Who is this to whom the Old Testament from Genesis onwards so constantly points, raising in our hearts the very highest expectations, as it speaks of “the Woman’s Seed,” “Abraham’s Seed,” and “David’s Seed?” Who is this through whom all the world is to be blessed? What is His name? Has He come? Is He living?
The first chapter of the New Testament answers these questions. There we are introduced to the only One who could be truly called “the Woman’s Seed”—the promised Son of the Virgin (Isa. 2:1-3). The first verse of the New Testament shows Him to us—“JESUS CHRIST, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” The glorious Fulfiller of the promises has come! The “Yea” and the “Amen” of them all! Yes, He lives! for though He was slain, He could not be holden of death, He rose from the dead and is alive for evermore!
“The Woman’s Seed,” but—meditate on the divine wonder here—He is also “Emmanuel”—“GOD with us.” He is “Abraham’s Seed,” but, stupendous fact! He could also say “Before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:38). He is “David’s Seed,” but He is also “David’s Lord” (Matt. 22:41-46). Yea, “Jesus Christ of the seed of David raised from among the dead” says, “I am the ROOT,” before David, as well as “the Offspring,” after David. He is THE FIRST, as well as THE LAST.
In looking at some of the glories of the Lord which are made known to us by the Holy Spirit of God in the Scriptures of truth, we must remind ourselves that the flesh cannot take in or understand these things, but having “no confidence in the flesh,” it is the glad privilege of those who have the Holy Spirit to rejoice in Christ Jesus and His marvellous excellences. Such will have no ear for those who detract from His glory, but to all that exalts Him according to the Sacred Writings they will listen gladly. We must remember, however, that when the very best has been said concerning Him there are still eternal depths which are beyond our telling.
If it is the work of the Holy Spirit to glorify Him, this is also the right work for the Spirit-filled servant. The Spirit who fills him does not “speak from Himself” (John 16:13), nor does the servant (John 7:18), or he “seeks his own glory,” instead of the Saviour’s. Those who originate theories and ideals out of their own inner consciousness stand condemned before these verses.
Isaiah has been called the royal prophet by some, the evangelical prophet by others. Both are right, for he speaks of the King in His beauty and of good tidings for the poor. He is the royal evangelical prophet. His fields are vast and varied. May it be ours to dig some of the precious metal out of the abundance of his wealthy hills, and to gather some of the brilliant gems with their divinely beauteous colours, which are so plenteous in his rich valleys. For whether we look in “the depth” or gaze up at “the height,” we shall find here the shining glories of Christ Jesus still undimmed by the dust of long centuries. In “the depth” of His humiliation as well as in “the height” of His majesty His perfections are full of lustre.
These treasures are of abiding and eternal value. “Riches and honour are with Me,” says the Lord Jesus, the hidden wisdom of God; “yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and MY revenue than choice silver . . . I was set up from everlasting” (Prov. 8:18-23).
When speaking of these spiritual possessions as “the fields of Isaiah,” we may remind ourselves that they are really ours. They belong to the believers of this day, for we read of the prophets, that when “the Spirit of Christ which was in them testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” it was revealed to them, “that not unto themselves, but UNTO US they did minister the things” (1 Peter 1:11-12). We are therefore entering upon what is through grace our own God-given property.
The risen Son of God Himself has shown us the royal road to the treasure stores of the Old Testament, for “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).
We will join Isaiah “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field” (Isa. 7:3). Ahaz the king of Judah comes there also, and is told to ask “A SIGN” of the Lord, and what is most striking is that he is requested to ask it “either IN THE DEPTH, or IN THE HEIGHT above” (v. 11). The monarch, however, for some ulterior reason will not do so. Close dealings with God were not congenial to him. Consequently, a marvellous disclosure is made in verse 14. Ahaz, of “the house of David,” would not ask for the sign “either in the depth, or in the height.” God therefore says, as it were, I will give the sign Myself without your asking! I will give it both in the depth and in the height; and, as we see from other scriptures, in that very “house of David.”
Mark, then, the wonderful words, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name IMMANUEL.”
What a vast store of divine wealth is laid open to us here. The virgin’s Son becomes THE SIGN, given of God in “the depth” and in “the height” also. Who but the blessed God, who is infinite in wisdom, could have thought of or given such a sign? Behold in “the depth” of human weakness that wondrous Babe nursed on the virgin’s lap; but even there His name tells us of “the height” of His glory—“IMMANUEL,” “GOD with us.” He is truly the Sign in “the depth” and “the height.’’
THIS SIGN in the depth and height is that which the Holy Spirit of God introduces at the very opening of the New Testament. Here in “the house of David” appears the promised Sign!
What a commotion immediately takes place! In the seen and the unseen; among the learned and the unlearned; among the great and the small; among the wicked and the pious. Why?
“Unto us a Child is born!”
The Sign in the depth behold
The break of the glorious morn
By the prophets long foretold.
See the virgin mother fair
In yon stable, lowly, meek;
And in the manger cradled there,
The Babe whom the shepherds seek.
THE SIGN IN THE DEPTH BEHOLD!
Creation moves at the sight!
Angels cry “Glory to God!”
The star in the heavens shines bright,
To guide wise men on their road;
The faithful behold and sing:
The pious worship the Lord
They talk of the newborn King,
Come forth to fulfil God’s word,
THE SIGN OF ETERNAL LOVE.
Could the New Testament have an opening more striking and glorious? The wisdom which knows not God may see no glory here, but such wisdom is the folly which led “the princes of this world to crucify the Lord of Glory”, the “hidden wisdom of God.”
The angel of the Lord said, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be A SIGN unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).
Again, Simeon, a just and devout man, came by the Spirit into the temple and said to Mary, the virgin mother, “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for A SIGN which shall be spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Surely this sign in “the depth” of sorrow and woe, and yet in “the height” of the glory of “THE CHRIST, THE LORD,” is worthy of God who is “the ALL WISE.” “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the glory of kings is to search out a thing. The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable” (Prov. 25:2-3). Search the Scriptures. “These are they which testify of ME,” said the Son of God! Finding Him, we shall fill our treasures with the finest gold and enrich our store with all manner of precious things.
The truth concerning our Lord Jesus Christ can alone explain satisfactorily the signs and wonders which meet us in Isaiah 8. And we can only find the truly divine meaning as we are guided by the Holy Spirit, for there is a Stone here over which many have stumbled and fallen (Isa. 8:14).
When, however, we are low enough in our own esteem to notice the nature of this Stone, and to behold its virtues with the eye of faith, we shall see that it is full of beauty and splendour and wonderful significance. In “the depth” it is set at naught by the Jewish builders! (Acts 4:11); in “the height” it is “become the Head of the corner!” In “the depth” it is “a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel!” (v. 14); in “the height” of its glory they shall presently cry with shoutings, “Grace, grace unto it” (Zech. 4:7). Happy are those who value this rejected Stone now. Jacob sought rest by putting his weary head on a stone for a pillow, and set it up afterwards and anointed it as a pillar at Bethel but the real Stone, provided by God, is the One who gives true and lasting rest to the believer; and He is set up a “living Stone” in connection with whom other living stones are being built up as a spiritual Bethel, where worship abounds in truth (1 Peter 2:4-8).
Peter, when the Holy Spirit inspired him thus to write, had learned the lesson of Matthew 16:18. It is a pity Rome has not Jesus Christ is the Stone laid in Zion, not Peter! Jesus Christ is “the elect” and “precious” One! “He that believes on Him shall not be put to shame;” nay, even the infinite preciousness of this marvellous Stone is ours, as Peter says (1 Peter 2:7), “To you, therefore, which believe is the preciousness.” This is indeed bountiful cheer for those who believe, and great encouragement for those who build only in connection with this “Living Stone.” But, to those who refuse Him, there comes the warning to the disobedient, “the Stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become the head of the corner, and a Stone of stumbling and rock of offence; who stumble at the word, being disobedient, to which also they have been appointed.”
Difficulties may arise when we take our stand with this rejected Stone, as in the eighth chapter of Isaiah. There are “confederacies,” “counsels,” and “associations,” but these cannot prevail against the truth, for at the end of verse 10 we have IMMANUEL! God is with us!
This wonderful Stone has the power of breaking up religious confederacies and dissolving unscriptural organizations. When they are tested by the Lord, the Christ, they will not stand.
We are to sanctify the Lord Himself in our hearts at such times, and have no fear as they have. Peter shows this when, again referring to this chapter; he also tells us that “the Lord of hosts” (v. 13) is “the Christ” (1 Peter 3:14-15, N.Tr.). This is indeed a great discovery, but we will not dwell on it at present.
In verse 14 of our chapter another marvellous truth is laid open before our wondering gaze, the Lord Jesus Christ is the believer’s “SANCTUARY.” “He shall be for a sanctuary.”
In regard to the Stone, rejected and cast out in “the depth,” received and glorified in “the height,” we may well sing with the Psalmist, “The Stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:22-24); but what are we to say as to the “Sanctuary?”
The Epistle to the Hebrews will help us. There the Holy Spirit of God speaks of it, whilst showing the grace and the greatness of Jesus. He “suffered outside the gate” of the centre of earthly religion, that He might set us apart to Himself by His own blood; therefore, leaving behind us the earthly sanctuary and its system, we have come to Jesus (see Heb. 13:12-13); and He makes our hearts sing with gladness by making known to us the bountiful grace of our God, saying, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the assembly will I sing praise to Thee” (Heb. 2:12-13). Mark, He is not ashamed of us, but presents us in the presence of God along with Himself, saying, “Behold I and the children which God has given ME.” It is these infinitely blessed words, just quoted from Hebrews 2, which are given to us by the Spirit to uncover for us the divine meaning of the Sign in Isaiah 8, where the very same words are used in verse 18.
From the context we see that here we are in thought upon the holy hill, and we learn from Hebrews “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Let not the world-borderer or the pleasure-lover think that his sight will be clear enough to behold the perfections of the Lord and the wondrous things that are here to be seen! Let not the man whose mind is clouded with wrong suspicions, and whose eye is evil, think that he can behold them; the vision must first be pure.
Isaiah (“the salvation of the Lord”) is in the Sanctuary mount with his children, Shear-jashub (“the remnant shall return”) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“swift for spoil, hasty for prey”). He stands, as it were, before God, holding each by the hand, and utters those words of such profound meaning, “Behold I and the children whom the Lord has given me!” Now notice carefully what he further says of himself and his own—they are for “signs and wonders!”
In Hebrews 2 we read of the salvation of the Lord—the “great salvation” which was first made known by the Lord Jesus and confirmed by His own, God also bearing witness with “signs and wonders!” It is the same blessed Lord Jesus Christ who, taking us by the hand, as it were, and linking us with Himself in this holy elevation and in this heavenly intimacy as His own, is saying in Hebrews 2:13, “Behold I and the children which God has given ME.”
We find ourselves in the “sanctuary” truly here; but, thank God, not with fear and dread. Grace that takes us in, sets us at rest and peace in this holy place, with the sense that we are loved with an eternal love, knowing that His one offering has put away for ever that which could hinder our joy. And though we would fain fill our time with a ceaseless flow of worship in the Spirit, yet we may also with restful leisure adoringly admire the holy perfections of Him who said He HIMSELF would be “for a Sanctuary.”
Ezekiel 11:15 will confirm us in this. “The inhabitants of Jerusalem,” those who then boasted in the official leadership of God’s people, had turned the real Israel away from the place of Jehovah’s name and sanctuary. These hard leaders claimed the outward position, but “all the house of Israel wholly” were scattered! Where, then, should they find a sanctuary, seeing they were excluded from the sanctuary of God at Jerusalem by these place-loving leaders, who “devised mischief and gave wicked counsel” (v. 2)! Hark to the soul-cheering answer in verse 16; The Lord says, “I will be to them as a little Sanctuary.”
It is Adonahy-Jehovah who says this. The Supreme Ruler, who is the same yesterday and today and for ever, is the blessed and unchanging retreat for our hearts, whatever changes may take place in the unsettled concerns of outward profession, or even among the nations of the world. He who is our true Sanctuary makes all things work together for our good. It was His voice that called us to, Himself, and He will never fail us. He will soon take us all to share the glory with our Lord Jesus Christ as His co-heirs, but meanwhile He is our “Sanctuary for a little while,” as Ezekiel 11:16 might be read. It is not that He is “a little” Sanctuary, but rather that He is the Sanctuary of all His own “for a little” while, during the time of the scattering. “A little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37) but even now we sing our joyful song to Him:
“Jesus! before Thy face we fall,
Our Lord, our life, our hope, our all;
For we have nowhere else to flee,
No Sanctuary, Lord, but Thee.
In Thee we every glory view,
Of safety, strength, and beauty too
’Tis all our rest and peace to see
Our Sanctuary, Lord, in Thee.”
The Light and the Fivefold Name
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from thenceforth for ever and ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isa. 9:6-7)
Before reaching the great light of Isaiah 9 we have to pass through dark and dismal regions. What is it that has produced this distressful “trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish?” It is the direct outcome of turning away from the true God and sinking into spiritualism (Isa. 8:19), socialism and infidelity (v. 21). Denying right authority, they fret themselves and curse their king and their God. But a great light appears (Isa. 9:2). The darkness begins to pass away, but even as late as this day it has not entirely passed. It is passing, for the true light already shines! But who is this “great Light” whose brilliant beams shine with such beauty and brightness upon them “that dwell in the land of the shadow of death? (v. 2). In the fourth chapter of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ, after defeating Satan, went forth to publicly preach, “Repent: for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh.” Then “the Light of the world” was seen in the shining of Jesus. “The people which sat in darkness saw great light” (Matt. 4:16).
Those who believe on Him have been delivered from darkness and from the authority of darkness, and now rejoice in the light. It shines in the world for all, but those who believe on Him are “in the light.” By believing in the light we become sons of the light. The mere ecclesiastic says, “All the light is in the church.” The Scriptures say the light is “in the world” and for the world, for those in darkness. Believers are in the light, and they shine publicly in that light now as the light of the world; but selfish error claims “a light” shut inside the assembly, which men must “come in to see,” thus robbing it of its evangelical character and producing miserable self-occupation and strife.
The true, undimmed light of the full revelation of God in grace shines in Jesus, and there can be no such thing as “fresh light” or “new light.” The Apostle John met presumptuous claims of this nature when he wrote, “The darkness is passing, and the true light already shines. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness until now” (1 John 2:8-9). The true Light, our blessed and adorable Saviour, the Son of God, cannot be advanced upon. The assembly shines as she abides in Him. We are light only in the Lord.
Soon He will arise in majesty, as the last chapter of the Old Testament tells us, giving the righteous virtues and healing benefits of His blessed beams, as we read “the Sun of Righteousness” shall “raise with healing in His wings.” The rising of the Sun will be glorious indeed, and it shall set no more. Then also “shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:43).
And now, as already in the light, we give thanks unto the Father who has put us there, free from the authority of darkness, and our hearts are at liberty to take in some measure of the rich unfoldings of the Spirit of Truth in verses 6 and 7. And as He enables us to apprehend these things let us gratefully thank our God for the gracious strengthening of His Spirit, by whom we have ability to understand the truth as it is seen in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In these verses the throne of David, the glory of the government, its peace, its judgment and righteousness, are brought into view, and over it all, in surpassing; and indescribable beauty and majesty, is the One who carries the government on His shoulder. Inscrutable and immutable as is the glory of His gracious and glorious person, yet we are encouraged to draw near, for though the Sign towers up to “the height” of impenetrableness, yet how tenderly is this introduced. He is the “Child born” and the “Son given.” Wonderful Child! Wonderful Son! We would bow and worship before Thee as the wise men of old!
The “name” given is fivefold: it describes His glory in connection with His gracious government “upon the throne of David.”
Let no one say this is only kingdom truth. It is truth concerning the glory of the One who is the assembly’s heavenly Bridegroom. Truly it is the earthly part of the kingdom which is in view, but it is the immeasurable glory of the Person of the One who is high over all which is shown us here. And though our hopes are especially heavenly, yet the true bride is interested with deep affection in the glory of her Bridegroom. Speaking to her directly at the end of Revelation, He says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star” (v. 16). She answers along with the Spirit, “Come.”
“WONDERFUL” is the first word in the spelling of this fivefold name of the God-given Sign. No word could be more suitable, for the more we know of Him the more full of wonder we see Him to be. The Pharisees, who watched His speech that they might confound Him, were utterly confounded themselves when they stood in the presence of “David’s Son,” the Messiah, the Christ, who was also “David’s Lord” (Matt. 22:41-46). Truly He is called “Wonderful.”
“COUNSELLOR.” He will be the Source of all counsel for those who share the government and its benefits in that day. All counsel that is good has already proceeded from Him, for He it is who has said, “Counsel is Mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. By Me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By Me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth” (Prov. 8:14-16). Divinely suitable it is, indeed, that He should be called “Counsellor.”
But we are filled with holy reverence as we gaze at the central word of this unparalleled name—name of the Sign in “the depth” and in “the height,” name of the “Child born,” cradled in the manger, name of the “Son given.”
“MIGHTY GOD!” He is the “mighty El.” The title “El” here for God is singular. Its first occurrence is in Genesis 14—“most high El, possessor of heaven and earth.” El signifies the strong One, the First. “God is One,” and the attributes of God are generally connected with this singular name El. Blessed indeed it is that He is made known to our praising hearts in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father’s love, for He is “image of the invisible God.” He is the uncreated Son, “because by Him were created all things” (Col. 1:15-16). Rightly and most suitably therefore is He called “mighty God.”
And now we are told something which outstrips all thought. And truly it must be so when the name of such an One is told to us.
“FATHER OF ETERNITY!” Who can think “eternity?” Who can grasp infinity? None but the eternal God! But though eternity is an infinite conception, it is not greater than Him of whom the inspired writer here speaks, the “Son given,” for He is said to be the Father of eternity. It is beyond thought! We, however, believe it; and more, we believe that our Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ, is He, as the Holy Spirit tells us; and we rejoice in His greatness and glory; yea, we rejoice that though we are enabled to apprehend much through divine grace, yet, I say, we rejoice that it still surpasses our comprehension. “He is before all things, and things subsist together by Him.” This is said of the Son.
Favoured Israel may delight to call their King and their God the Father of the nation, in the time of the glory in the age to come, but they are to be reminded that He who reigns is “Father of the eternal age.”
After such a description of His name, calling for the very greatest energy of thought, we enter, as it were, a quiet harbour of rest in the last word, “PRINCE OF PEACE!!” Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. “No end” to the peace which others enjoy through His rule presently, but He Himself is the Prince of it, the Head, the Chief. He is “the Prince of the kings of the earth.” There is none above or beyond Him. This is King David’s greater Son! This is the true Solomon (“Peaceable”) of Psalm 72. In the time of His government we read, “The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness . . . He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures . . . All nations shall call Him blessed . . . Blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen.”
What a title of beauty and blessing, finishing the divine spelling of the fivefold name! It is the crown, the sparkling diadem, which worthily ornaments this majestic monument of golden glory, “Prince of Peace!” What a desirable ending to such a list! Again we are reminded of Colossians 1. There we are told that He made peace by the blood of His cross, He made peace! He in whom the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell. And by Him all things shall one day be reconciled in peaceful gladness to that fullness which dwells in Him. How blessed is the portion of those who are even “now” reconciled before that day of universal reconciliation!
Never could a sign be given equal to this, reaching from a Babe in the manger to the infinite height of the mighty God.
(iii.) MIGHTY EL:
(ii.) Counsellor: (iv.) Father of Eternity:
(i.) Wonderful: (v.) Prince of Peace:
“A Child born: A Son given.”
“Call His Name
“The government shall be upon His shoulder.” Happy day to come for the world! He will prosper where the politicians and rulers fail so sadly now. “On His shoulder” the government will be safe. But Luke 15 tells us that the sheep—the lost sinner that He seeks and finds—has both “shoulders” for his security. One shoulder will do for the government of the earth, but nothing less than both for the sheep He loves so well, and whose home-bringing gives His loving heart such joy, deep and divine. We may well thank God for such a Saviour, known and trusted before the kingdom of glory comes.
Having had the holy privilege of beholding the great sight of this part of Isaiah, the central “SIGN” which God has given, the whole vein of true wealth running through this part of the book lies open before us. We have seen Him in “the depth” as well as in “the height” of His personal glory; also in the splendour of His official kingdom glory, and this is the key which discloses to us what would otherwise be secret still.
Section 1. Chapters 1-12
The King: the Root Shoot
The first part of Isaiah embraces chapters 1 to 39. The second, chapters 40 to 66. Christ as THE SIGN is the key that unlocks the treasure-store of the first part; Christ as THE SERVANT is the key that opens the second. Though the thought of the Sign in the depth and in the height runs all through Isaiah, indeed all through the Bible, the personal and official glory of our Lord Jesus Christ are prominent in the first part; in the second it is His moral glory which is most prominent, and this largely accounts for the difference between the two parts, where there is, nevertheless, much similarity.
