). So in John 12 when the majority refused to believe the word of Jesus, "Nevertheless among the chief rulers many believed on Him." And in Acts 28, "Some believed the things that were spoken." God got His remnant — His tenth, as Isaiah speaks of them — out of the nation. And so it shall yet be, as God has fulfilled His word in judgment and in scattering the nation, so will He gather and restore them. "Yet it shall be a tenth and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when "they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof" (v. 13). "They shall return" — It is very interesting and instructive to see that the name given to one of Isaiah's sons, Shear-jashub, means, "the remnant shall return," and he was a pledge that while the enemies of Judah should oppress them, they should not finally prevail against them (chap. 7). Shear-jashub appears again in chapter 8 with Maher-shalal-hash-bez, his brother, whose name means "haste ye to the spoil." In this chapter the prophet says, "Behold, I and the children which the Lord has given me," and these words are taken up and applied to the Lord in Hebrews 2. He is to stand in the midst of the holy remnant of Israel, they shall be His spoil, the fruit of His suffering and grace, and they shall grace His triumph in His kingdom. The enemy will hope to make them his spoil and utterly destroy them, as Isaiah 8 clearly shows, and they shall pass through Jacob's trouble, the great tribulation, when there will be trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish," but the Lord will bring them through it, and when they own their sins and own their Lord, "all Israel shall be saved." And so shall the prophetic word be fulfilled to the letter.