The first part of Isaiah divides into four distinct sections, as we shall the second into three.
In the first section (1-12) we find that the Lord begins by dealing with His people’s sins. It is because of Him, the coming King, that His people’s sins, though they be as scarlet and red like crimson, shall be as white as snow, and as wool (Isa. 1:18). He will straighten out that which they have perverted, when He rules. He will restore Zion’s judges as at the first, and her counsellors as at the beginning: afterward she shall be called, “The city of righteousness, the faithful city (v. 26).
In Isaiah 2 it is declared that the nations shall be ruled in righteousness, and the effect will be peace; “Neither shall they learn war any more” (v. 4). The Prince of Peace shall then be over all. “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (v. 17), for all the wicked shall be overthrown, when, in The glory of His majesty, “He arises to shake terribly the earth” (v. 21). Jerusalem shall then become the metropolis, “for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (v. 3).
We learn that in that day “the Branch of the Lord” (Isa. 4:2), or rather the SPROUT “out of the stock of Jesse,” shall be beautiful and glorious. This is none other than Christ, and He shall bear the glory and make the fruit of the earth to be for excellency and comely ornament to His own in that day (Isa. 4:2).
Had we not known something of the personal glory of our Lord, we should not have been prepared for the great and fiery majesty which is revealed as His in Isaiah 6 in such holy splendour.
Isaiah, after describing what He had seen, says, “Mine eyes have seen THE KING” (v. 5); and it shall yet actually be that “the whole earth is full of His glory” (v. 3). And lest any doubt should remain as to whose glory is here spoken of, the Holy Spirit of God has told us in John 12:37-41 that Isaiah spake of Jesus, concluding, “These things said Esaias, when he saw HIS GLORY, and spake of HIM.” Surely we may sing with joy as His greatness grows upon our souls:
“My Lord, my Life, my Rest, my Shield,
My Rock, my Food, My Light;
Each thought of Thee doth constant yield
Unchanging, fresh delight.”
Power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing are rightly His.
Passing over the chapters we have dwelt upon in former papers, we now come to the close of this section. In the end of Isaiah 10, and at the commencement of Isaiah 11, we stand in a spot where once the mightiest trees flourished in governmental greatness. They are cut down now.
We see just a stock left in Isaiah 11:1—“the stock of Jesse.” Sinful Israel, that once had mighty rulers, who were great in the earth as the cedar trees, has been brought down to this. It was necessary that it should be so too, that all the pride of man might be abased, and that the SIGN might appear first in “the depth.” He is here seen “the Sprout” coming out of “the roots.” He could scarcely be called a “Branch” here, for a branch does not come up from the roots. He came up from “the depth.” He is the “Root Shoot,” in Hebrew the Nẽzer. It is from this word, not from the town of Nazareth, that He was, in the first instance, called “a Nazarene” (see Matt. 2:23). This lowly “Shoot” grows out of Jesse’s roots!
But what heights of glory rest upon this lowly One (vv. 2-8), eventually resulting in the earth being “full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (v. 9). To this Sign, or “Ensign,” all “in that day” shall seek, and His rest shall be glory (v. 10). Would to God that more sought Him truly and sincerely now!
With what a suitable burst of praise this section closes, “THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH AND MY SONG” (Isa. 12:2). “SING UNTO THE LORD; FOR HE HATH DONE EXCELLENT THINGS: THIS IS KNOWN IN ALL THE EARTH” (Isa. 12:5).
Section 1. Chapters 13-27
The predictions of the second section of the first part of Isaiah are both striking and stirring. In the first section of this part of the prophecy we have found the truth, which gives us an understanding of this that follows. It is the Virgin’s Son, whose name is Emmanuel, who shall “sit upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice for ever.” He is the divine explanation of the wonders here unfolded. The many and mighty overturnings of empires and kingdoms in these remarkable chapters are to make way for Him. As we remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David, raised from among the dead (2 Tim. 2:8), all will be clear and plain to us.
The glorious government of Christ, with its great, widespread, peaceful, and rich blessing, shall surely come. He shall sit in divine and judicial right upon the throne; but thanks be to God and our Father for the grace which has already made our glad hearts to rejoice in Him, before “that day” of His kingdom glory which has drawn us to Him during the time of His rejection, when Messiah is cut off and has nothing. It is an unspeakable privilege and honour to be allowed to “suffer with Him” now, before we “reign with Him” then, when in regal splendour and mighty majesty He shall worthily fill the throne. He came to His own, but Israel did not receive Him. He was in the world, but the world did not know Him. Some have received Him, and right is theirs—theirs only—to take the place of the children of God, for such are born of Him.
Isaiah 16:5 directs us to what is immediately before the mind of the Holy Spirit in this section. “In mercy shall the throne be established: and He shalt sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David.”
But there are great obstacles in the way. There are proud and princely powers of profanity and wickedness which dispute the establishment of this throne, therefore “the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers” must be broken (Isa. 14:5). And for this purpose God will muster the armies of His wrath and prepare the weapons of His indignation (Isa. 13). The world powers must give way. The Lord Jesus must be enthroned in right and might. The oppressor, and Babylon the golden city, must cease. Babylon is the oppressor. It was Babylon politically which oppressed God’s people Israel. It is in principle religious Babylon which oppresses today. In both ways, therefore, it must be overthrown, to make room for Christ and His own; for Christ and His earthly people Israel, and for Christ the Son of God and His heavenly assembly. Then shall multitudes mourn aloud, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen!” (See Isa. 21:9, and likewise Rev. 18:2.)
Others must also be brought low! Palistina must be dissolved! Proud Moab be stricken! (Isa. 14-16).
A mercantile power will seek to aid in the restoration of God’s earthly people to their land (Isa. 18), but the effort will fail of final success.
Egypt and Ethiopia are shaken (Isa. 19-20), but it is deeply interesting to notice that when our Lord Jesus Christ rules with authority and power, Israel shall be “third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be EGYPT MY PEOPLE, and ASSYRIA OF MY HANDS, and ISRAEL MINE INHERITANCE” (Isa. 19:24-25).
Before that day, however, as we have said, there must take place the great and important changes spoken of in this section. Mighty mountains must be overturned! High hills shall be cast down! Great governments and lesser shall crash to their fall! These prophecies of widespread destruction might well appal us did we not gaze upon them from a quiet and strong fortress, the Lord Himself being our “Refuge from the storm” (Isa. 25:4). He keeps “in perfect peace” those who trust alone in Him (Isa. 26:3).
In Isaiah 24 the Holy Spirit describes the final dissolution, in the midst of which the saved shall sing, as they see the majesty of the Lord appear, glowing with glory and splendour. “Behold, the Lord makes The earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down . . . Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth . . . The earth is clean dissolved . . . the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard” (vv. 1, 17, 19, 20). “From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs. Glory to the RIGHTEOUS ONE!” (v. 16). Listen once again; how loudly swells the joyful song! “They shall left up their voice, they shall SING FOR THE MAJESTY OF THE LORD” (v. 14). The brightness of His majesty will be so glorious in its splendour that we learn from the last verse that “the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.” Right worthily will our blessed and adorable Saviour fill the throne of this world’s government in that day.
It is no wonder that Isaiah 25 follows with an outburst of “praise,” and 26 with a “song,” and that 27 ends with “worship.”
If the glory of our Lord and Saviour is so great in connection with the earthly throne, human language must necessarily fail to describe that which the assembly shall share with Him above, when all things in the heavens, as well as upon the earth, shall be headed up in Him, who is the Christ (Eph. 1). Oh that we might be strengthened mightily of the Holy Spirit, according to the riches of the Father’s glory, so that, as He who is the centre of all the glory dwells in our hearts, through faith, we might be able to take firm hold of the breadth and length and depth and height; and know, too, that which is even greater still and more precious than the wonderful glory, THE LOVE OF THE CHRIST—the love of the One who is the Head and the centre of all, the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge.
The Golden Nail
There could be no entrance to, or understanding of, these scriptures apart from the truth concerning Him who is the Seed of David and who has the “key of David.”
To those who keep His word and do not deny His Name, amid the ecclesiastical breakdown of this present day, as described in Revelation 2:3, the Holy and the True, who “has the key of David,” promises, “because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
It is only in Revelation 3:7, and in our section (Isa. 22:22), that we read of this “key” being in the immediate possession of One “who opens and no one shall shut, and shuts and no one shall open.”
And it is that which the Holy Spirit gives us in Revelation which enables us to appreciate the right and rich value of our discovery in Isaiah 22.
Eliakim carries the key of the house of David here. His name means “whom God will raise up,” and he plainly points on to our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God has raised up, to secure all “the sure mercies of David,” the promises connected with David’s Seed. He is robed and strengthened, and the government committed into his hand, and be becomes a father to the people (v. 21).
Those who are addressed in Revelation 3 have “a little strength,” but here we are told in verses 23 and 24 that we have One on whom we can rely in the fullest possible way, for He is fastened as a nail in “a sure place.” The nail might be all that it should be, but it must also be fixed in a firm spot, if that which is entrusted to it for support is to be secure. This golden nail, which we behold here, is also “a glorious throne to His Father’s house” (v. 23). He is also the One who has “the key,” as we have seen, and is therefore none other than Jesus Christ raised from among the dead. He is indeed set in “a sure place,” in the very glory of God, His Father’s house. The children of God, do indeed find Him worthy of all their trust; but it is also declared that all the glory of His father’s house” is likewise entrusted to Him; all securely hangs on this golden nail of divine providing. There can be no giving way or break-down here, though all else is shaken. Even the type gives way (v. 25), but the glorious Antitype, our risen and glorified Saviour, remains. To Him, the Son, it is said, “THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOR EVER AND EVER.” Soon our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who died for our sins, whom we trust now, shall be publicly manifested, in marvellous majesty, crowned with many crowns, decked with many diadems.
“Thou art coming, crownèd Saviour!
Not the second time for sin;—
Thou art coming, thronèd Saviour!
Bringing all the glory in.
All Thy Father’s house, its glory
Hangs, by sure behest, on Thee!
O the sweetness of the story!
Saviour come! We wait for Thee!”
The Altar, the Pillar, and the Feast
We have already noticed that Egypt and Assyria are to be blessed along with Israel in the day of blessing from the Lord, but this blessing is inseparably connected with “the SIGN in the depth and the height.” So we read, “It shall be for A SIGN and for a witness . . . in the land of Egypt. He shall send them a Saviour, a great One, and He shall deliver them” (Isa. 19:20). The “Sign” is called in verse 19 “AN ALTAR” and “A PILLAR.” There is only one Person who answers to this striking twofold description of the “Sign.” That person is Christ, who has stooped to the unsounded depth of sorrow and suffering at Calvary, where He offered Himself without spot to God as a sacrifice, and who has been raised again from among the dead and exalted to the height—to the throne, “JESUS CHRIST, the faithful Witness, the First-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father: to Him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6). The secret of Egypt’s future fullness is surely explained by this “Sign.” For our Lord Jesus Christ alone in the greatness of His work and the excellence of His glory makes all these things clear to us. He is the Altar and the Pillar.
Isaiah 25-27 close the second section of Book I and introduce us to joyful festivities; the feast of fat things, of wines on the lees. It is enjoyed on the mount of royal grace (Isa. 25:6), not on the fiery mount of law-giving. The praise is full! The song is sweet! The worship is true!
The provision “in this mountain” is wonderfully abundant (Isa. 25:6). Fatness, fullness, and joy, well refined and pure, are here. “In this mountain” the veil that covers the face of all the troubled nations shall be taken away by the One who robbed death of its sting and the grave of its victory. He alone, the glorious Fulfiller of the promises and prophecy, shall reign in risen life and glory! For He is “Jesus Christ of the seed of David, raised from among the dead.” True believers know this royal mount in its gracious meaning already. As “risen with Christ” they sit at the feast. “He will swallow up death in victory” (v. 8), confirms this, for the Holy Spirit takes up these words and uses them in 1 Corinthians 15:54. We can say even now in the words of verse 57, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ!” He is risen and the victory is ours!
Again, we read, “in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest” (v. 10). “We have waited for HIM,” is said twice in verse 9. For whom? Our Lord Jesus Christ! This waiting will not be in vain! His victory over death and the grave will be known and enjoyed then in this mountain by the believing remnant of God’s people on earth. Like Thomas, who said, “My Lord and my God,” when he saw Him in resurrection, they also will say, “Lo, this is our God, this is our Lord!” (v. 9). “We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation!” Then the Lord’s rest will be blessedly realized “in this mountain.” It is no wonder the high praises of One so great ring out in triumph here! “O Lord, thou art my God, I will exalt thee, I will PRAISE THY NAME!” (v. 1).
How beautiful is the song that greets us in Isaiah 26 after all the turbulent scenes of the previous chapters, which were nevertheless necessary to clear the way for abiding peace! The singers have learned that “favour” will not teach the wicked righteousness (v. 10), nor bring them to “behold the majesty of the Lord.” They have also learned that it is when God’s “judgments are in the earth,” breaking the staff of the wicked and casting down great governments, that “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (v. 9). These are wholesome lessons.
This song, so supremely sweet, is sung in the joy of “salvation” (v. 1), and of the “perfect peace” which the Lord gives (v. 3), and of the “everlasting strength” which is in Him (v. 4).
The song is sung also in the sense of resurrection, as the feast of Isaiah 25 is enjoyed. This we see from the remarkable words of verse 19, where Israel is said to rise as from the dead by His power! They then call to others, “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out her dead.” They rejoice and sing in “the land of the living,” before the Lord, the Righteous One! It will be like life from the dead! And away from the uttermost parts of the earth comes echoing back the loud and joyful chorus, “GLORY TO THE RIGHTEOUS ONE!” “They shall sing for the majesty of the Lord and cry aloud from the sea” (Isa. 24:14).
The terrible power of Satan in the tossing sea of the peoples and the nations is destroyed. Israel is preserved and watered and kept, day and night, as a beautiful garden, a vineyard of pure wine (Isa. 27:2).
One by one they had been gathered home, once “ready to perish” and “outcasts,” but now with truth and love they “WORSHIP” the Lord, Jehovah, in the holy mount at Jerusalem (v. 13). It is always thus with “the true worshippers,” whether in that day or this. In the hearts of the worshippers of this day, who worship in spirit and in truth, the sense of grace is deeply imbedded by the Holy Spirit of God. “Ready to perish,” they were as the woman of John 4, but grace has filled and satisfied their souls. “Outcasts” also, as the man in John 9, they have learned the PERSONAL GLORY of their Saviour; He is none less than “THE SON OF GOD,” and they worship in His presence. His precious blood has cleansed their guilt and cleared their consciences. They are purged worshippers, and in the beauty of holiness, boldly entering the very holiest of all, because of the infinite value of the work, and the priceless perfections of their glorious Saviour, the Son of God; their full hearts overflow before Him in worship and adoration. No ecclesiastical organization or gorgeous ritual can produce this, nothing can, in fact, but the knowledge of the SON OF GOD, the knowledge of Him who is shown by resurrection to be the Son of God truly, though David’s seed according to the flesh.
Israel, Egypt, and Assyria under Christ
Referring back again very briefly to the close of Isaiah 19, it is most interesting to note that the two nations which were the cause of so much trouble to Israel shall be blessed of the Lord along with her in the day of Christ. What a glorious display it will be of the sovereign mercy as well as of the wisdom of our God
Verse 23 shows that peaceful relations and interchange will be maintained between Assyria on the north and Egypt on the south, and Israel in between the two, the national head and centre: no longer a hindrance as aforetime, but a help, given of God to sustain the system of nations which will then obtain in the world.
Verse 24 shows that these three nations together (restored under Christ Jesus) will be a means of blessing “in the midst of the earth.” Under our Lord Jesus Christ, the KING OF KINGS AND THE LORD OF LORDS, they will form a threefold power for maintaining widespread blessing. Their territory forms the natural centre also.
Verse 25 shows that Israel will surely be the special earthly, national “inheritance” of the Lord, as the assembly, of which we form part through surpassing grace, will be His heavenly possession, His bride; but how precious to see He will call, Egypt “My people,” and Assyria “the work of My hands.” How it magnifies His mercy! How it teaches us of Himself, of His goodness!
To understand God’s thoughts as to this future system of nations rightly, it should be remembered that such a system was before Him in Deuteronomy 32:8; and Ezekiel speaks of it as “Eden,” “the garden of God.” Israel, Egypt, Assyria, etc., which were stately trees in this “garden” planted by God, were cut down, and a new system of nations and government came into force, finding its head, not in Israel, but in Babylon. This latter system, of which Daniel treats and not Ezekiel, continues to this day. It is a marvellous system, symbolized in the great image (Dan. 2) of appalling developments. Christ suffered under it, and the assembly is being formed for glory during its prolongation. It will, however, be utterly ground to dust when the Stone smites it; when our Lord Jesus Christ comes; when He takes the power and the glory which rightly follows His sufferings and rejection. In that day the original system which God had before Him will be set up in Christ, the risen One from the dead. Then, indeed, under Him, Israel, Egypt, and Assyria will be “a blessing in the midst of the earth.” All depends on Christ risen.
Section 1. Isaiah 28-35
We now pass to the closing scenes of the remaining sections of Isaiah (I). Isaiah 28-35 present “the King in His beauty,” reigning in righteousness; while Isaiah 36-39 form a distinct historical section of striking significance.
Isaiah (I) has four separate sections. Isaiah (II) has three. This is full of meaning, proving to us that in the God-inspired Word every detail is taken into account—the numerical as well as the literal structure of it. Isaiah (I) in its four sections gives us the outward and public history; Isaiah (II) in its three sections the inward and moral history; and the 4+3 =7 showing the perfection (for which 7 stands in Scripture) of this book, in connection with which the religious rationalists of the day are displaying their folly, sawing it assunder, which, as it is commonly reported, the religionists of Isaiah’s day did with the writer of it.
But our business is not with them and their dastardly work, but with the unfading and indestructible treasures which the Holy Spirit has placed here for us, for here we find “things concerning HIMSELF,” and this is their wealth which we may possess.
In the last section mighty monarchies are overturned, as great mountains torn up by their roots, to make way for the rightful reign of the Son of David. Then the whole earth is clean dissolved and moved exceedingly! But in these chapters we see that woe comes upon the proud, the profane, and the rebellious people who are already possessing the land which is Jehovah’s land, “the glory of all lands,” for how could our Lord Jesus Christ establish His reign of righteousness amidst such surroundings?
The Sure Foundation
The foundations of His throne must be firm; and therefore we are again reminded here that the Sign must appear in “the depth” first. “The sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow,” Christ must first “suffer and enter into His glory.” And so we read again of the precious Stone of Isaiah 8 in 28:16, “I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a TRIED STONE, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believes shall not make haste.” He who becomes a sure foundation, the foundation upon which so great and majestic a superstructure is to rest in perfect stability, must indeed be proved by trials and testings which will leave no doubt as to His everlasting competency in the minds of the many myriads that are to have Him as their foundation. This precious Stone, this foundation Stone has been tested. He is indeed “A TRIED STONE,” and proved to be “A SURE FOUNDATION.” Others have been tried, only to prove themselves sure failures! Even the well-beloved and highly honoured Peter failed, and it is for our instruction that this is recorded. He failed in forbidding these very sufferings of Christ; he failed in denying Him at the time of His sorest trials; he failed in falling under metropolitan influence, so as to practically deny the truth of the gospel and of the church (Gal. 2). It is no wonder that he points away from himself to this “precious Stone” in his First Epistle! It is a wonder, though, that so many should still claim Peter as the rock foundation of the assembly. God’s Word tells us that he was the apostle to the Jews, as Paul was the apostle sent to the Gentiles, and who therefore most naturally was inspired to write the Epistle to the Gentile Roman believers in his day. “Other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, Jesus Christ.”
“The church’s one Foundation
Is Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
Who else could have endured the bitter trials and testings which were His? The sore sufferings at the hands of man? The appalling power of the prince of darkness? The fiery indignation of an outraged God that He suffered as He endured the stroke of sin’s just judgment? Who? None but the sinless, spotless One! The precious Stone!
THE TRIED STONE! He not only endured the trials and testings, and came through them more than a triumphant conqueror, but in that fierce and fiery furnace His moral glories and excellences shone out in their own native brilliance. He spake rightly! His silences were eloquent! His actions, like His words, told His intrinsic worth! Silver and gold and precious stones in their divine and spiritual meaning expressed their never-to-be-forgotten perfectness in Him, when in “the depth” of sorrow and solitary suffering He was “the Tried Stone.”
Truly His worthiness, and His trustworthiness also, has been thus proven. It can be said, “He that believes on Him shall not be confounded.” We can rest with implicit confidence here! The foundation has been tried. It is firm, immovable, “A SURE FOUNDATION!”
Rear the superstructure of splendour and glory higher than the earth, yea, higher than the heavens themselves, our Lord and Saviour, the Christ, is divinely capable of sustaining it all. Yea, He alone, the perfect One, the proven One, and none other! Only He who is the Sign in “the depth” and “the height.”
Let the “crown of pride,” then, be trodden under the foot (Isa. 28:3). Let the scornful religious leaders, with their refuge of lies and their agreement with Antichrist, be swept away (v. 15), so that the Lord Himself may be “for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the believing remnant” (v. 5).
Woe to the “crown of pride!” Woe to the city where David dwelt, now so “degraded” (v. 29)! “Woe to the rebellious” children (v. 30)! “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help” (v. 31)! But the necessary lesson shall be well learned by the believing remnant, and the “King shall reign” (v. 32); then, woe to those who took treacherous advantage of His suffering people (33)! “It is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion” (Isa. 34:8). That being settled by the righteous Lord, then there shall be a full restoration, as we see in the final beautiful words of our section, “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10).
After this swift survey of our eight chapters, we shall be now at leisure to gaze adoringly at “the height” of glory which is herein shown to us, as connected with our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Pride, scorn, and rebellion are righteously removed, and we see, rising radiantly before our eyes like the sun in its splendour, the glorious majesty of the Messiah, the Christ, the King, brightening and blessing all with His beams, and especially where, in the days of His deep sorrow, the darkest shadows enshrouded Him: even where they murdered Him on the cursed tree! There is seen the brightest of His earthly shining. What a triumph of good over evil! It is just like our blessed God to act thus.
Thrice happy are they who have already accepted God’s holy judgment of sin in its root and its fruit, at the cross. They are indeed at liberty, in the life of Christ risen, to be led by the Holy Spirit to behold the glory of Christ, and to see unfolding the things concerning Himself which are enfolded in all the Scriptures of truth. These things which are hidden from the natural eye are all clear and beautiful to the spiritual eye. But let never so much favour be shown to the fallen, unregenerate man, he will not behold the beauty of the Lord; nay, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The righteous judgment of God, at the cross, against sin, must be accepted. There only can the way be found to the restful fields of spiritual wealth contained in the Word. Then made free in Christ Jesus, who is raised from the dead, having finished the work which He came to do, we may know the things of the Spirit, and “the mind of the Spirit, which is life and peace.” It is true as to His work on the cross, and also consequently as to His work of government on the throne—“the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isa. 32:17-18). It is as thus blessed even now, through the cross, that our hearts rise to rejoice in Christ Jesus and in His manifold perfections.
The King in His Beauty
“The King in His beauty” delights to have us near to Him. He died that we might be with Him for ever, to share His heavenly glory. And what must that be, when it is said of His earthly glory, “The Lord is exalted; for He dwells on high: He has filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure?” (Isa. 33:5-6). Rulers without count have come to grief because of failure in some or all of these necessary attributes of a throne! Kingdom after kingdom has decayed or been destroyed for the selfsame reason! But His throne takes character from Himself who is just and righteous altogether, whose wisdom and knowledge and understanding cannot be numbered; yea, who is Himself “the wisdom of God,” and likewise “the salvation of God.” Stable, indeed, then must the throne be on which He sits. But though these things must necessarily be connected with the stability of a throne which is to bring blessing to men, yet power and might is also there. “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge My might” (Isa. 33:13). It is there to be put into operation if necessary, and so we read, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has surprised the hypocrites” (v. 14). But the throne is for the blessing of men, so the believing remnant who have waited for Him rejoice in “their glorious Lord.” They say, He is “unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our law-giver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (vv. 21-22).
Another “king” will oppress and persecute them, but he (Antichrist) will be cast into the place of his doom, “for the king it is prepared,” where the fire is kindled by the “breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone” (Isa. 30:33).
The Lord will save them by overthrowing the oppressor. Antichrist, who is the oppressor, will climb to “the height,” and from thence will be his fall, for, “before a fall comes pride, but before honour humility.” Antichrist will pretend great humility, for be will come “like a lamb,” but he is at heart “a dragon” (Rev. 13:11). This is the eagerly-looked-for superman, energized by Satanic cunning and power.
The true Christ, Israel’s deliverer and our Saviour and Lord, has been highly exalted because He first humbled Himself; for His humility He is honoured in “the height” of the throne.
Kings will be astonished when they see the despised One glorified, and the proud Assyrian oppressor “and his princes shall be afraid of THE ENSIGN” when He shall be seen in Zion (Isa. 31:9). “The Ensign” is the sprout of Jesse, of the line of David, our Lord Jesus Christ (see Isa. 11:10). “Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isa. 32:1). Many a rightful heir has come to a throne only to abuse the power that is conferred, but Jesus Christ of the seed of David, raised from the dead, will reign in righteousness. Under Him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, for He is Abraham’s seed, as well as David’s. This groaning earth will rejoice when He who is meek and lowly in heart administers the glorious abundance of His royal blessing. Happy, too, the princes who are associated with Him in the ruling of that day. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1).
The picture given us here by the Holy Spirit glows with richest beauty. There is over-abounding joy, for the desert not only blossoms abundantly, but rejoices even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon and the excellence of Carmel and Sharon is given to it (v. 2). What a transformation! From a wild wilderness, a desolate desert, to a garden of gladness rich with satisfying abundance! This need not surprise us, for we know who THE KING is that fills the throne in that day, and in whose hand the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper.
But the tide of blessing rises still higher, for we read, “they shall see THE GLORY OF THE LORD, AND THE EXCELLENCY OF OUR GOD.”
None other but He, who is God and Man, could manifest upon earth such glorious excellence. And we, as belonging to the assembly, the bride of Christ, are called to even higher and more excellent things than these. These are the glowing words that describe the earthly things in which He will be glorious, while the church is to be the heavenly companion of the heavenly Bridegroom, to behold with enraptured gaze His heavenly glory, the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. Christ is never spoken of as King of His church, His bride, but she nevertheless rejoices in His glory, and, indeed, will share with Him in that which is His as Man.
We shall be greatly helped in our understanding of what is meant when our Lord Jesus is spoken of in the Word as “the Christ” if we apprehend something of the vast range of royal glory which centres in Him as so designated. To many, that wonderful word “in Christ” is a meaningless expression, yet it speaks infinite and exhaustless blessing to the thoughtful saint who has some understanding by the Spirit of the glories of “the Christ,” for it is His position which determines ours. Many have missed their way by searching the Scriptures solely for things concerning themselves, instead of looking for Him in all the Scriptures.
When He came to His own, they received Him not, but those who truly looked for Him, and spake of Him, thankfully welcomed Him. John and Andrew were among them. Finding first his own brother Simon, Andrew said, “We have found THE MESSIAS,” and the Holy Spirit adds, “which being interpreted is THE CHRIST.” This scripture will help us towards the understanding of His glory. If we read the wonderful things recorded of MESSIAH in the Old Testament, and bring them forward in our thoughts to CHRIST in the New, our view of His glory will be enlarged, and our apprehension of that which is connected with Him will be increased. When we read in the Old Testament of the majesty, the might, the prosperity, the grace, the beauty, the dignity, the high honour, the truth, the meekness, the righteousness, the crown, the throne, the kingdom and dominion of THE MESSIAH, for whom Israel looked, THE KING of whom it is written “BLESSED BE HIS GLORIOUS NAME FOR EVER: AND LET THE WHOLE EARTH BE FILLED WITH HIS GLORY; AMEN, AND AMEN,” we are reading of Him who is THE CHRIST, our Saviour and our Lord, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
But the Holy Spirit shows us still greater things concerning “the Christ” in the New Testament. He is all that was gloriously predicted of Him. He bears all the royal majesty typified by “the Anointed” of the Old Testament; whether by the warrior King David, taken out from among the people, or the peaceful King Solomon, with his wise administration and the exceeding glory of his kingdom. He, CHRIST JESUS, is the Antitype and fulfiller of it all; but there is more, for not only shall the earth be filled with His glory, and all things upon the earth be headed up in Him, but in Ephesians 1 we are told that “the things in the heavens” shall also have Him for their Head, in the administration of the fullness of times.
The surpassing greatness of God’s power has raised Him from among the dead, and He is set above every form of government in the wide universe, and we are in Him, “in Christ.” Israel spoke of their portion and inheritance “in David,” in the Anointed whom God raised up in their day. All believers now have their portion “in Christ,” but this involves a new place for us through redemption in resurrection life and glory.
God has put all things under His feet, and given Him to be HEAD OVER ALL THINGS. The glories described by psalmist and prophet are great indeed, but who shall tell the breadth, the length, the depth, and the height of the glories of the Christ in heaven and earth, where there shall also be everlasting glory to God in the assembly in Christ Jesus?
Let our thought rise never so high, there He is in supreme glory and majesty, above principalities, above authorities, above powers, above all dominions; yea, above all heavens. From “the depth” He has gone to “the height.” “He that descended is the same who has also ascended up above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” Who can fathom the depth of “the sufferings of Christ?” Who can scale the height “of the glory” which follows? We reply, none of us can! But if that were possible, there is still a height which is infinite, beyond all creature ken, for we read in Romans 9:5, “THE CHRIST, WHO IS OVER ALL, GOD BLESSED FOR EVER, AMEN.”
May we be marked by having “the word of the Christ dwelling in us richly,” and in connection with Him may our singing be with grace in our hearts to God, as we chant our joyful psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, edifying and admonishing one another in all wisdom. God grant it abundantly till “that day”—Christ’s day—
“When all the saints exalted high,
A glorious anthem raise,
And all that dwell beneath the sky,
Speak forth Thine endless praise,
Redeemed creation joins in one
To bless the sacred Name
Of Him that sits upon the throne,
And to exalt the Lamb.”
In this section there is given to us a wonderful view of Christ, and of His tender care for those who come to Him. “A man shall be as an 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” (Isa. 32:2).
“A MAN.” Not an angel or fiery seraph; of these we should be afraid, and they could not be of use to us in our need, but He has drawn us with “the cords of a man,” with “the bands of love” (Hosea 11:4).
“AN HIDING PLACE.” When strong temptations of sin which as the winds would sweep us from our feet, or when tribulation threatens to overwhelm us, in Him we have peace and are perfectly secure.
“A COVERT.” And He is our Deliverer from the wrath to come, which as a tempest shall rage about the wicked, a sure covert for us from the storm.
“RIVERS OF WATER.” Quenching our thirst and satisfying our hearts’ deepest longings in this world where nothing can minister refreshment to the soul.
“THE SHADOW OF A GREAT ROCK in a weary land.” God is called “the Rock” of Israel in the Old Testament; and we, like them, have proved that this world is “a weary land.” How significant, then, and how blessed, that the Christ, “a Man,” appears as the rest-giving “shadow” of the “great rock,” the ETERNAL GOD, whose wonderful love for us was told out at the cross, when Christ died for us. Yes; He is “as the Shadow” of Him whose love is the known present portion of our worshipping hearts. The wealth of this love cannot be counted up, but it is all ours in Him through the cross. In “THE JESUS CHRIST MAN” we have “AN HIDING PLACE,” “A COVERT,” “RIVERS OF WATER;” and lastly, to give us solace, quietude, peacefulness, restfulness, and the consciousness of God’s proven and protecting love. He is as “the Shadow of a Great Rock,” A MAN AS THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY!
“He with His church has always stood;
His loving-kindness, oh how good!”
Section 1. Chapters 36-39
Israel’s Position and Condition—Outwardly, Inwardly, and Prophetically
We now come to the final section of Isaiah I. It is an interesting book of history in the centre of the volume. In the four chapters which comprise it (Isa. 36-39) there is a stirring story sweetly told. This story has a secret significance which, through grace, may it be granted to us to understand.
It should be noted that this little section, though the last of Isaiah I, is nevertheless the central section of Isaiah as a whole. There are three distinct divisions before it, also three distinct divisions after it, and here in the central part of the prophecy we have the divine hinge on which all that goes before and follows after hangs evenly and securely.
To approach the truth rightly, let us notice the remarkable fact that we begin where we began in the first section, “by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field” (Isa. 36:2 and 7:3). It was there that the “sign in the depth” and “in the height” was first promised by the Lord. It was to Ahaz the king that this sign was first spoken of in Isaiah 7; now it is upon his dial that the sign of this section is given—“a sign from the Lord,” on “the sundial of Ahaz” (Isa. 38:7-8). Therefore the sign of this last section of history is clearly connected by the Holy Spirit with the sign of the first. We must search the Scriptures and that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who searches all things, yea, the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:19), if we are to discover the true value of these curiously wrought connecting links. It is in this way, and not by stepping down to meet the mere literary critic on his own rationalistic and faithless platform, that his folly will be exposed for those who are of the truth, and who have received the same precious faith with us, through our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are to search for “the things concerning Himself,” if we are to find the truth for ourselves and others.
The meaning of the inspired writings will be plain and clear to us, and their hidden treasure will be ours as we find our Lord Jesus Christ in them. In the pursuit of these things no violence will be done to historic or scientific facts, for all is right in the Word of God; but we shall get what is specifically placed there for our appropriation by the Spirit, that for which the blessed Book is purposely written—the excellent knowledge of our Saviour God without which all is emptiness and vanity, the pursuit of the wind.
The outstanding feature of these chapters is the outward, inward, and prophetic situation.
Chapters 36 and 37 give us the OUTWARD SITUATION. The Assyrian waters had overflowed the land and now threatened Jerusalem, the city of the great king. Death and destruction were at their doors; they had no strength (Isa. 37:3)! How was deliverance to come?
Isaiah 38 tells us of the INWARD SITUATION “in those days” (v. 1). The king, of the seed of David, was sick unto death, saying, “I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years” (v. 10). How could he be raised up again?
Isaiah 39 gives us the PROPHETICAL SITUATION “at that time.” The treasures, all the precious things, the silver, and the gold, all the wealthy store of the house of David, with the royal seed, should “be carried to Babylon” (v. 6). They should be found among the Gentiles. How, then, should the seed of David and his riches be restored?
“Death” outwardly! “Death” inwardly! “Nothing shall be left, says the Lord” prophetically! Speaking naturally, the whole situation is hopeless! But there is “THE LIVING GOD” (Isa. 37:4, 17); the God “who raises the dead”; the God who has already “raised from among the dead” “Jesus Christ of the seed of David.” Is there anything too hard for Him?
The Seed Royal and the Treasures
We will take the prophetical situation of Isaiah 39 first. The seed of David, of whom the Christ was to come, and their treasured riches, were to be carried to Babylon. This, of course, historically happened; and as we see in the book of Daniel, “the times of the Gentiles” began. The authority was taken from Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles, and “the times of the Gentiles” still continue.
The fall of the Jews has been “the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:12), but the times of the Gentiles will have an end, and the riches and the Seed Royal will again be restored; and if the fall of Israel has brought such wealth to the Gentiles, “how much more their fullness? . . . what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:12-13).
Here, then, we see the precious principle of God’s divine dealing with Israel disclosing itself. Looking at things with nature’s eye all appears to be lost, but the eye of faith sees Jesus Christ of the seed of David raised from among the dead; yea, even at the right hand of God, and therefore all the promises are seen to be secured in Him rightly and eternally.
He will return to Israel again. The Seed Royal and greater riches shall yet be theirs. But before He returns and takes up the throne of David His father, the Christ is known to the Gentiles, not simply as the Son of David, but as the Son of God. The fullness of the blessing of Christ has come to them; the unsearchable riches of the Christ made known amongst them, and the riches of the glory of the mystery among the nations also, which carries with it treasures of wisdom and knowledge far beyond anything the nation of Israel can know, even in its highest estate of blessedness; for “this mystery,” made known among the Gentiles, is “CHRIST in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). How we would delight to dwell longer on this, but Isaiah is our subject.
The Sign of Degrees
We have the truth which enables us now to solve the inward situation, for that which explains one explains all, though differently applied. Indeed, as we have said before, the secret significance of this central section explains the way the promises of the previous three sections are secured, and also the promises of the following three sections, The king, the head of the nation, Is “sick unto death,” as we see in Isaiah 38. He is to “die, and not live” (v. 1). The words “in those days” (Isa. 38:1), like the words “at that time” (Isa. 39:1), show that one period is in the mind of the Spirit in these typical and prophetical chapters. Death casts its pall over all, even over good Hezekiah, for all have sinned.
But “the God of David” his father (v. 5) intervenes in divine grace (3 x 5) and promises to “add” fifteen years to his life, and to deliver and defend Jerusalem (vv. 5-6). Here, then we see the power at work which transcends nature.
Hezekiah asks for a sign! When the Lord told Ahaz to ask for one, he would not; but now, on the time dial of that very king Ahaz, the shadow returns “ten degrees,” by which degrees the sun had gone down (v. 8). This sign is to show us the sovereign supernatural power of God which is to be exercised for Israel’s inward as well as outward deliverance and blessing. It is not for us to speculate whether this sign was by refraction or otherwise. It was given by GOD. That is enough for faith.
“Ten degrees” has nothing to do with Hezekiah’s “fifteen years.” The 15 (3 x 5) speaks of divine grace, the 10 simply of man’s responsibility. The degrees go back 10 on Ahaz’s sundial. The time of responsibility (10) is over. The old covenant is set aside, and the new covenant in Christ’s blood is brought in by sovereign grace and power, and Jesus, raised from the dead, is the Mediator of it; for He died to become the surety of it. The old was a shadow of what was to come, but our Lord Jesus Christ in resurrection is “Mediator, as Man, of a better covenant” (Heb. 8:6), and “surety of a better testament” (Heb. 7:22). He has obtained eternal redemption, and made sure the eternal covenant.
We can now see how THE SIGN in “the depth” and in “the height” of our first section links with this; for the One promised there as the Virgin’s Son must go into the depth—into death and into the grave. He must also be raised again by the surpassing power of God, and exalted in the height. Death and resurrection must take place before sinners like ourselves or sinful Israel could be delivered and blessed, according to the promises of God.
The Song of Resurrection
Israel, like Hezekiah, brought back from death, will sing their song of thanksgiving to the Lord by and by, “Thou hast in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption: for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back. For the grave cannot praise Thee . . . THE LIVING, THE LIVING shall praise Thee” (vv. 17-19). A living God praised by a living people through the knowledge of a living Saviour.
The fruitless fig tree (Israel) was cursed on the ground of failure in responsibility; but now the fruit of the fig tree, blessed of God, is used for Hezekiah’s recovery (v. 21). THE SIGN is immediately referred to again in a remarkable way in the last verse (v. 22); and of those who do not see why, one can understand the complaint as to its apparently awkward introduction once more; but it was necessary to remind us who the True Fruit is. Of Israel, of the fig tree, according to the flesh the Christ came, and it is when they turn to Him, and in need, repentance, and prayer, come in contact with Him, according to the prophetic word, that they will be raised up again, and “go up to the house of the Lord” (v. 22), and “sing songs to the stringed instruments all the days of their life in the house of the Lord” (v. 20).
To the solving of the outward situation we have only as yet referred. It is deeply interesting, showing as it does the unity of the authorship of the whole book; for this central hinge is divinely fixed, as we have said, to the three previous and to the three subsequent sections. The nails that fasten it are golden, and of the Holy Spirit’s inimitable workmanship.
The facts as to the Assyrian enemy, as well as the sign, fasten it to the former. (Compare chapters 7, 8, 31, where he is afraid of the Ensign, with our chapters 36 and 37.)
We will have still to note its unity with the latter divisions; but before passing on to behold the divine victory, which settles the outward question, we may notice just two unmistakable links of unity. They are important because of the persistent attacks made upon this book on mere literary lines.
These links are connected with “the Sign” given in “the depth” and in “the height.” This was the truth which unlocked the storehouse of Isaiah (I), and the oneness of thought is consistently maintained also in Isaiah (II), where again we have THE SIGN referred to. In Isaiah 55 the “everlasting covenant” and “the sure mercies of David” are secured for delivered Israel. The Christ, the Sign of Isaiah 1, is “the Witness,” “the Prince,” and “Commander of the people” (vv. 3-4). The inward situation is solved, as we saw in Isaiah 38, by Israel being brought into contact with the Christ raised from the dead, who had been into “the depth” of suffering and death for them (so Isa. 53), but was raised again from among the dead. Now notice the Holy Spirit’s summing up in the last verse of Isaiah 55: it shall be for “AN EVERLASTING SIGN.”
Look also at the last chapter. Here we see the outward situation solved, as in chapters 36 and 37. The city is defended and delivered; and the Christ, the Sign of Isaiah (I), is seen in “the height” of earthly glory; yea, all nations see it. Mark the words, “They shall come, and see My glory, and I will SET A SIGN AMONG THEM” (vv. 18-19).
In chapters 36 and 37 of our immediate section of Isaiah, Jerusalem is face to face with the Assyrian, their enemy. The proud waters which have overflowed the land seem about to overwhelm them with death and destruction. This is the picture, given here by God, of the outward situation. Thus it will be again at Jerusalem. But “the living God” (Isa. 37:4, 17) will defend and deliver the city, by the working of His mighty power; and it shall not only be delivered, but Jerusalem shall become like a new creation, and the Lord shall rejoice in it, and the voice of weeping shall be heard in it no more.
But she would not have her Lord when He came to her in lowliness. He would have gathered her under His protection, but she would not. She spurned His love, and He was indeed the MAN OF SORROWS. The enemy, too, was allowed to rise up in all his proud hatred against Him. Here we find that Jerusalem has to face the enemy, to face death and threatened destruction. But, like her Lord whom she rejected when He came, she offers up “supplications and entreaties with strong crying and tears” to the living God, who is able to save from death. Like Him who, as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, opened not His mouth (Isa. 53:7), she now, before the enemy, holds her peace and answers him “NOT A WORD: for the king’s commandment was, Answer him not” (Isa. 36:21). Here the king’s dependence upon God was manifested, and in this he was like the Lord, when He stood before His accusing persecutors, He answered not a word, “Then said Pilate unto Him, Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly” (Matt. 27:12-14). Again, when brought before the cunning King Herod, who with “his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him,” we read “he questioned Him in many words; but He answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). There is also a further likeness to the oppressed and afflicted One in Israel’s condition at this time. He spoke of the trouble and grief connected with His suffering and death, as that of a woman in travail; and here Jerusalem says, “This day is a day of trouble . . . the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth” (Isa. 37:3). She has yet to learn the truth herein hidden, the truth of resurrection. The blessed Son of God went on to show that sorrow, trouble, weeping, may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning! How? “The child is born.” “Grief is turned into joy.” “The woman no longer remembers the trouble, on account of the joy that a man child has been born into the world” (John 16:21). The Lord was speaking of His resurrection, and we know Him now as risen, and our joy no man takes from us, while He Himself “is anointed with the oil of gladness above His companions.” What joy will fill the hearts of believing Israel by and by, when they behold and accept “Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, raised from among the dead.” Then also “all the kingdoms of the earth shall know that He is Lord, even He only” (Isa. 37:20).
Laughter is connected with resurrection. “Isaac,” the resurrection man, means “laughter;” and when the risen Christ takes the throne, the Lord will laugh (Ps. 2); when the captivity of Zion is turned, the people will laugh (Ps. 126); they will say, Our mouth is “filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” “The Lord has done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” So here, “the virgin, the daughter of Zion,” despises the outward enemy now, and laughs (v. 22). God has interfered in resurrection power.
Look how this vividly pictured deliverance is again connected with Isaiah II). The Lord says here, “The daughter of Zion has despised thee.” “I will defend this city to save it for My own sake, and for My servant David’s sake” (Isa. 37:35). I will deliver it out of the hand of the king of Assyria (Isa. 38:6). Now read Isaiah 52, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem . . . loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion . . . Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money . . . the Assyrian oppressed them without cause” (vv. 1-4). Again, “Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the Lord, even Thou only” (Isa. 37:20). So we read in Isaiah 52:9-10, “He has redeemed Jerusalem, the Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Again, “The children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth” (Isa. 37:3). Now note Isaiah 66:9-10, “Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? says the Lord . . . Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her.” Why? She is “delivered of a MAN CHILD” (v. 7). Who has heard such a thing? A NATION born at once! “As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (v. 8).
It will indeed be like “LIFE FROM THE DEAD.” As “the new heavens and the new earth” which the Lord will make (Isa. 66:22). Behold, He says, “I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isa. 65:18). It is resurrection power. It is new creation work, though not, of course, in the complete sense in which the assembly knows it in Christ. AN ENSIGN shall be lifted up against the enemy when He comes in “like a flood” (Isa. 59:19), and the Lord will not rest “till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:7).
We now turn to the judgment on the wicked, on the enemy who threatened from without; and mark again the connection with the last part of Isaiah. The rebellion and rage of the enemy here is against the Lord (Isa. 37:28-29), and the host is smitten (v. 36), and “behold they were all dead corpses.” In the last verse of Isaiah, “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have rebelled against Me.”
I have purposely treated this central section differently to the others, to show the absurdity of the attack on the book as a whole, and that we may see the importance of discovering the mind of God in the Scriptures.
The Resurrection Sign
We cannot close this section without looking at the other SIGN given. It is a life out of death sign, in beautiful harmony with the rest.
How admirably suitable is the language used here. In glowing colours the Holy Spirit shows us this striking sign, shining in vividness and freshness upon the dark background of the enemy’s overwhelming devastation of the land. “This shall be a SIGN unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as grows of itself; and the second year that which springs of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this” (Isa. 37:30-32). Here, again, we find resurrection pictured, and unmistakable unity with Isaiah II. See chapters 60:20-22, and 61:3.
“The planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Also 55:13, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an EVERLASTING SIGN that shall not be cut off.” Why all this life out of death? How does it come about? Because of that other “Plant,” the “tender Plant”; the One that had no “lordliness” in their eyes; for He was amongst them in “lowliness.” They saw no beauty that they should desire Him (Isa. 53:2). He was wounded for their transgressions, He was bruised for their iniquities. Through His stripes they will get healing. He was “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isa. 53:8). Hezekiah, typical of Israel, cried, because of his “cutting off” and going to the “gates of the grave,” that he should not see the Lord “in the land of the living” (Isa. 38:10-11).
So Christ was actually cut off, and men appointed His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich in His death. Is that the end? Hezekiah was made to live, as Israel will again presently through divine grace. Hezekiah thought his “end” had come, but his days were prolonged. What, then, of the Lord, the Christ? His days are prolonged too, “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10).
This, then, is the glorious explanation of it all. His days are prolonged for ever in resurrection, and others too as “His seed” live together with Him. Christ is already risen. He is alive for evermore, and has “become the Firstfruits of them that slept.”
What a day of rejoicing it will be for this remnant of Israel when they learn that the Seed Royal, the Seed of David, has been preserved in Jesus Christ our Lord, raised from among the dead. Death seemed to have blighted all the hopes of those who trusted in Him that He should have redeemed Israel. They saw Him slain on a cursed tree and buried in the grave. It appeared as though all was over for Israel; for Jerusalem; for the throne of David; and for the world. All seemed to be enveloped in thick darkness and in the hopelessness of death. The night-pall of deep despair seemed to settle upon all and to cast its chilling folds across every promise and every hope.
But the resurrection morning changed everything; it broke with terrors for the ungodly, for “behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven” (Matt. 28:2). The soldiers of Rome were keepers of the tomb, but they shake and become like dead men at His presence. But it broke gentle as the dawn to those women who visited the sepulchre early, for the angel of the Lord said to the women, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: FOR HE IS RISEN.” The night is gone! The darkness is past! The battle is over! The victory is won! Israel shall soon sing, as it is written, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream, Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing” (Ps. 126:1-2). The enemy is smitten! Jerusalem is free! Look once more at our chapter, Isa. 37:36, “The angel of the Lord went forth . . . and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.”
Hezekiah sang inside, “THE LIVING, THE LIVING SHALL PRAISE THEE!” “For the grave cannot praise Thee! Death cannot celebrate Thee!”
The situation outwardly, inwardly, and prophetically looked hopeless, but the Sign in “the depth” and in “the height” has satisfactorily solved every difficulty. Let it once again be said, JESUS CHRIST OF THE SEED OF DAVID, WHO WENT INTO DEATH, RAISED FROM AMONG THE DEAD, AND EXALTED, EXPLAINS IT ALL.
“Behold My Servant”
The pre-eminent perfections of the second main portion of Isaiah now come before us. These chapters speak, as did the first section, with divine and excellent eloquence. They are set in holy writ by the Holy Spirit of God as gems of such unrivalled beauty, that even the enemies of inspiration are forced to acknowledge their exalted and incomparable worth.
Reaching forward prophetically to the time when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together”; to the time when the heavens shall be planted with the redeemed, for God’s praise; to the time when all shall shout and sing aloud for very joy; these chapters tell us of the servant of the Lord, who shall bring it all to pass in righteousness and in truth; of the One in whose hand “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper”; of the One who shall astonish many nations, and before whom kings shall stand in silent wonder, for, as they see His royal majesty in that day, they shall remember that He was once “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
But who then is this honoured Servant who first suffers so sorely, and afterwards ushers in such universal blessedness? Who is He that shall fill and flood this anxious, thirsty world with the knowledge of the one true God, ruling the restless nations with a righteous sceptre in peace, prosperity, and equity?
Matthew 12:18-21 gives the Holy Spirit’s answer to the question, and provides the key of entrance to the wealth which is so ample and abundant in Isaiah (II). These verses are quoted from Isaiah 42, and show that this distinguished Servant is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, our precious Saviour.
“Behold My Servant”
God, who invites us to behold Him, enables the delivered believer by His Spirit so to do. Many Christians are self-occupied, or struggling with sin in the flesh, and are not at leisure from themselves to contemplate this lowly Servant, who fills the heart of God with such infinite delight. Such need to know the freedom which is in Christ Jesus, through His death, where sins and sin were judicially put away. When this freedom is known the heart is at liberty to rejoice in the perfections of this lowly One. He is God’s chosen Servant, God’s Beloved, His soul’s delight; the One upon whom His Spirit is. He shall show forth judgment to the nations for the glory of God; yet He is the One who neither strives or cries out; who will not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoking flax. Yet He shall not fail, but in victory He shall establish the truth in the earth; and in His name, not only Israel, but the nations also shall hope. This is our Lord Jesus Christ, well known to those who have come to Him in faith, even now during the period of His rejection.
He came to His own, to Israel, but they received Him not; He was in the world but it knew Him not; unknown in the world and rejected from it, He has been welcomed to God’s right hand; and to the children of God, those who have received Him, He is known as the Son of God. They boast in Him; He fills them with joy and worship; and His love bestowed so bountifully upon them, before the day of His world-wide glory, satisfies them abundantly. Nevertheless, they look forward to the time when He shall be universally honoured, when “He shall come down like showers upon the new mown grass, when truth and righteousness like flowers shall spring up where He shall pass.” But their portion is to be translated to the Father’s house, to be with Him there (John 14); then after this they see His name praised on earth, and all nations call Him blessed.
“Yea and Amen”
Patriarchs and prophets, princes and poets, men of God in all ages have looked forward to that day. Abraham saw it and was glad, his heart exulted. God has given great and gracious promises concerning it, and whatever promises of God there are, “in Christ is the Yea, and in Him the Amen” (2 Cor. 1:19-20). He has secured eternal redemption through His death; and as the risen Man, He will carry out every promise for the glory of God. His trustworthiness and divine capability have been proved amidst sore testings and trials, even to death, This true Servant is both prudent enough and powerful enough to firmly establish all. He is both loving enough and lowly enough; both righteous enough and gracious enough; mighty enough, great enough; meek enough and wisp enough; high enough, holy enough, just enough; yea, He is altogether perfect, and of Him it can be said with certainty, “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10). THE YEA of all is in Him, and also THE AMEN.
“There is None Other”
Search through all the cities, the centres of commerce and civilization, inquire at all the colleges, the seats of learning and science; ask among all the rulers—the emperors, kings, princes and legislators—of the earth; search, inquire, ask, “Is there any other?” The reply is unmistakable, “There is none other!” His faithfulness to God and man has been evidenced already; and though man refused Him, God has shown His approval of His Servant by exalting Him to His right hand, to await the day when His enemies shall be put beneath His feet. Let it not be thought, however, that all men have refused Him, for millions have individually trusted themselves for time and eternity into His hands, only to prove the perfection and greatness of the salvation that is in Him. “Neither is there salvation in any other” for Israel nor for the nations of the earth. In His limited sphere of service, recorded in the Gospels, we see the divine ability and faithfulness of this perfect Servant. Soon this will be shown universally. It is true of our Lord Jesus Christ in perfection, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). He is the trusted Servant, and it is this word “servant,” which is the key to Isaiah (II), as the “sign” was the key for Isaiah (I).
The City of the Great King
We must now ask: What is to be the happy and honoured metropolis, the earthly centre of the coming glory, the city of the great King? The last two chapters of the Bible show us the heavenly centre, the universal metropolis. It is the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly, the Lamb’s wife. But the earthly centre is shown in Isaiah to be Jerusalem upon earth; not over the earth, as the heavenly city in Revelation.
Isaiah 40 says, “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem” (v. 2). Later we read, she shall be “called Hephziah (my delight is in her),” and her “land Beulah (married)” (Isa. 62:4). Again, “behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isa. 65:18). And again, “the Gentiles shall come to thy lights and kings to the brightness of thy rising . . . The forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee . . . Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise . . . Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended” (Isa. 60:3-20). What a glorious metropolis this will be! It will be the earthly city of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will give to it its beauty and character; as also, in a far higher way, to His heavenly bride, the assembly, which will shine with the very glory of God. But even the earthly city will partake of the character of new creation, and shine in great splendour.
The National Servant
Another important question is: What nation is to be the national head of the system of nations in that gladsome day? It must be a nation which has kinship with the King, and His city, Jerusalem, as its proper centre. It must also be directly descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This nation must also take character from its personal Head, its King and Priest. To hold such a pre-eminent position as the national head of the world, and the national servant of the Lord, it must be immediately under the Lord Jesus Christ, the Seed of David, raised from among the dead, the personal Servant of the Lord, and it must take on of His character. Israel alone can answer to all this, as we shall see.
It is patent to all, that they have meanwhile become, as God foretold, “the tail” of the nations, through their sins. Judgment will fall upon the lawless in Israel, for “all are not Israel that are of Israel.” A remnant, however, will be brought to Christ, and become this highly-privileged nation, having righteousness in Him.
As our Lord Jesus Christ is the personal Servant and the King of Israel, so this remnant blessed in Him become not only the national servant but as we see in the closing chapters, as individuals, “the servants” of Jehovah. In the singular the word “servant” is last used in Isaiah 53:11, where we learn that our Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous Servant, instructs others in righteousness. This is important to grasp, for “servants” are always spoken of afterwards, and their first mention is in 54:17, where they are identified with the nation, “the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, says the Lord.” We are now in a position to understand such wonderful Scriptures concerning Israel as these, “Thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend . . . Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel” (Isa. 41:8, 14); “Sing, O ye heavens: for the Lord has done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel” (Isa. 44:23); “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified (Isa. 60:21); finally, “the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isa. 61:11). It is because of their immediate connection with Christ, that they thus become God’s national servant in the world eventually.
“THE SERVANT” then is the key to Isaiah (II). Pre-eminent in poetic and prophetic perfection, tender and touching in their consolations, these chapters “speak to the heart” (Isa. 40:2); because they are filled with the loveliness of His service, suffering, humiliation, and exaltation also; and are illuminated with the wonderful wisdom and everlasting love of Him who is altogether lovely in the estimation of the heart which truly knows His love.
“COMFORT” is the first word of Isaiah (II), denoting its inward and more private character; whereas Isaiah (I) is public and political. And as we have there so much of the official glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, so here we find more of His marvellous moral glory. This accounts largely for much of the difference in style (where there is also some similarity) in the two books.
A simple illustration may help. A man writes a book upon the political history of a nation; another book from his hand is compiled from letters to his family. A difference in style and language in the two books would be expected, and it would be folly on that ground to say that the one person did not write both.
There is no excuse for those who deny that Isaiah is the one writer used of God to give us both; for in doing so, they question the authority of our Lord, and the accuracy of the Holy Ghost. In John 12:37-43, both parts are strikingly linked together as the word of Isaiah, pointing to Christ; but it is significantly added, the reason why some of the leading men in that day did not confess Christ was, that “they loved glory from men rather than glory from God.” It is the same today.
If a man is in nature’s darkness, and not in God’s marvellous light, though he be the most learned of men, he will not be able to see the perfections of God’s Word, nor understand that Christ is in all the Scriptures, and the chief object for which God has given them to us, so that cheer, comfort, consolation, and hope may fill our hearts abundantly as we learn of Him and the greatness of His work.
The Divisions of Isaiah (II)
Isaiah (II) falls naturally into three distinct sections of nine chapters each: 3 x 9 = 27. We cannot always depend upon the chapter divisions of the Bible; but in this case, each of the three sections are subdivided thus 3 x 3 = 9. This is a striking fact. The number 3, the number of the Godhead of infinite wisdom, being significantly stamped upon this portion of holy writ; which the hand of the destroyer seeks to tear to pieces. This should be a warning against the literary lawlessness of the day.
Each of the 3 sections of 9 chapters closes, after comforting the true heart, with a solemn pronouncement of punishment for the lawless among the professing people of God. See end of section 1, 48:22, “There is no peace, says the Lord, unto the lawless”; and the end of section 2, 57:21, “There is no peace, says my God, to the lawless”; lastly, 66:24, “Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
Let it be only remembered, that “the desires of the mind,” as well as of the flesh are, in the unregenerate man, lawless; and we shall not be surprised at the present-day impious and persistent attacks upon the sacred Scriptures of truth. It will, however, brace up the mind of the true believer, to be more persistent in following that which is good, seen in divine perfection in Christ alone.
Section 2. Isaiah 40-48
“Behold Your God”
Having surveyed the general structure, we may now turn to our glorious subject, and may our souls be sustained by the Holy Spirit, so that we may behold with glad hearts the glory of the Lord, which shines in these chapters.
At present, when Israel reads, “the veil is on their hearts,” so that they do not understand; but for those who are in the light, all veils are done away in Christ. In the liberty which the Spirit of the Lord gives they can behold and understand the glory of the Lord, and in consequence they take on of His character and become like Him.
“Like Him in faith, in meekness, love,
In every beauteous grace
From glory unto glory changed,
Until we see His face.”
The Lord our God
It is divinely decreed “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23). It is therefore not surprising that in these chapters, where our Lord Jesus Christ is presented to us in His humiliation, there should be hidden in the first (Isa. 40) a testimony to His deity. The voice of one is heard crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way!” This is the voice of John the Baptist. But whose way is being prepared? All four Gospels unite in perfect harmony to answer this important inquiry, as also does Isaiah 40:3. It is the “way of THE LORD,” a “highway for OUR GOD.” Matthew, taking up the runner’s cry of Isaiah 40, records the testimony of John as to Jesus, “He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to bear” (Matt. 3:11). Mark preserves another part of that testimony, “I indeed have baptised you with water: but He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:8). Luke records how that John, in the midst of the moral wilderness of Israel, was the “Voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of THE LORD, make His paths straight.” John shows us the Baptist not as servant only, but as an adoring beholder of the Lord, and as such he says, “He was before me. And I knew Him not: but that He might be manifested to Israel, therefore am I come baptising with water . . . this is the SON OF GOD” (John 1:30-34).
Isaiah 40 also looks on to the time of His glory, following a revival of the Baptist’s ministry, which was so violently ended for the time being. As a result of that revived ministry He will be received by the repentant of Israel. Then “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isa. 40:5). Then Jerusalem shall lift up her voice with strength, and “say unto the cities of Judah, BEHOLD YOUR GOD!” (v. 9).
When He came in lowly grace His people spurned Him; He went to John the Baptist, associating Himself with the repentant remnant of that day, and took His place as Man and as of Israel, in the waters of baptism. But as He came from those waters, God the Father’s voice was heard, saluting Him, and the Holy Spirit’s presence was seen upon Him. He is God the Son, and Son of God! He came down in lowly grace to where Israel was, but is He to be put on the level of other men? No! He is, as Thomas owned, and as Israel will say in the day of their repentance, “THE LORD OUR GOD.”
A repentant remnant of Israel was saved at His first coming, and passed into the assembly, which is destined to fill a higher place than Israel. The assembly, His body, and heavenly bride, is the fullness of Himself who fills all in all. Israel, as we have seen, blessed and righteous in Him, becomes the distinguished national servant of God, with high honours and dignity. “Righteousness exalts a nation”; so we read, “I bring near My righteousness . . . and My salvation for Israel My glory” (Isa. 46:13); again, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa. 45:25). There was no man to lift them up; they had sinned, they had fallen, and to all appearance irretrievably; but the Lord their God came to where they were; He wrought in grace, and wisdom, and righteousness; and He says, “all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isa. 49:26). This last divine title occurs but thrice in the Old Testament, and all three times in Isaiah (Isa. 1:24; 49:26; and 60:16). Before Israel can be exalted they must abandon seeking righteousness by their own works; this they will do, and find it in Christ, where it is alone to be found, as Romans 9, 10, and 11 explains. Righteous in Him, they become the servants of the Lord, and the national servant of which we have spoken. Revelation 7 is interesting in this connection; “the servants” are there sealed; twelve thousand out of each tribe, to become the nation of administration (which the number “12” signifies), upon the earth. All nations shall then know that THE LORD, HE IS GOD.
The Arm of the Lord
Looking on to that day, verse 10 of Isaiah 40 tells us, “His Arm shall rule for Him.” Verse 1 of Isaiah 53 raises the important question, “To whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?” The Hand of the Lord is often mentioned; but not less than ten times in Isaiah (II) do we read of the Arm of the Lord. It is called His “mighty Arm,” His “holy Arm,” His “glorious Arm.” It is seen outstretched for service, and in victorious strength, serving for the glory of God and the blessing of men. It reaches down from above. It acts with divine energy among the peoples, putting on strength; it is made bare in the eyes of the nations, bringing salvation, it is trusted; leading the redeemed, it makes an everlasting name, a glorious name for God in the earth; but to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed now?
Romans 9, 10, 11, shows how Israel has turned away from the Lord’s outstretched hands; for they sought righteousness and salvation by their own works, and not by faith. There we are also shown that “CHRIST is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Rom. 10:4); but of Israel it is said, “they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Esias says, Lord, who has believed our report?” A few only, a small remnant, recognised the Arm of the Lord, and believed on Christ. In John 12 the Holy Spirit declares plainly who the Arm of the Lord is. Notice particularly verses 37 to 41, in which Isaiah 53:1 is quoted. There we are told of the many signs which Jesus did, showing who He was; but they believed not on Him, as Isaiah foretold. In spite of all the wonderful works which He did as the gracious and mighty Arm of the Lord in their midst, they believed not. Yet He is the glorious Arm of the Lord, strong and trustworthy, as thousands can testify today. The second mention of this strong Arm in 40:11 is very beautiful, and most comforting to His own for all times, “He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with HIS ARM, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” It is the blessed Son of God, in the activity of divine love. When He appeared amongst His own, and declared who He was, the Jews took up stones to stone Him. But He spake of His sheep, of His precious flock, and said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:28-31).
With what gladness should we give thanks to God, that in His unfathomable grace the Arm of the Lord. Has been revealed to us.
“We’ll sing of the Shepherd that died,
That died for the sake of the flock,
His love to the utmost was tried,
But firmly endured as a rock.”
In Isaiah 40:10 the Arm of the Lord is seen in its governmental authority. In verse 11 it is seen in its loving activity, gathering the lambs, and folding them to His bosom, where they are carried safely; and where the warmth of His love is consciously known.
It is the believer who rejoices in this. To faith and not to sight these things are made known. The One who holds His sheep in eternal security is the One “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand!” (v. 12); Who takes up the nations as an atom! (v. 15); Who stretches out the heavens as an extremely attenuated fineness! (Heb. dok. v. 22). Let us ever remember that it is by waiting upon the invisible God in faith that strength is gotten; strength to “mount up”; to “run” yea, to “walk and not faint!” (v. 31). The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary! (v. 28). Wait, therefore, upon Him; yea, trust implicitly in Him, who has through redemption’s work folded us to His heart of love with His gracious Arm. Oh, the folly of idolatry, shown up in these chapters so strongly! Oh, the dishonour to God! Oh, the debasing effect upon the idolaters themselves! Mark, too, in Christendom, the dire effects of idolatry and superstition; only compare them with the results of faith. The wide differences are clearly patent, to those who are able to see. The true believer needs neither idol or image. To him the Son of the Father’s love, our Lord Jesus Christ alone, is the image of the invisible God.
Cyrus, the Lord’s Servant
God raised up Cyrus to overthrow the Babylonish idolatry, and also to restore Israel to the land. Righteousness called him to its foot (Isa. 41:2). This is the first mention of this great warrior king; the last being in Isaiah 48, where we are told, “he will do his pleasure on the Babylonians” (vv. 14-15).
Long before he was born, God surnamed Cyrus, though he knew not Jehovah, and providentially he was used of God as His shepherd and His anointed. He was called to overthrow idolatry, which was such a snare to Israel. He was chosen “for Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect (Isa. 45:1-4). By him God taught Israel the impotence of idols. In a moving appeal to Israel, God shows them how that He had called and prospered Cyrus to do His pleasure for their sakes (see Isa. 48:12-15).
That God used him in the way here foretold is now a matter of history but there lies in it a deeper meaning for us, for Cyrus is a type of Him who comes out of heaven upon the white horse in Revelation 19: THE KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. He will overthrow the idolatrous kings and their armies of the future; the beast, the false prophet, and their evil associates.
Cyrus is never called “the servant” of the Lord. He was His providential shepherd, for Israel His servant’s sake. As to this Delitzsch and others have been in error. Nor is it difficult to see the importance of this distinction; for even now God raises up providential authority in the world for the sake of the elect. Such authorities are called ministers of God; but never servants of Christ. They are God’s ministers to us for good (Rom. 13:4). If we understood this important truth, we should carry out the exhortation to pray for all in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2) with grace and intelligence. In the restoration of the Jews through Cyrus, God used Jeremiah prophetically, and Daniel was used in prayer, whilst Cyrus was used of God providentially, as we have said.
Israel, the National Servant
Consequent upon the introduction of Cyrus (Isa. 41:2) as the warrior to be used of God, to destroy idolatrous nations, Israel is addressed by God as His national servant, in whom He will glorify Himself. The ends of the earth are afraid, and the idolaters are seen in their senseless dilemma (vv. 5-7). “But thou, Israel, art My servant!” This is a high distinction for a nation, a distinction peculiar to Israel. Here we find the first mention of the servant nation—the key-word of Isaiah (II). This servant nation is “the seed of Abraham” (v. 8), for it is promised that through his seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. We know that personally our Lord Jesus Christ is the Seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many; but as of one, “And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). It is, therefore, when the nation is truly brought to Christ, raised from among the dead—seed of David and seed of Abraham—that the nation will become, according to God’s purpose for them, the honoured national servant.
This nation is also called, “thou worm Jacob”: the “new threshing instrument” to “thresh the mountains, and beat them small” (vv. 14-15). Christ came to where they were to save them, and in His suffering He cried, “I am a worm” (Ps. 22:6). He had to take that way—to go to the cross, into the dust of death—before either ourselves or Israel could be delivered. But not only are we saved, and all Israel shall be by and by, but the proud mountains, the governments of men, are beaten small. The worm Jacob, Israel the servant nation, is used in this work specially. Scientists tell us that it is an established fact that the best and most fruitful earth has all passed through the body of the worm; so will the great governments of the earth be dealt with by Israel before they are fruitful for God’s praise in the coming day. Then Israel shall “rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel” (v. 16).
Away from the Lord they had sunken into an utterly vain and sinful state. When God beheld, there was “NO MAN,” “NO COUNSELLOR” among them; NO ONE to answer God a word. They had become “vanity, their works nothing; their molten images wind and emptiness” (vv. 28-29). But when they turn again to Him, then indeed shall they rejoice in THE ONE whose name is COUNSELLOR; upon whose strong shoulder the government shall be safe: THE MAN CHRIST JESUS, in whom the nation shall find itself richly blessed; and who shall answer every divine question.
The Faithful Servant
Isaiah 42 therefore opens by inviting us to behold this glorious and gracious Servant who shall bring all triumphantly to pass; the servant of Jehovah’s pleasure. Here the flesh cannot follow; here the eyes of the unrenewed mind cannot see. The Holy Spirit of God will only lead in this way those who have accepted God’s judgment of the flesh at the cross, only those eyes which have been anointed with divine eyesalve are able to behold the moral lustre of this faithful Servant: the truth, the meekness, the wisdom, the nobility, the prudence, the purity, the equity, the gentleness, the goodness, the virtue, and the majestic dignity;—the moral glories shining in this lowly, suffering Servant, are only discerned and delighted in by those who are led of the Spirit.
When God says, “Behold My servant, whom I uphold,” we may be sure there is abundance of grace to enable us so to do. We cannot, however, claim grace to run in the direction which the imagination of the natural mind would indicate; but we can follow in the way in which God’s Spirit guides, God loves us too well to encourage us in a wrong and hurtful path. We are to behold the glory of His Son.
His First and Second Comings
As is often the case in the prophets, the first and second comings of our Lord Jesus Christ are seen together in verse 1. The past coming of the sufferings of Christ; and the future coming, in the glories that follow, are put together. The present period in between, when the assembly is being formed in Christ, whilst He Himself is out of sight, is passed right over. The prophets see, as it were, two mountain peaks rising before their enraptured view; one nearer, the other towering in brilliant glory beyond; but the broad, rich, lowly valley between, in the which is the assembly, God’s habitation in the Spirit, is out of their sight. It is vain, therefore, to look for the assembly—the body of Christ—in the prophets. And in this connection, the headings of many chapters of Isaiah, put there by men, are very misleading. They read the assembly in, where God is speaking of the nation of Israel.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is here shown to us coming in humiliation, as recorded in the four gospels; and also, as coming again in glory, to bring blessing to Israel, and to the nations of the Gentiles; when righteousness, equity, and judgment shall prevail in the earth.
The faithfulness of Christ has been proved fully as we see in the gospels. He is the Elect-Servant of God; the delight of His soul:
“Faithful amidst unfaithfulness,
’Mid darkness only Light;
He did His Father’s Name confess,
And in His will delight.”
The Spirit of God rested upon Him; His words and works were by His grace and power, as He trod that path of perfection. No word had ever to be withdrawn; no work to be undone; no step to be retraced.
Unlike the warrior kings of old, or the present-day politicians, He did not strive or cry out (v. 2), appealing to the passions of men. With tender and thoughtful consideration for the weak, He produces “judgment for the truth” (v. 3); causing it eventually to spring up and flourish in the earth, where it has long been trodden under the foot of rebellious man. He may be despised and rejected of men; yet, after long patience, He will “set judgment in the earth.” His law, waited for by “the isles,” shall then obtain in the world. What good reason has the believer, who now knows Him as his Saviour, his Lord, and Head, to rejoice in Him? “He shall not fail!” (v. 4). This faithful Servant shall surely establish all that God has committed to Him.
The Four Gospels
Mark, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas, might, like others, prove himself a failing servant, yet, such is the way of grace, he is the one used of God to show us the unfailing Servant, the Son of God, sounding out the sweet and joyful tidings of mercy and grace. Matthew, guided by the Holy Spirit, sounds the high soprano note of the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ; Mark, the dulcet alto note of the Service of Christ; Luke, the sweet, strong, inspiring tenor note of His perfect Manhood; and John, as he sounds the full, deep bass note of His Deity, striking back into the depths of eternity, begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD.” Each note of the four gospels is distinct in its precious meaning; yet, in sweet harmonious chords their rich and heavenly music sounds out in divinest tones the name of JESUS; the name of the One whose praises we shall sing for ever. This is the true harmony of the gospels. The believer can sing even now in faith
“Lord I believe Thou hast prepared—
Unworthy though I be—
For me, a blood-bought, free reward,
A harp of God for me.
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years,
And formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears
No other Name but Thine.”
Christ the Covenant
In Isaiah 42 verse 6 we read that our Lord Jesus Christ, the faithful Servant, is given “for a Covenant of the people.” An unconditional covenant had been made with Abraham and a conditional one with Israel at Sinai, but He who centres all things in Himself is the Covenant.
How secure, how stable, how sure, therefore, all must be in Him. He is “the Surety” of the new covenant; His precious blood is “the blood of the everlasting covenant;” He is “the Mediator” of the new covenant, so we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews; but here, He Himself is the Covenant, It must therefore be, like Himself, unfailing and perfect. Who would not rejoice in such a Saviour! Everything depends upon Him, not upon us. It is because of Him God forgives, and will remember no more the believer’s sins; and this will be Israel’s blessing also by and by; when they turn to the Lord, and come into the covenant; for “this is the covenant which I will make with them after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:16-17). This is all from God’s side, and is all secured in Jesus.
Once more, and only once more, is our Lord Jesus Christ called the Covenant. It is in the first chapter of our next section, “I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a Covenant of the people (of Israel), to establish the earth” (Isa. 49:8). Only through Him can this be brought about.
The first part of this verse is cited in 2 Corinthians 6:2, showing the present interest the believer has in Christ as the Covenant; and “the acceptable time;” “the day of salvation.” May our glad hearts know Him and that which is connected with Him more intimately.
Christ the Light
This same verse (Isa. 42:6) makes known to us another shining glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is given “for a Light of the Gentiles.” He is not only a Covenant for the people of God, but He is given as a Light for all. High distinctions and privileges belong to Israel; as also in a higher degree to the assembly, the body of Christ; but as the Light He shines for the world. We need to heed this, for all apostasy begins with wrong thoughts of Him; erroneous, even if exalted, thoughts about ourselves follow, culminating in the success of Satan, as an “angel of light,” and of the “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15), in turning souls away from our Saviour God, made known in Christ. It would surprise us, had God not warned us, to see the frequency of such terms as “light” and “righteousness,” in erroneous teachings whilst “grace,” “love,” “faith,” and “truth” are almost altogether absent. We cannot hold too firmly to the great and important fact that Christ as “The Light of the world,” shines for “every man.”
Turn once more to Isaiah 49. In verse 6 the Lord is pointed out as Jehovah’s Servant, to restore the preserved of Israel; but again God says, “I will also give Thee for a Light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My Salvation unto the end of the earth.” Here we see Him as The Servant; the Light, and the Salvation of God. What a wonderful Saviour! When Mary took Him to the temple, one of the remnant of Israel; “a servant” of the Lord’s, Simeon by name, rejoiced to see in Him God’s “Salvation,” and “the glory of His people Israel;” also “a Light for revelation of the Gentiles” (N.Tr.), that they, brought out of their darkness and ignorance, might be revealed in God’s marvellous light. Nor is this truth limited to the bodily presence of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth, for in preaching the gospel the Apostle Paul, when “the Jews seeing the crowds, were filled with envy, and contradicted,” said, “Lo we turn to the Gentiles; for thus the Lord enjoined us: I have set thee as a light of the nations” (Acts 13:47). This striking reference to Isaiah decisively conforms the truth of which we have spoken. The Light, like the gospel, and the salvation of God, is sent out for all men everywhere.
As the Sun of Righteousness, our Lord Jesus Christ will shine forth in the day of His glory. Israel will then arise and shine, for Christ her light will have come (Isa. 60:1). She will shine in His light. The believer of this present period, who is sleeping now, or mixing with the dead world, is called upon to awake, and to arise, for Christ does not cease to shine, though the world does not apprehend it. And the believer who sleeps indifferently does not enjoy it. The believer whose condition and position is here described has misery himself and is a cause of sorrow to others also, because he is of the light, and never can be really of the darkness. The present application of Isaiah 60:1, in Ephesians 5:14, is very instructive.
It is true still that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Light. We are “light in the Lord;” we “were once darkness” (Eph. 5:8); now believers shine as in the Lord, as “lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15); they point to our Lord Jesus Christ as the Light, not to themselves. Even apostles could say, “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus Lord . . . Because God who spoke that out of darkness light should shine, has shone in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST” (2 Cor. 4:5-6).
Our Lord Jesus Christ is given “to open the blind eves, to bring out the prisoners” (Isa. 42:7). Israel needs Him to do this for them, for they have become blind; and a people hid in prison houses” (vv. 18-22). They had sinned against the Lord, become idolatrous, and consequently as the Lord’s national servant and messenger Israel was useless (v. 19). But brought into contact with Christ the personal Servant, their eyes will be opened, and the works of God will be publicly manifested in the nation, as it was in the one blind man of John 9 “that the works of God should be manifested in him” (v. 3). Here He says, “I am the Lord; that is My Name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:7). Israel’s eyes shall be opened, and they shall know the Lord and believe; thus shall they be His fitted witnesses (Isa. 43:10), against idolatry, and of the one true God, beside whom there is none other. “Thus says the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art MINE” (Isa. 43:5).
In His wonderful grace He has wrought to remove their sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, He will righteously redeem them; and restored to Himself He will say to them, “Ye are My witnesses, says the Lord, THAT I AM GOD” (v. 12); again, “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise” (v. 21).
The impotency of idols is seen, and abandoned for the true God. An idol is “a block of wood!” “An abomination!” (Isa. 44:19). But Israel knows God, the God who has “blotted out as a thick cloud” her transgressions (Isa. 44:22); therefore “Sing, O ye heavens; . . . the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and GLORIFIED HIMSELF IN ISRAEL” (v. 23).
How tender are His pleadings with His people, His future witnesses, in chapters 45 and 46. He raised up Cyrus for their sakes (Isa. 45:4). He had remained faithful to them all along, though they had rebelled against Him. “Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you” (Isa. 46:4). “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel My glory” (v. 13). Among the nations who followed idols such things were unknown, and God raises the challenge: Who among the nations “can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth THEIR WITNESSES, that they may be justified; or let them hear, and say, It is truth” (Isa. 43:9). But to Israel He says, “Ye are MY WITNESSES, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen . . . before ME there was no God formed, neither shall there be after ME. I, EVEN I, AM THE LORD; AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR” (vv. 10-11).
There is no God else beside Me
Through Israel this shall be known in all the earth; when Israel herself is saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation” (Isa. 45:17); then “in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (v. 25). Thrice happy are those favoured believers, who today, while Israel rejects Christ, know the “salvation that is in Christ Jesus”; true indeed it is that “in Him all that believe are justified from all things.” In the coming day of which we speak, Israel shall witness to the Lord; “There is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside Me” (v. 21). Over and over again the Holy Spirit reiterates this all-important fact in chapters 43 to 46. No less than ten times it is intensely stated, There is none else! Israel’s God is the only God! He “created” Jacob! He “formed” the nation! and though, like her father, she “would deal treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb” (Isa. 48:8), yet He “redeemed” her! Yea, He “called” her by her name; “thou art Mine!” She can therefore witness not only against idols, but to the only God. Now the call is rightly heard, and it will bring rapid response in all the world. “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22). He “raised up” Cyrus to overthrow idolatry; He “called” him; He “declared” the end from the beginning; therefore it is finally said (Isa. 46:9), “Remember the former things of old: for I AM GOD, AND THERE IS NONE ELSE; I AM GOD, AND THERE IS NONE LIKE ME.”
But before we leave this, we are allowed to see another who rises up, and blasphemously claims this divine distinction; we twice hear her say, “I am, and none else beside me” (Isa. 47:8 and 10). Her name is Babylon; of both Chaldean and Babylonian lineage; she is their daughter, even if we find her again in Revelation, as the “mother of harlots” (Rev. 17:5). There is no mistaking this vile system; pleasure-loving, religious, superstitious, idolatrous; she is opposed to faith, and guilty of evil intimacy with a Christ-rejecting world. She is “the lady (or mistress) of kingdoms” (v. 5); she becomes wearied with her “multitude of counsels” (v. 13); she persuades herself she shall not know sorrow (v. 8); but she is irrevocably doomed (vv. 3, 9, etc.), as we also see in Revelation. Rationalism, Ritualism, and Religion without the true and only Saviour God, our Lord Jesus Christ, combine to exalt her to such proud and blasphemous heights.
“I am, and none else beside me!”, she says in her heart; but she is cast as a millstone into despairing depths, and the true assembly in heaven is heard to say, “True and righteous are His judgments” (Rev. 19:2), “for He has judged the great harlot;” and once again the voice is heard, “Allelujah!!”
In Revelation, as here, God’s earthly people are called to come out of her (Rev. 18:4; Isa. 48:20). God rightly looks for true separation to Himself, and indeed lasting joy and happiness are only to be found there, as now, in that path; for God no sooner says, “Go ye forth of Babylon” (Isa. 48:20). than He adds, “With a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob.” But here as in the next section, this ends by saying to the lawless among the people of God, “There is no peace, says the Lord, unto the wicked (lawless)” (v. 22). The true God, the only God, fully revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, looks for faithfulness to Himself.
“I am He, the First and the Last”
Before we leave this wonderful and rich section, we shall do well to linger a little over a divine title, which, remarkable to say, only occurs here and in the last book of the Bible.
Its first mention is very striking. Did righteousness call for a mighty warrior like Cyrus; did victory attend his arms against the idolaters, “Who has wrought and done it?” Mark the divine answer, “I the Lord, the First, and with the Last; I am He” (Isa. 41:4). In Isaiah 43:10 it is said, “Before Me there was no God formed, neither shalt there be after Me.” In Isaiah 44:6, the King, the Redeemer of Israel, says, “I am the First and the Last; and beside Me there is no God” The final mention in Isaiah is in the last chapter of our section, 48:12 “I AM THE FIRST, I AM ALSO THE LAST. MINE HAND ALSO HATH LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND MY RIGHT HAND HATH SPANNED THE HEAVENS.”
Unless the believer is established in the true grace of God, we could well understand his fear before this great and mighty God, who punishes the wicked; this only and Eternal One, the Ruler and Redeemer of Israel, this everlasting HE, the omniscient and omnipotent Creator of the earth and the heavens. John said, “When I saw HIM I fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Who was it he saw shining in such supreme judicial majesty? The One who loved us and died for us! Mark what He says to John, as He lays His right hand upon him, “Fear not, I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST: AND THE LIVING ONE: and I became dead, and behold, I am living to the ages of ages, and have the keys of death and of hades” (Rev. 1:17-18). This is Jesus; our Lord, our Saviour; this is HE. His precious word therefore to the believer’s heart is “Fear not.”
In Revelation 2:8, addressing Smyrna as the assembly which was about to endure tribulation, He cheers them by showing Himself to be “The First and the Last, who became dead and lived.”
Finally, in Revelation 22:12-13, He reminds us of His coming again. He says, “Behold I come quickly!” He has visited this earth before; He is going to return, and He says, “My reward is with Me, to render to every one as his work shall be.” Again He adds, “I AM ALPHA AND OMEGA, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, THE FIRST AND THE LAST.” Once more let us repeat, THIS IS JESUS: THIS IS HE.
These seven scriptures speak of Him as the First and the Last. In all the scriptures we are to see the things concerning Himself. The Holy Spirit guides in this direction.
Mark well, beloved saints of God, these final God-breathed facts concerning His Son. He is “The Alpha and Omega.” These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, used in writing the completion of Scripture. This is to teach us that the revelation of God is in Christ complete; and in Him alone.
He is also “The Beginning and the End.” There is nothing of God of which He is not “the Beginning;” nor is there anything divine of which He is not “the End.” He is the divine Terminus.
Finally, He is “The First and the Last;” as well as the Alpha and Omega, and The Beginning and the End. Being “the First,” there was no one before Him; and being “the Last,” there is no one to come after Him. How cheering, how comforting, how strengthening and establishing this is to the believer. He has reached God’s Finality in Christ, and can sing with grace and gladness, making melody in his heart to the Lord:
“’Tis Jesus THE FIRST and THE LAST,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that’s to come.”
Section 2. Chapters 49 to 57
The second section of Isaiah (II) embraces chapters 49 to 57. These nine chapters form the central portion of the last division of the Book of Isaiah, and the central chapter of this section is the wonderful chapter 53 the chapter of the atoning sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also the central chapter of Isaiah (II) as a whole; and the wide reaches of indescribable glories which result from those sufferings find their centre in the Servant of God who is spoken of there, “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10). It is said, “Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin”; but also, “He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” So high, indeed, that God has told us in the New Testament that not only the earthly glories, but also the heavenly, are to find their centre in Him; “to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in Him, in whom we have also obtained an inheritance.” None ever went so low as this suffering Servant of God, when He atoned for our sins; none can ever go so high; He is Head over all things.
The Wisdom of God
The mere religionist looks for a sign, whilst the desire of the rationalist is for wisdom. The Sign which God gives is also His Wisdom. The Sign of Isaiah (I) is the Servant of Isaiah (II), and He is the wise Servant, “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently” (Isa. 52:13). Christ is God’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24) and to us also, who are in Christ Jesus, He “has been made wisdom from God.” He is that hidden wisdom which God had predetermined for our glory; but the princes of this age crucified the Lord of glory; for they did not know Him; and they showed their own folly by killing Him. The secret depths which eye had not seen, connected with God’s wisdom, are now revealed to us by His Spirit (Isa. 64:4, and 1 Cor. 2:10). “The Jews [religionists] require a sign, and the Greeks [rationalists] seek after wisdom . . . But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:22, 24).
The suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, bearing sin and its punishment from the hand of God, subjects Himself in Isaiah 50 (before the seven trumpet-calls in the intervening verses) to shame and spitting from man; and there we learn that He who stooped so low to allow Himself to be thus treated was none less than the Creator, God Himself, in the presence of His own creatures. What a sight! What a sign!
In section (I), Christ is the personal Servant: Israel the national servant. In section (II) Christ is the Servant: instructed individuals become “servants.” In section (III) the “servants” only are mentioned as such.
In section (I) Christ is seen as the faithful Servant; trustworthy and successful. In section (II) He is the righteous Servant; suffering and satisfied. In section (III) the anointed One; Preacher and Avenger.
The Prince: the true Vine; God’s Son
The Isles are first called upon to listen to the voice of God’s Servant (Isa. 49:1). The peoples from afar are also told to hearken. These “peoples” are doubtless outside the ordered nations. But who are the “isles?” Surely not simply those confined in the Mediterranean Sea. Whoever they are, God favours them, and distinguishes them in a remarkable way. “Keep silence before Me, O islands; and let the peoples renew their strength; let them come near,” He says to them in Isaiah 41:1. Again, “The isles shall wait for His law” (Isa. 42:4). And again, “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein: the isles and the inhabitants thereof” (Isa. 52:10). “Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands” (v. 12). When His greatness is described in such marvellous majesty in Isaiah 40, it is said, “Behold He takes up the isles as an atom” (v. 15). But, as elsewhere, failure and sin against God invade their coasts, and we finally read, “To the islands He will repay recompense, and they shall fear the name of Jehovah from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun” (Isa. 59:18-19). Here in our Isaiah (Isa. 49:1), the Servant of God, the true Israel—“Prince of God”—says to them; “Listen, O isles, unto Me!”
It is to Him, to this same Servant, God says in verse 3, “Thou art My Servant, Israel, in whom I will glorify Myself.” This is the only place in our section where God’s Servant is called “Israel.” The name, as we know, means “Prince of God.” To the believing heart Christ is easily seen in this verse; but the rationalistic critics would shut Him out (notwithstanding the verses before and after); they would make the Servant the nation of Israel here; and all through. If this be true, then it is the nation in verse 5 that restores Jacob, and in Isaiah 53 makes atonement. Such absurdities as these, destructive criticism perpetrates in the name of scholarship!
Israel, as we know, was brought up out of Egypt by the Lord, and planted as a Vine to bear fruit in service, for His glory. They failed in this respect as in others; but must God’s purpose fail because of this? That could not be. The Son of God has come into Israel’s place before God, and He said, “I AM THE TRUE VINE” (John 15:1). God’s purpose, therefore, is maintained and made effectual in the personal Israel, the personal Vine; and when the repentant remnant are brought to Him, they will become the fruitful nation in Him, for God’s glory; even as He said to His disciples before Pentecost, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me” (John 15:4). He is the True Vine.
Another scripture confirms this way of explaining verse 3. In Hosea 11:1 speaking of “Israel,” He says, “loved Him, and called My Son out of Egypt.” Again we are reminded that though national sonship is theirs—to them “pertains the adoption [sonship]” (Rom. 9:4), according to God’s purpose; yet, in responsibility, they failed utterly; and have become degraded instead of maintaining the dignity of God’s national Son. Once more we ask: Must then God’s purpose fail? Impossible! God’s beloved Son steps into Israel’s place! And of him we read, “He took the young Child and His mother . . . into Egypt . . . that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called MY SON” (Matt. 2:14-15).
Israel is the national vine and the national son, according to God’s purpose; but only in Christ of the seed of Abraham, of the seed of David, raised from among the dead is this secured to them. HE IS THE TRUE VINE; HE IS GOD’S SON. It is the same with Israel as the national servant; in Christ alone is God’s purpose in this regard sure for them also. HE IS THE PERSONAL ISRAEL, THE PRINCE OF GOD.
Jacob wrestled with the unnamed One, till daybreak in “Peniel” (before “the face of God”), and there secured this name “Israel” (a “Prince of God”), there in his wrestling. Weakened, yet he prevailed; and “the sun rose upon him, a prince of God.” In Jacob’s night of wrestling there was prefigured the nation’s history. Sometimes Isaiah calls them Jacob; sometimes Israel. Like Jacob, they will come out of their long night of wrestling, and the sun will rise upon them. Their Messiah, Christ, will give them light. He will arise as the Sun of Righteousness, gladdening them with His healing and health-giving beams. It will be the dawning of the morning of world-wide blessing; but Israel (Jacob) will catch the shining rays from Him first, and reflect them over the earth; which shall then be filled with the knowledge and glory of God, as the waters cover the sea. Already the true believer is taken out of darkness and called into His marvellous light; and before the time of Jacob’s trouble he will be caught up to meet the Lord; for he is not of the night, so he sings—
“The Sun which smiling lights us,
Is Jesus Christ alone:
And what to song incites us,
Is heaven on earth begun.”
Having been caught up when Christ comes to the air for him, the believer will afterwards come with Him. Israel will then own Him. The One to whom they gave the cross of shame, they will, when repentant, welcome as their Messiah—the True Prince of God; the True Vine; the well-beloved Son of God.
Notwithstanding God’s salutation given to our Lord Jesus Christ in verse 3 of Isaiah 49, His outward ministry among the Jews appeared to so completely fail, that He replies, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain” (v. 4). So it looked! But how sweetly the verse closes, “Nevertheless My judgment is with the Lord, and My work with My God.” Blessed confidence! blessed dependence! He knew that He had been formed from the womb to be Jehovah’s servant. God was His strength for His service. And even if Israel was not gathered, yet He Himself should be glorious in the eyes of Jehovah (v. 5).
Again, God addresses Him, “It is a small thing that Thou shouldest be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I have given Thee for a Light of the nations, that Thou mayest be My Salvation unto the end of the earth (v. 6). What an answer to the apparent failure of His work! The Apostle Paul, speaking of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, who is exalted to the right hand of God, said He counted all things to be loss and dross on account of it. As we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to gain some of this excellent knowledge concerning Himself, it will be the same in measure with ourselves.
He is here proclaimed by God to be Israel’s Restorer; but important as that is, God says it is a small thing comparatively; for not only this one nation shall come immediately under Him; all the nations shall have Him as their Light; so that, right away to the ends of the earth, our Lord Jesus Christ shall be God’s Salvation. What excellent and exceeding distinctions are here attributed to Christ!
It was in the spirit of these scriptures that at Pentecost the Apostles preached and prayed in the name of the holy Child [“Servant”] Jesus. They said, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”; and emphatically announced, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.” They meant, of course, especially, none other for Israel. He alone was to be their Saviour, their Restorer. As He had restored the lame man so that he leaped and rejoiced and praised God, so He alone could restore Israel. There is no other name. He is the Restorer of Israel.
But though three thousand Jews from all parts were then brought to the Lord; we also find from our chapter (Isa. 49), the Jews will come to Him from all parts in the coming day; yet He is given to be a Light for all, the Salvation of God for the whole world; and, indeed, He will save the world in the day that is coming; but even now, in Him there is salvation for all. Would that more knew “the Salvation which is in Christ Jesus,” the One who is JEHOVAH’S SERVANT: ISRAEL’S RESTORER: GOD’S SALVATION FOR ALL.
The Salvation of the Lord
What a surprise awaits men! The One whom man despises and “the nation abhors”; who was not only the Lord’s Servant, but became “the Servant of rulers” (v. 7); this One they shall see exalted above all, righteously restoring Israel, and saving the world through His atoning work accomplished on the cross. He will then be supreme in royal grace and glory, and kings shall see and arise, and they shall “worship because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen Thee” (v. 7). All this is in connection with salvation. The terrible judgment that swiftly, and surely, and suddenly descends upon a wicked world is not treated here; that comes in in the next and last section. These scriptures deal with “salvation,”—it is “an acceptable time,” “a day of salvation.” This is the character of the present period. It is known to faith now. It will obtain publicly soon. Prisons, and darkness, and hunger, and thirst, will yield up their captives and their victims at the gracious command of our Lord Jesus Christ; to enjoy liberty, and light, and plenty. He will Himself guide them (vv. 9-10). They shall come from afar! “Behold these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of China” (v. 12).
No wonder the heavens are called upon to shout, and the mountains to sing for the comfort that has come to God’s people, through Israel’s Restorer. Zion thought she was forsaken altogether. A woman may, unnaturally, forget the child of her womb; but Jehovah does not forget His own people. He comforts Zion; He consoles her, and rapidly increases her children, saying to her, “Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold, all these gather themselves together, they come to thee” (v. 18). The nations, and the people too, “bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders” (v. 22); “And thou shalt know that I am Jehovah” (v. 23).
It will all be done in righteousness, as well as in grace;—“the prey is taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered” (v. 24). His salvation is then publicly seen. “And all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (v. 26).
The Controller of Creation Subjected to Shame
The fiftieth chapter of our prophecy shows the suffering of the Lord at the hands of men, and in this way is very different from Isaiah 53, which speaks of His atoning sufferings from the hand of God. In this chapter we see Him as the One who in marvellous love “came” and “called” to His unfaithful people, but there was no response to His call. He was the Controller of all creation, yet they scorned Him and put Him to shame, as our chapter declares. His own words declare His greatness:
“Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinks, because there is no water, and dies for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.”
How persistent and unwavering and unwearying was His love for sinful Israel! See where it carried Him! “He became a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises of the fathers.” It was for their sakes the Controller of creation was found as a Man serving amongst them; and He said (v. 4), “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to succour by a word him that is weary.” What inexpressible grace! The Commander of the universal forces came down to speak words of cheer to weary creatures! There were individuals, when the Lord came, just and pious, who deeply felt Israel’s position and condition before God; they waited for the One of whom Isaiah spake. Such an one was Simeon. When Christ came He saw in him the salvation of God and the consolation of Israel.
Nathaniel, that guileless Israelite, too, feeling keenly the fallen condition of Israel, was consoled and cheered by the discovery that “the Son of God, the King of Israel” was in the midst of His people, and that those who mourned the condition of the nation of Israel did not escape His eye.
So real was the dependence of the Lord in His humility upon earth that He said, “He wakens morning by morning, He wakens Mine ear to hear as the learned (or as the disciple).” He whose commands all creation heard and obeyed became a Man, and as a disciple had His ear made attentive by His Instructor. Readily that ear was wakened to be instructed, that He might speak the succouring word that the Father gave Him day by day to communicate to those who were weary of the hollow shams of men and the world, and He could say, “The words which Thou hast given Me I have given them.”
It was thus that He trod the path of obedience. Creation’s Controller became the obedient Servant! But unfaltering obedience in the midst of disobedience necessitated suffering. God gave Him instruction for the path. He had “uncovered His ear” (v. 5). Unlike the “rebellious son,” He obeyed, and “turned not away back” to escape the sorrows and the shame involved, He took the path appointed. He trod every step to the glory of God. Not one word of His had to be withdrawn; not one step that He took had to be retraced. Men heaped indignity upon indignity upon Him, their determination to degrade Him gained in force as the days went by, but still He pressed forward to do God’s will. He had to say, “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” (v. 6).
In this connection Israel cannot say as they will yet say in the words of chapter 53, “He was wounded for our transgressions,” for in this chapter it is they who wounded Him, not Jehovah. They were moved by hatred to smite Him, in Isaiah 50: He was moved by love to suffer Himself to be “smitten of God” for them, in Isaiah 53. In these days of carelessness and callousness as to the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do well to ponder prayerfully the differences in those sufferings.
The Justified Servant
Such lowliness, such long-suffering, such love, such obedience, however scorned by men, must receive justification from God, and justification of such sort that all who would condemn must be silenced for ever.
It was in the full consciousness of this that our blessed Saviour says, “Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifies Me” (vv. 7-8). He was in the place of man: but He fully relied upon divine help (vv. 7 and 9). Nevertheless, the path involved not only the shame, and the smiting, and the spitting of which we have spoken; but also death itself. With His heart full of love and His face firm like a flint He pressed forward with holy resoluteness, and He was slain.
But God has taken Him out of death, He has raised Him from among the dead! What a victory! What a vindication of the perfect life of Jesus! What a justification! “Blessed Saviour,” our hearts say, “Thou art worthy!” He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father; the Father was the first visitor to His tomb, before the disciples, or Mary, or even the angels. His satisfaction was so complete in Him!
Where now are those who would contend? Where now those who would condemn Him? He was seen of the apostles in resurrection; yea, by five hundred brethren at one time. A sure witness this! Yet some there be who still deny His actual, His physical resurrection. But “if Christ be not raised your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17); so the Holy Spirit teaches us in the great chapter on the resurrection of the body. Thank God He is raised; and believers are not in their sins they are in Christ; they also are justified in Him.
God has shown how entirely He is for Christ; and He is also for those who believe on Him. He is against those who are against Him. There were those that hearkened “to the voice of His Servant” (v. 10), but when He was slain all seemed to sink into darkness they were nevertheless to stay upon God, who would raise Christ from the dead. Then what fullness of light would shine! God was for Him! God was also for them! So true is this that Romans 8:33-34 uses these very words of them, used here of Christ personally. Who then shall condemn Him? Who condemn them? It is God that justifies!
One word more before we leave this wonderful chapter. Look at the last verse. There are men who make sparks. They love the product of their own intellects. Let them “walk in the light” of such; but what shall the end be? They “shall lie down in pain.” Solemn warning to ritualists and rationalists alike; to all who walk not “in the light as God is in the light” (1 John 1:7) the revealed normal position of true believers. One professing Christian wrote “Lead, kindly light, amidst encircling gloom;” another wrote, “Light divine surrounds thy going, God Himself shall mark the way.” Which of these expressed the truth?
The Trumpet’s Awakening Calls
In the preceding chapter the resurrection of the Lord is foretold, and, following upon this, seven awakening calls ring out from the silver trumpet of redemption. If Christ is risen, redemption is secured and the joyful results are told to the remnant who shall in a future day seek righteousness; who shall hearken to the voice of God’s Servant (Isa. 50:10); and shall trust in Him; they are to move confidently forward to full blessing; they are to gain the glory; God is with them. Had we space and time, it would be interesting to consider the splendid music which sounds forth for the remnant of Israel, and for us also, in these seven glorious calls from Isaiah 51:1 to 52:12. We may briefly note them.
1. “HEARKEN UNTO ME!” Small in numbers though you be, a remnant seeking righteousness, be encouraged; remember Abraham was but one individual when I called him alone; I blessed him and increased him; so will I bless you; “joy and gladness, thanksgiving and the voice of song” shall be yours (Isa. 51:1-3).
2. “HEARKEN UNTO ME!” You are My people, My nation; Light also shall be established for the peoples; others too shall trust on Mine arm; My righteousness and My salvation shall be abiding; because of Christ, “My salvation shall be for ever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished” (vv. 4-6).
3. “HEARKEN UNTO ME!” Ye know righteousness now; My law is in your hearts; fear neither the reproach nor the revilings of men; once again be divinely assured, “My righteousness shall be for ever, and My salvation from generation to generation” (vv. 7-8).
4. “AWAKE, AWAKE!” The remnant now cry to the arm of the Lord; put on strength and make a way for us as of old, “I, even I, am He that comforts you,” Jehovah replies; I will plant the very heavens, as well as “lay the foundations of the earth”; that is why I have preserved you with and in Christ; “thou art My people” (vv. 9-16).
5. “AWAKE, AWAKE!” The call now reaches their true metropolis—Jerusalem; she had drunken deeply of the cup of bewilderment; desolation and destruction, destitution and dire distress had been hers; consolation and comfort shall now cheer her heart; the goblet of bewilderment is now taken out of her hand, and with fury added, given to her enemies (vv. 17-23).
6. “AWAKE, AWAKE!” Put on thy strength, O Zion; adorn thyself with beauty, O Jerusalem, the holy city; see the beautiful feet upon the mountains; hear the tidings of good, “Thy God reigns!” break forth into joy; sing aloud together; “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God,” through Christ Jesus (Isa. 52:1-10).
7. “DEPART, DEPART!” This is the final call. Holy separation is to mark those who are called to such distinguished eminence; separation not only from what is “unclean,” but separation to the Lord Himself. He will go before you; and God shall be your reward (vv. 11-12).
The silvery notes cease. The joyful sound has been heard. The ringing music, however, has scarcely died away, before the Holy Spirit of God, with immediate directness, proceeds to point us to the One to whom all the blessing spoken of is due; and we shall see that the remnant learn and respond in Isaiah 53. They then understand that all the rejoicing, the redemption, the righteousness, the salvation, and the glory of God seen by all is the outcome of the atoning sufferings of Jesus.
The Prudent Servant
Verse 13 really begins the subject of Isaiah 53, “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” The wisdom and prudence of Jehovah’s Servant, treading His way to glory through scenes of suffering service, so as to bring blessing for others, is before the mind of the Spirit. We see the “sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow.”
And such were His sufferings—so real, so intense—that His whole form, as well as His visage, was visibly marred. It is well known that even the representations of Him showed this before Constantine’s time, but not afterwards. However prudent Jehovah’s Servant was, however wisely He acted, yet deep and distressful sorrows were His, shame and stripes and afflictions untold came upon Him before His exaltation. But if “many were astonished” (v. 14) at His humiliated appearance, likewise “shall He astonish [not sprinkle] many nations” and kings (v. 15) by His exalted majesty. He is truly the Sign in the depth of humiliation and in the height of glory. Powerful potentates princes, rulers, shall stand and see with amazement. Kings shall shut their mouths before His royal majesty. “What they had not heard shall they consider” (v. 15), when He, who was once treated so shamefully, is shown to be Israel’s king and the Prince of the kings of the earth.
But who are those that have believed this report? And to whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed? Few they were, indeed, amongst Israel. Are there many who truly believe and receive this revelation now? Thank God, beloved reader, if through grace divine you are one. Great indeed is the favour bestowed upon you; esteem it highly; praise God for it.
Many who profess to believe seek to make the nation the prudent servant here, so as to shut out our Lord Jesus Christ. Was it a nation or an individual who had “His grave” appointed with the wicked? Were even the godly of a nation ever “numbered with the transgressors?” Could it be said of the nation suffering for its own sins, “for the transgression of My people was He stricken?” No; none but our blessed Saviour ever answered, or could answer, to this prophecy, spoken over seven centuries before He came. But all was foreknown of God, and we praise Him for the grace which has given us to believe the report, and to see in CHRIST “THE ARM OF THE LORD REVEALED.” He and none other is the prudent servant to “BE EXALTED AND EXTOLLED AND BE VERY HIGH.”
This chapter of chapters is divided into five parts:
1st Isaiah speaks to and of the nation with regard to Christ in verses 1 to 3.
2nd The remnant responds, owning that His sufferings were for them, verses 4-6.
3rd Jehovah replies pointing out his perfections, verses 7 to 9.
4th The remnant respond again as to His sufferings and His glory, verse 10.
5th Jehovah replies once more as to the satisfaction, success, and service of His righteous Servant, verses 11 and 12.
A Tender Plant
1. “As a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground” (v. 2), He was to grow up before God. Isaiah speaks in a similar way in Isaiah 11. The royal tree of David had been brought low. All hope seemed to be gone, but “a tender plant,” a small shoot, shows itself. It is destined to bear all the royal glory. It grows up before God. He watches over it; protecting and caring for it. Before Him “it grows”; a prophecy fulfilled in Luke 2, where we read “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit . . . and the grace of God was upon Him . . . and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature.”
Not only had the royal family been brought low; but the nation was in a degraded condition; it had become like the “dry ground” spoken of when, to, “a root,” or rather a sprout—a root-sprout—appears in the midst of it. What a garden of glory the nation is consequently destined to become through our Lord Jesus Christ. The “dry ground” will become fruitful; it will blossom as the rose, for Israel will be the national head of all the nations of the earth, and no longer “the tail” as at present.
When they saw Him, however, He bore no royal appearance in their eyes there was “no beauty that we should desire Him”; there was “no form nor lordliness.” Had one come with the towering height of Saul, or the attractiveness of Absalom, Israel would have followed Him; so utterly unable is fallen man to learn. Physical and outward show he esteems: moral and inward perfection he despises.
Shining with every moral perfection, yea, Himself the effulgence of God’s glory, the very expression of all that God is, the Son of God thus stood before them. How was He received? “Despised and rejected of men!” What an exposure of the debased condition of man.
A Man of Sorrows
Feeling as He did the degraded state of man, it could not be otherwise than that He should be “A Man of Sorrows”; yea, the “Grief-Acquainted One.” The very perfection and holiness of His own being would make Him feel the terribleness of sin as no fallen man could feel it. But to the nation He was One to be shunned; “like one from whom men hide their faces” (v. 3). They despised Him; they esteemed Him not.
The Smitten of God
2. A believing remnant, however, respond in a most beautiful manner in the next three verses (4-6). They stand with afflicted souls before God, in the truth of the day of atonement; and by faith they understand the atoning sufferings of Christ; He suffered for them. Although they have a deep sense of their sinfulness—“We have gone astray” they cry;—yet, they look away in faith to Him who bore their sins. It is a wonderful time when a sin-sick soul comes to this; and it is the only way into peace with God. The believing remnant of Israel will learn this.
Not only did He bear “our griefs” and carry “our sorrows” in His precious sympathy, when the nation considered, contrariwise, that the weight which lay upon Him was because He was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”—because God was against Him; but faith now sees “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” In sympathy He bore our griefs: in atonement He bore the punishment due to our sins. Blessed Saviour! “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” There was no other way; but thanks be to God, we can now say, “by His stripes we are healed.’’ The stripes were His: the healing is ours.
It is thus that the remnant of Israel will enter in to the meaning of the cross. They confess, “All we like sheep have gone astray”: but they appropriate in faith His work for them, and continue, “The Lord Lath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” They consequently stand before God clear of every charge Christ having borne all for them. It is the same with those who believe now.
The Perfect One
3. To this, Jehovah replies in the next three verses (7-9); not by speaking of them, but by still pointing to His blessed Son; pointing to His perfectness in the midst of His deep, deep distress, when oppressed and afflicted He opened not His mouth; when brought to be slaughtered, and shorn of His rights; as Messiah to be cut off; as a sheep He was silent; He murmured not. Yea, continues Jehovah, “He was taken from oppression and judgment: and who shall declare His generation?” Had that been declared, all present would have had to own that the true Messiah stood before them—the Son of David, the King of Israel. A converted publican, Levi by name, however, was used of the Holy Spirit to declare it afterwards, in Matthew 1. God will have it owned, and owned publicly soon. Meanwhile He is still rejected, “He was cut off out of the land of the living”; but He was not stricken for any wrong of His own; Jehovah says, “for the transgression of My people was He stricken.”
“Men appointed [not, He made] His grave with the wicked”; but God saw to it that this Perfect One “was with the rich in His death”; because He was sinless. “Violence” and “deceit,” the two things that characterize sin, were both entirely absent from Him. Violence characterizes those that are strong, and deceit those that are weak; but He did “no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.” Jehovah points to Him—the Perfect One. He seems to say to the believing remnant: It is true He suffered for you, but go on to know Him in His own perfectness amidst those sufferings.
The Prosperous One
4. Again a response is heard from the remnant (v. 10). Perfect though He was, “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He has subjected Him to suffering.” They still dwell upon what He went through, though not so much for them; they rise rather to see the prosperous results in glory for Himself and for Jehovah. Truly His soul was made “an offering for sin,” to settle for God’s glory that great question; but rich results in resurrection shall follow, “He shall see a seed, He shall prolong His days.” The Corn of Wheat fell into the ground and died, but much fruit in resurrection follows; His days are prolonged there, “even length of days for ever and ever.” Prosperity now marks Him! What tongue or pen can express that which is involved in these words, “The pleasure of the Lord”? But this we know: it shall be prosperously carried into its gloriously complete result by the Perfect One who suffered. “THE PLEASURE OF THE LORD SHALL PROSPER IN HIS HAND” (v. 10). In a fuller sense than the remnant thought of, the assembly can now sing:
“His counsels all fulfilled in Thee
His work of love complete
And heavenly hosts shall rest to see
Earth blest beneath Thy feet.”
God’s Righteous Servant
5. And now Jehovah replies finally, with a divine pronouncement as to the satisfaction and successful service of His “Righteous Servant.” If the three final verses of Isaiah 52 had been put into Isaiah 53, as they should have been, the number of our divisions would have been exactly seven; for 52:13 is Jehovah’s utterance, as we have seen; and verses 14 and 15 give Isaiah’s response to it.
This is the last time Christ is called the “Servant” (Isa. 53:11) in Isaiah: afterwards we read of “servants.” It is because His atoning work is looked upon as complete; others therefore are justified. Verse 11 tells us of these two things; He justifies or instructs others in righteousness: He bore their iniquities. No one could be righteous before God, apart from atonement; so we read, “by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant instruct many in righteousness, and [not ‘for’] He shall bear their iniquities.” The next mention of “servants” is in Isaiah 54:17, where we read, “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of Me”; not of the law, nor of their own works, but of God.
The blessed Saviour will have no regrets for all His toil and His suffering; deep and eternal satisfaction shall be His, “He shall see of the travail of His soul and SHALL BE SATISFIED.” Success has attended His service, though it once looked otherwise. “A portion with the great” is assigned to Him. Spoil of untold wealth shall come into His well-filled treasuries. Heaps upon heaps, glory upon glory, riches and honour and blessing shall be seen to belong to Him; but, Jehovah reminds the heart of the remnant in His final word, that it was “because He has poured out
His soul unto death: and was reckoned with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
“Jesus is worthy to receive
Honour and power divine;
And blessings more than we can give,
Be, Lord, for ever Thine.”
“And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:11-12).
“THE FATHER LOVES THE SON, AND HAS GIVEN ALL THINGS INTO HIS HAND” (John 3:35).
The Metropolis and Her Children
“Break forth into singing!” is the call of God to those who had known sorrow and woe. The desolation and widowhood of Jerusalem, the metropolis, are here viewed. Consequent upon the truth of Isaiah 53, she is now to be the joyful mother of children, and God her Maker, her Redeemer, her Lord, is called “the God of the whole earth.” What a day of liberty, enlargement, gladness, and glory that will be!
This will be true of Jerusalem on earth in the day of her restoration; but let us notice how beautifully the Holy Spirit applies all this to believers now in Galatians 4, that they may intelligently enjoy “the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free”; and that they “be not entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” The Galatians had heard and received the glad tidings, and for a while had run well; but legal teaching and principles had ensnared them; the metropolis— Jerusalem and her legal teachings—that then was “in bondage” herself “with her children,” had drawn them into her entanglements; they had lost the true joy and liberty of redemption, though, thank God, not the redemption itself. How sadly true this is of numbers today: saved but not satisfied, redeemed but not rejoicing, saints but not singing. The Spirit’s way of recovery is by the ministry of the positive truth. “Ye are sons,” since redemption’s work is complete (Gal. 4:1-7), no longer bondmen, but sons, and heirs also! How inconsistent with its glorious dignity is bondage! Freedom marks our metropolis, “Jerusalem above is free, which is our mother” (v. 26). Let those who have been “bewitched” by legality awake to this! Let them awake to the truth of God. They are “children of the promise,” children of “the free” woman, after the pattern of Isaac. It is theirs to walk in the dignity and liberty of the sons and heirs of God; for “ye have been called to liberty, brethren: only do not turn liberty into an opportunity to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
Peace, too, as well as freedom marks the metropolis of God and her children. To her He says, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on thee . . . great shall be the peace of thy children.” How inconsistent therefore the Galatian strife; “If ye bite and devour one another, see that ye are not consumed one of another.” Let our hearts be encouraged as the free woman’s children. “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy battlements of rubies, and thy gates carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones” (Isa. 54:11-12). This is the beauty and perfection of Christ which is put upon us.
Taught of God
Nor need we be anxious about our spiritual growth and prosperity as we abide in Christ, for it is said, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established . . . thou shalt not fear” (Isa. 13:11). We see again, in the New Testament, how the Holy Spirit takes these truths which belong to Jerusalem and her children primarily, in the coming day, and applies them to us now. In 1 Thessalonians 4:9, we read, “Ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another”; and again in John 6:45 it is written, “And they shall be all taught of God. Everyone that has heard from the Father Himself, and has learned of Him, comes to Me.” In the latter case the teaching of God turns the soul to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; in the former it instructs those who have come to Him to love one another. “And this is His commandment, that we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another.” All the children of the free city, in a true, spiritual sense, are taught of God; and it is said to them, “Whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake” (v. 15).
All this when received in faith into the heart produces quiet confidence in God. We have little apprehension of the evil forces there are at work against those who belong to our Lord Jesus Christ; nor need we seek a greater apprehension of them; for we are to be simple as to evil, and wise concerning what is good. God is nearer to us than every foe, more close, and greater and wiser than all; and He blessedly assures our hearts that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (v. 17). Christ is made unto us righteousness as well as redemption from God, so that we can now boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:30). Who can condemn Him? Who can condemn those whose righteousness He is? “Every tongue that shall rise against thee, in judgment thou shalt condemn. THIS IS THE HERITAGE OF THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD, AND THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS OF ME, SAITH THE LORD” (v. 17). Happy children of the free city! Happy servants of the Lord! Happy remnant! once seeking in vain for righteousness, now brought to know it, through redemption; and to boast in Christ who is our righteousness. Ours now, and theirs then, when they shall turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. When the remnant, called here for the first time “the servants” of the Lord, shall take up the national standing:
“Israel’s race shall then behold Him,
Full of grace and majesty;
Though they set at nought and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree;
Now in glory
Shall their great Messiah see.”
The Sure Mercies of David
The gracious call sounds out now to others, far beyond the bounds of Israel, to come and drink of the refreshing streams of blessing: the waters, the wine, the milk, the fatness, the fullness; “even the sure mercies of David”; secured through Jesus Christ, the seed of David, raised from among the dead. All may be had now “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1-3). The call is, “Ho, everyone that thirsts, come ye!” (Isa. 55:1).
The risen Son of David has secured “the sure mercies of David”; and God says, “Behold, I have given Him for a Witness to the peoples, a Prince and Commander to the peoples” (v. 4). All, therefore, is stable, sure and safe in the hand of Him who died and rose again. “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” He is the great Shepherd of the sheep, brought again from among the dead, “in the power of the blood of the everlasting covenant.” All this is unmovable and eternal because of Him and His work. The covenant is “an everlasting covenant”; and He is “WITNESS,” “PRINCE,” and “COMMANDER,” so that nothing can fail. The sure mercies were promised, now they are procured, and in Christ to be possessed, by those who turn to Him. Joy and singing, peace and prosperity is therefore to mark such. “Ye shall go forth with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for AN EVERLASTING SIGN THAT SHALL NOT BE CUT OFF” (v. 13). The divine stamp of fixity, stability, and eternity, seal the sure mercies of David, secure in Christ. It is an everlasting sign; an everlasting covenant; sure mercies speaking of abundant pardon and full blessing.
The Covenant of the Lord
In Isaiah 54 it is the covenant of His peace; in Isaiah 55, an everlasting covenant; in Isaiah 56 it is Jehovah’s covenant; but in solemn contrast, in Isaiah 57:8-9, the last chapter of our section, we read of some who make a hopeless and wicked covenant, with the followers of Antichrist.
It is very blessed, however, to see in this fifty-sixth chapter that even the son of the alien and the despised are encouraged to lay hold of the covenant of the Lord. Moral qualifications are looked for in those who are to share the glory to come. To them it is said, “Keep ye judgment, and do righteousness: for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.” So important is this, that even those whom Israel would consider outsiders, if they are marked by these things, and “take hold” of the covenant and “join themselves to the Lord,” shall have an everlasting name and be made joyful in His house of prayer; for, let it never be forgotten by those who form His house now, “Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all the peoples” (v. 7). They will all be welcomed there, such is the grace of our God.
But meanwhile the responsible watchmen were blind and dumb, sleeping and lying down like selfish, greedy dogs loving to slumber, and too lazy even to bark. Such have neither the faith, nor the moral qualities of those who “take hold” of the covenant, and as the next chapter shows, notwithstanding their official position, they have no part or lot in the blessings of the covenant of the Lord.
Before full blessing is manifested many of the merciful men and the righteous will be taken away from the evil just at hand. Others will give themselves up to abominable idolatry, for Antichrist will then be in power at Jerusalem. They will make a covenant (or “an agreement”) (v. 8). “To the king (Antichrist), with ointment” and perfumes they draw nigh; and debase themselves “unto hell” (v. 9). But the stormy wind when it rages “shall carry them all away! A breath shall take them” (v. 13).
On the other hand, those who refuse Antichrist and “TRUST IN ME,” says the Lord, “shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain” (v. 13), when glory fills the earth. Therefore let all stumbling-blocks be now removed! “Thus says THE HIGH AND LOFTY ONE THAT INHABITETH ETERNITY, and whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and lofty place, and with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (v. 15). The high, the holy, the eternal God who dwells in the height, now condescends to dwell also down here in the depth, with the humble and contrite to give them a revival. God becomes all to them. In a true and experimental and lasting way they can now say, “IMMANUEL”; and they can say it in “THY LAND, O IMMANUEL.”
This revival of the spirit and heart of the believing remnant will be permanent. It will not be the outcome of a visit simply, but of the dwelling of God with them. What a wonderful day of rich blessing that will be, of peace and joy and righteousness in the abiding consciousness of God’s presence. Before that day, however, while the Holy Spirit is here, forming believers into the one body of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the living Head, giving them access to the Father; “in the Lord” they are “built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). What true revival blessedness accompanies the recognition of this fact. This is indeed far more wonderful, and connected with far higher privileges, than Israel can know in the day to come. The assembly’s blessing is corporate and heavenly, and the relationship is with the Father, as the sons and heirs of God: Israel’s is national and earthly, and the relationship is with God as Jehovah. All alike, however, is based upon the redemption work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace could alone be procured by the blood of His cross. His is “the blood of the new covenant.” He Himself is the Surety and Mediator of it. Peace, therefore, is not only procured, but it is also preached to all.
In this connection it is striking that verse 19 is used in Ephesians 2, from which we have already quoted. This news will be proclaimed when the remnant of Israel is revived; “Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is nigh” (v. 19). They will sound out the good news to the Gentile “afar off,” as well as to the Jew that is “nigh”; but even now “He has preached the glad tidings of peace to you (Gentiles) who were afar off, and to those (Jews) who were nigh” (Eph. 2:17). It is striking that in both scriptures the Gentile is put first. This is unusual, and looks as if the present period of the assembly was specially in the mind of the Spirit.
The result of all this is, before the national blessing of Israel, both the believers from amongst the Gentiles, and those from amongst the Jews are brought into one body—the assembly; for Christ died “that He might reconcile both in one body to God,” that “He might form the two in Himself into one new man”; therefore before Israel is restored to Jehovah, “through Him we have both access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18). Then, as now, it will be the outcome of the peace which was procured by Christ, and preached to those “afar off” and to those privileged to be “nigh”; the peace which is possessed through faith in Him; for all the efficacy of His work is because of who and what He Himself is; so that in the truest sense, whether for the Jew or the Gentile who believes, Christ becomes our peace.
Thanks be to God we can truly say already now in Christ Jesus we who “once were far off, are become nigh by the blood of Christ, For HE IS OUR PEACE, who has made both one.” Upon the cross He took our place and bore all that was due to us. We were unsparingly judged there in the Person of our Substitute; but now, in Him who has gone to the Father, we are taken into everlasting favour. His place is ours. All distance and disturbance has been removed by Himself, and He is now before the Father’s face. What nearness is His! What nearness is ours!
“Peace, yes, peace, for Christ in heaven
Object is of faith to me:
Peace, yes, peace, for Christ is risen
Righteousness now counts me free;
And free access to the Father,
Through the Christ of God we have;
By the Spirit here abiding,
Promise of the Father’s love.”
Like the last, this section closes with a divine declaration as to the lawless among the people of God; “there is no peace” for them. Lawlessness in way and in word; lawlessness in doing and in thinking; lawlessness in working and in writing; i.e. the fulfilling of “the desires of the flesh and the thoughts,” and brings down the wrath of God. It is in complete contrast to abiding in His love and keeping His commandments. Sin is lawlessness; it is marked by restlessness and vileness; it leaves out God. The lawless know Him not. They are “like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (v. 20). They will follow Antichrist when He comes. Already their restless activity is of the same spirit. The last verse of our section is similar to that of the previous section, “There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked” [or lawless].
It is interesting and instructive, however, to notice the small but significant change. It is “Jehovah” (the Lord) in Isaiah 48:22 who speaks: it is “Elohim” (God) here in Isaiah 57:21. Let us notice the consistent care of the Holy Spirit in His inspiration, using Isaiah to write the appropriate name of God in its particular connection; and let those who follow the follies of the Jehovistic and Elohistic theories be ashamed. The first section begins by addressing Jerusalem; Israel in the land of Jehovah is in view; the second begins by addressing the isles and peoples afar off; the Gentiles as well as Israel are to be blessed of Elohim. Similarly the first two prophets who prophesied in the land, have Jehovah weaved into their own names: ISAIAH and JEREMIAH; whereas the next two who were among the Gentiles have El in theirs, EZEKIEL and DANIEL. This is not by mere chance; but by divine wisdom. Like Himself, God’s Word is perfect, though our apprehension of it is very imperfect. May we be led by the Holy Spirit, who inspired its writing, to understand it better, seeing Christ Himself in all the scriptures of truth; for it is in Him our God and Father is seen and known, and in His knowledge we are to grow.
“Thy word, Thyself reflecting,
Doth sanctify by truth,
Still leading on Thy children
With gentle heavenly growth.”
Section 2. Chapters 58 to 66
This short section with which the book of Isaiah concludes, comprehends within its small space truths of immense and immediate importance, and of present application as well as of future fulfilment.
In the New Testament the Holy Spirit takes largely from the precious store of this section. In Luke, in John, in Romans, and in Ephesians there are some significant applications from it given by the Spirit. The connections, the comparisons, and the contrasts all combine strikingly to show us the differing distinctions and dignities of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the real Subject of Isaiah, as indeed He is of all the Scriptures; and He is also the Object brought before the believer, satisfying his deepest desires and filling his heart with thanksgivings, praises, and worship.
The Subject of the Scriptures: the Object of believers
Shining above the brightness of the sun, we see Him in this section as the “everlasting Light,” proclaiming with gracious words good tidings to the poor; we see Him as the anointed Preacher; travelling in the greatness of His strength to execute vengeance, we see Him as the “mighty to save”; bringing deliverance and blessing and glory, we also see Him as the Deliverer, the Banner of God, His glorious Arm, the Man-Child; and finally as the Sign of God. It should be noticed that He is not called the Servant in this section: the servants who partake of His Spirit and character being prominent.
Striking and stirring scenes are here shown to us, with Christ as their centre; suddenly and swiftly they pass before our eyes, hastening to their appointed end. These things, however, can only be rightly understood as Christ’s connection with them is grasped, for it must be remembered that the great Subject of scripture is Himself.
It has often been pointed out that like a certain government rope which can be recognized all over the world because of a red cord which passes through its centre, so the inspired Scriptures can be known, because, from beginning to end, that which speaks of the atoning blood of Christ is there; from Genesis to Revelation the red line is seen uniting the whole Book. There is, however, the water-line as well as the blood-line shown by the Spirit throughout the sacred Scriptures, all pointing to the blessed Son of God who came by water and blood; not by water only, but “by water and blood”; and the Spirit, the water, and the blood are the threefold “witness which God has witnessed concerning His Son. And this is the witness that God has given to us, eternal life; and this life is in His Son.” The believer, therefore, in having the Son, has life in Him whom the Holy Spirit glorifies; for the water and the blood have met his fallen state and guilt; and now, having the Spirit, he can rejoice in the One who is the Subject of all the Scriptures, and the Object of his own heart and mind.
The events, and other things in the Bible also, can be now rightly understood; for instead of studying them apart and forming separate systems, or schools of opinion about them, they are seen in their relation to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the divine Subject, showing the interwoven unity of all the Scriptures. The Spirit who inspired their writing is come to us who believe to glorify Christ.
Two detectives once called upon me, hoping that I might be able to assist them in tracing a criminal, by discovering the suppliers of a sheet of notepaper upon which he had written a letter.
The most I could do, however, was to tell them who were the makers of the paper which I learnt from the design of the makers’ watermark in the centre of the sheet, and which was plainly visible when held up to the light. In like manner the true believer, who is in the light, is capable of discovering in the woven unity of the sacred Scriptures the divine design which is “CHRIST.” Those who are in darkness cannot see this, whether they be boastful scholars or illiterate and ignorant men.
To know Him
It is true that men who are still in darkness often claim Him as their Leader or Example, and yet do not accept Him as He is made known in the Scriptures. The socialist claims Him as a good man, but refuses to receive Him as “the true God and eternal life.” Many social, political, and religious leaders, kings and rulers readily acknowledge Him as “a” Light amidst the darkness of the world, without receiving Him exclusively as “the” Light of the world.
Those who receive Him as the Scriptures reveal Him in faith become the sons of light. The repentant sinner feeling the burden of his sins, accepts Him as his personal Saviour, and there is joy in heaven over such. Wherever two or three are gathered to His name alone, He is in their midst; and they may know Him there as their Centre and their all. The individual believer who loves Him and keeps His Word, may know His abiding presence. What a great honour to be granted to us in a world like this, an honour only to be surpassed by our being taken out of the world by the Son of God, and received into the Father’s house. To know Him is the greatest wealth and wisdom we can possess. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, says the Lord.”
Darkness and Death: Light and Liberty
To the slothful believer who had fallen asleep at Ephesus it is said, “Wake up, thou that sleepest, and arise up from among the dead, and the Christ shall shine upon thee.” It is from these first three chapters (Isa. 58, 59 and 60) of our section, the Holy Spirit takes this thought and applies it now. Its importance is very great, for it explains who the Light of Isaiah 60:1-3 is.
The professing people of God—the Jews—were asleep, “in darkness”, and “as dead men”; as to them it is said to the prophet, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet” (Isa. 58:1). This urgent call is to a suitable moral and practical condition. “Then,” we read, “shall thy light break forth as the morning,” then shall “thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday” (Isa. 58:8-10); but, like the rest of men, they had all sinned; and away from God, “their feet ran to evil” (Isa. 59:7), and the way of peace they knew not. But they are brought to realize their state and to confess, “we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We are in desolate places as dead men” (Isa. 59:9-10). They were at their wits’ end.
It is just here the Lord brings light and liberty and salvation. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him” (Isa. 59:16). It is always the way—“man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Let us, however, remind ourselves that the fulfilment of this verse is seen in the salvation of Israel. It cannot now be said, “there is no man;” for there is a Man at the right hand of God, who is the Head of the assembly; and He maintains the interests of God; therefore no power can prevail against the assembly. It cannot now be said, “there is no intercessor,” Christ who died for us, has been raised up again; and is “also at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). Unlike the leaders in Israel who failed and changed because of weakness and death, the One great Leader of believers today never fails, and continues forever. He is able to save His own completely; and He is “always living to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25). He is the prevailing Intercessor today; and, like Himself, His intercession is perfect.
In the day, however, when He brings light and liberty to Israel, He will come in power and majesty. The armour of light shall clothe Him, and His own inherent righteousness shall sustain Him; He shall “put on righteousness as a breastplate” also; “and an helmet of salvation upon His head”; garments of vengeance, and zeal shall be His clothing. But though this brings blessing to Israel, it will mean “fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies” (Isa. 59:17-18). This will liberate Israel from oppression, and cause the fame of the Lord to spread abroad.
The true Israel will have the Spirit of Christ; they are the true seed, the remnant, the servants of this section of the book. “This is My covenant with them, says the Lord; My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, says the Lord, from henceforth and for ever” (Isa. 59:21). This connection with Isaiah 11 is a very beautiful instance of the unity of both parts; it is the connection of the true Israel with the Nazarene.
At the time of the end they will keenly feel the oppression of Antichrist and others; but Christ will come as their Deliverer. He will come to Zion. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” Thus the Deliverer of Israel’s fame shall be sounded throughout the world. So shall they “fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun” (v. 19). This will help us to understand the next verse, and the golden setting given to the precious truth it contains in Romans 11. It will explain many similar instances of the Holy Spirit’s use in the New Testament of truth from the Old.
|Isaiah 59:20. “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, says the Lord.”||Romans 11:26. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness: from Jacob.”|
This is certainly not a literal quotation, it is nevertheless the exact truth which God has placed in Isaiah 59 and 60; and this is most important, giving us the mind of God in the context, and the present application of its principles in Romans 11. The Holy Spirit shows us that Israel will be brought into blessing again, and others be blessed through them when apostate Christendom is cut off. This is involved in Isaiah 59 and 60; Christ comes “to Zion,” we read there; and “out of Zion” deliverance and salvation shall spread. Thus in the Psalms, “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion”; and again in Isaiah 2:3, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law.”
In reading Scripture, though we know the very words are inspired of the Holy Spirit, yet we only gather true profit as we grasp the truth, the divine verity itself, which the words are given of God to convey. The consideration of the quotations, the citations, and of the reasoned conclusions in the New Testament, drawn from the Old, would instruct us greatly in the way the Holy Spirit takes to bring spiritual substance to our understandings.
The Everlasting Light
And now Isaiah 60 opens with the daybreak of brightness and glory. To delivered Israel it is now said, “Arise, shine! for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” We have already noticed the use made of this verse with its context in Ephesians 5:14. The explanation is exactly the same as that of the verse in Romans 11, which we have just considered. The Spirit’s setting of this awakening call is singularly striking. It is to the individuals who form the saved remnant of Israel in Isaiah; it is to the individual believer the Spirit uses it in Ephesus. In both cases “gross darkness” covers the peoples around; but light shines “upon” them.
It is important for us to see the divine explanation of the light that shines “upon” saved Israel after Christendom’s apostasy, and upon believers now, before the complete culmination of that apostasy. We read, “the Christ shall shine upon thee.” This makes all plain. The Messiah of Israel is the Christ; and—wonderful fact!—He is also Jehovah, the LORD; Jesus. So we read, “the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the nations shall come to Thy light and kings to the brightness of Thy rising” (Isa. 60:2-3). The Light then, as now, will shine for all. The true Light already shines. It will not then be a light shut inside the nation of Israel; nor is there such a thing as a light shut inside the assembly now; but risen immediately “upon” them—it shines as “the light of the world.”
Then it is said, “Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee . . . The abundance of the sea [the peoples] shall be converted unto thee” (vv. 4-5). Then too the people of God come flying home; they “fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows” (v. 8). Offerings will acceptably ascend to God, and He will beautify the house of His magnificence (v. 7); He will make the place of His feet glorious (v. 13); and they shall be “an eternal excellency, a joy from generation to generation” (v. 15). The peace and prosperity of the metropolis is exceeding great; God says, “For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thy exactors righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders: but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise” (vv. 17-18). The people too shall prosper and be “all righteous”. God will be glorified because they are the work of His hands. Even “a little one” of the remnant shall become “a thousand,” and the very smallest “a strong nation.”
Nor shall the beauty, the brightness, and the excellency of that day fail or fade away. Christ has come to them; their Messiah, their Jehovah, their Lord, and their God. It is said to them, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be thine everlasting Light, and thy God thy glory. Thy Sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: FOR THE LORD SHALL BE THINE EVERLASTING LIGHT, AND THE DAYS OF THY MOURNING SHALL BE ENDED.”
If here upon the earth below the brightness beams with such blessedness,
“What will it be to dwell above
And with the Lord of glory reign?”
If the earthly lot of favoured Israel is so blessed under our Lord Jesus Christ, what shall be the heavenly portion of the assembly, the bride of Christ, when He presents her to Himself all fair and beautiful, amidst scenes of surpassing splendour, shining with the radiance of the divine glory? When
“The Bridegroom and The bride
Are seen in heavenly glory:
And love is satisfied.”
But even then it will be no small part of our joy to see Him, the assembly’s Bridegroom, ride forth in majesty, as King of kings and Lord of lords, to take Israel and the nations of the earth under His royal sway.
The Anointed Preacher
We are not to be allowed to forget, however, Who was the divinely appointed Introducer of the glad tidings of these good things. It was the Spirit of Christ in Isaiah which said, “The Spirit of the Lord, God is upon Me; because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isa. 61:1). About six centuries after these wonderful words were written, a young Man, a humble Preacher was heard in the regions of Galilee: and His fame spread abroad. O’er hills and dales, through cities and villages, the joyful sound from His lips was heard. “And He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up.” There He stood up for to read; and finding the place where it was written in Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor,” He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:14-21). This was our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the divinely appointed and anointed Preacher. The immense and immediate importance of this introduction in despised Nazareth may not then have been seen. Nevertheless, though they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” yet all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. Before them stood the Preacher, proclaiming that which was prophesied long centuries before.
Nor are we to forget to whom He brings such glad tidings. Isaiah says, “to the meek”; to bind up “the broken-hearted,” to proclaim liberty “to the captives,” and the opening of the prison “to them that are bound.” Again, the Holy Spirit sets the truth in Luke; but, as we have noticed before, not in the literal words. There we read it is “to the poor,” for such “the meek” were in the condition of things which then obtained in sinful Israel. Jesus Himself was “meek,” and He was also “poor.” Giving of sight to “the blind” is added in Luke, for this Preacher is also the Servant upon whom the Spirit is put in Isaiah 42—the Covenant and the Light; given “to open the blind eyes, to bring forth the prisoners” (v. 7). What a confirmation this small addition is of Isaiah’s authorship of chapters 41 to 66, for it was from the book of Isaiah that the Anointed Preacher read that day; and He “unrolled the book” till He came to the second part. It is that part which has “the meek” specially in view; the first part showing the outward and political position more, the second the inward and moral.
This Preacher did not seek out the great, the prosperous, the proud princes, or the haughty rulers of this age. When John the Baptist sent to Him asking, “Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” He returned answer to John, “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them, and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” What a wonderful Saviour! What a gracious preacher! Oh, blessed Lord, would that we who are called by Thy Name had more of Thy spirit—
“He did attract the wretched and the weak
His joy the wand’rers and the lost to seek.”
He inaugurated the day of glad tidings. He sounded the joyful news on the mountain side and in the city street; by the shore of the lake and in the synagogue of the Jews; to the lonely sinner at the well and to the crushing crowd along the way; to the fallen and low, to the publicans and sinners, to the poor, to the meek, He made known the glad tidings of good things; and the common people heard Him gladly as He told of the grace and goodness of the heart of God, of forgiveness and salvation and blessing. It is still the day of salvation. The acceptable time has not yet run its course. The day of vengeance is not yet here. Grant to us then, O Lord, more grace and strength to spread abroad the tidings which first began to be spoken by Thyself, Thou divinely appointed and anointed Preacher of glad tidings to the poor.
The Banner of God
No sooner does the salvation and blessing of Jerusalem rise before the mind of the prophet than the obstacles which are in the way are also seen. Therefore it is now said with energy and intensity, “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a Standard [or a Banner] for the peoples. Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation comes” (Isa. 62:10-11). This passage speaks of a short season full of tumult and slaughter; attempts will be made to take the city; but salvation will swiftly come; for the Banner of God is to be lifted up!
This remarkable Banner is specially spoken of all through Isaiah; and in a peculiar way. If there were no other proof of unity of authorship of the prophecy, this one instance would be enough. The word is but once translated “banner” in Isaiah; six times “ensign”; and three times “standard.” It would have been better had the translators kept all through to the one word “BANNER.” We have seen how the personal “SIGN” unites the two main parts of the prophecy: we shall now see that the truth of The Banner of God does so likewise.
The first mention of it is in Isaiah 5:26; “He will lift up a Banner to the nations.” The last mention is in our chapter (Isa. 62:10); “Lift up a Banner for the peoples;” this is in view of the salvation and blessing of the city. So in Isaiah 49:22. God’s Banner is set up to the peoples, and they bring the sons and daughters of Israel to Jerusalem. The last mention but one, however, shows an aggressive enemy on the scene; “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a Banner against Him” (Isa. 59:19). A reference to Isaiah (I) will show the effect of this: the enemy “shall pass over to his stronghold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the Banner, says the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem” (Isa. 31:9).
And now, without delaying to examine every mention of this most marvellous Banner, let us turn to the second chapter in which it is found (Isa. 11:10); “There shall be a root of Jesse, standing as a Banner of the peoples.” Here we see who the Banner is. The Root of Jesse and of David is our Lord Jesus Christ; He is the Banner of God; He shall drive away and destroy the enemies of God: He shall gather and bless the people of God. Through Him shall all nations be blessed.
Even when the question is raised in heaven as to who is worthy to open the book of this world’s government, and to break its seven seals, the answer is, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book and its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). Again, when He is about to come from heaven He says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16). But what is so striking is that Isaiah 53:2 points us to this One (who shall be seen in His triumph and glory soon), in His lowliness and loveliness here, in His humiliation, “as a Tender Plant, and as a Root out of a dry ground.”
Even amidst the brightness and brilliance of the great glory of God, He shall ever be known as the meek and lowly. Yea, even as the King He is “meek” (Matt. 21:5) and “lowly” (Zech. 9:9); “the Root of Jesse.” Men thought they had got rid of the Seed Royal; but God raised Him from among the dead; He is now hidden in the heavens; and the time of His showing to Israel will soon come; then they shall know Him in the height of his glory: but never forget the depth of His humiliation.
“The Lord shall set His hand again the second time to acquire the remnant of His people.” “He shall set up a Banner to the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isa. 11:11-12). It is to be noticed that this glorious Banner in both parts of Isaiah has Israel specially in view: nevertheless, it is lifted up to attract the attention of the nations and the peoples also; for it is to bring in the blessing of the whole earth. We read in verses 9 and 10, “THE EARTH SHALL BE FULL OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD, AS THE WATERS COVER THE SEA. AND IN THAT DAY THERE SHALL BE A ROOT OF JESSE STANDING AS A BANNER OF THE PEOPLES: TO IT SHALL THE NATIONS SEEK: AND HIS REST SHALL BE GLORY.”
This gladdening and glorious Banner shall finally unfold its royal purple in widespread peace and prosperity, righteousness and joy for Israel and for the nations, for the peoples of the earth.
Of Israel and its metropolis blessed under this divine Banner, it is said, “They shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called the Sought Out, A city not forsaken” (Isa. 62:12). Happy the people and the city that are so favoured: thrice happy the soul who, already knowing the Saviour, while He is rejected, can say, “HIS BANNER OVER ME IS LOVE.”
In the day of which we have spoken Israel will boast in Christ as their King: now the assembly boasts in Him as her glorified Head. Israel, as a nation, will know Him as her Messiah: the assembly, as a living organism, the body and bride of Christ, knows Him as her Bridegroom. Israel will be blessed under Him on earth; the assembly will share His glory in heaven. But it must be remarked that all is not the church or the assembly which claims to be such. The assembly is not where the assembly is made everything of: the assembly is where Christ the Son of God is exalted. The true assembly boasts in Him, not in herself. It can be admitted that there is a Roman church, a Lutheran church, an Anglican church, a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, etc.: but “the” church, “the” assembly, is that which Christ the Son of the living God is building upon Himself—the Rock, revealed to souls by the Father, not by the teaching or the usurped authority of mere officials. The Holy Spirit who dwells in “the” assembly there exalts Christ the Son of God, who is the Head of the Church, received into heavenly glory; as He said, when He, the Spirit of truth, shall “He shall glorify Me.”
“’Tis thence—now Christ is gone on high,
Redemption’s work complete—
The Spirit brings His glory nigh,
To those who for Him wait.”
It is such ministry which forms and feeds the assembly—calls it out and builds it up.
The Great and Glorious Avenger
In the first six verses of Isaiah 63 we have a vivid picture, painted in strong and glowing colours by the Holy Spirit. In deeply dyed garments of blood red the great and glorious Avenger of the enemies of God and His people is seen returning in triumph from His victory in Edom, where, alone, He had trodden His foes under His feet, as in a wine-press, staining all His raiment, as in righteousness He executed the long-foretold vengeance of God.
Very strange does this picture look after that with which this small sub-division began, in Isaiah 61:1. There is presented the Anointed Preacher; and when He appeared in Luke 4 all the people wondered at the gracious words which fell from His lips: here He is seen as The great Avenger who trampled God’s foes in His fury. There He is proclaiming “the acceptable year of the Lord”: here it is “the day of vengeance” that is in His heart. When He stood up and read at Nazareth (Luke 4), He stopped at the first comma of Isaiah 61:2: here, after centuries of long-suffering, He passes on to fulfil the next sentence of that verse. The first is a “year”: the second “a day.” The first is the long “year,” still continuing, of mercy and grace, in which God finds delights: the second is the short “day,” soon to come and soon to be over, of God’s just judgment, His “strange work,” in which He has no pleasure. Long centuries before, in Deuteronomy 32:35-43, He had foretold this time, when He would render vengeance to His adversaries, and revenge the blood of “His servants.” These “servants” now come specially before us in the remaining chapters of Isaiah. The hand of the Lord becomes known toward “His servants,” and indignation toward “His enemies.”
Let it not be thought however that this vengeance is vindictive. It is the very opposite. It is God’s “strange work”; His “strange act.” It is swiftly and surely executed “in righteousness,” but in view of salvation. If salvation was to be brought to the servants of the Lord—the feeble remnant—this work was necessary; therefore mercy is behind it all; for when The Great and Glorious Avenger returns from its execution in the land of Edom, travelling in the greatness of His strength, He declares Himself “THE MIGHTY TO SAVE,” saying, “I that speak in righteousness, Mighty to Save” (Isa. 63:1). That is the work He delights in; but because of who He is, righteousness must mark all His ways.
It is the old story, always true, righteous judgment for the wicked; salvation for the believing; the profane punished: the pious blessed; Esau (Edom) has he hated: Jacob has He loved; that which is of the flesh is judged; that which is of the Spirit is favoured; that which is of the law cannot stand before God; that which is of the promise receives the inheritance; that which refuses Christ is refused; that which accepts Christ is accepted. Not that they deserve to be accepted because of any good in them but because He endured the judgment they deserved upon the cross, when He bore their sins; there, sin in the flesh was also judged, that those who receive Him might be set free, spiritually from its oppression; just as the oppressed “servants” of the Lord, the feeble remnant of Israel, will be freed, governmentally, by the judgment He executes upon the land of Edom (Esau) by and by. Only He bore it for us on the cross: then it will actually fall upon the wicked; but it will be salvation for Israel then; so the judgment borne on the cross is salvation for us now. In both cases it is through our Lord Jesus Christ, who secures salvation righteously. HE IS RIGHTEOUS AND MIGHTY TO SAVE.
“Who is This?”
Such is the question which heads these six verses (Isa. 63:1-6), which show us the great Avenger in His dyed garments. Every thoughtful man should face this question and find the answer. Alexander! Caesar! Napoleon! others also are known and admired; though grave questions as to whether they warred in righteousness might be raised. Here is a Mighty Warrior, facing the enemy alone; His fury upholds Him; garments of vengeance cover Him; He is clad with zeal as a cloak; He triumphantly tramples His enemies in His anger and in His fury; He brings their blood to the ground. “Who is this?” Yes “WHO IS THIS?”
There is no question as to His justice and His uprightness. In righteousness He judges and makes war. Along with His holy fury, His “righteousness sustains Him”; His brilliant breastplate sparkles with it; His very words “speak in righteousness”; His glorious garments glitter with truth and justice; His armour is the armour of light! But see the shining helmet on His head, telling us what is in His thoughts! It is the “helmet of salvation”; yea, His “glorious Arm” is lifted up to “bring salvation.” He is the Mighty to Save. “Who is this?” “Who is this?” What is His Name? Canst thou tell? It is of the utmost importance that these questions be answered.
It is the Saviour, the long-looked-for Messiah of Israel, their great Warrior King; His Name is Jesus; once they slew Him, but God raised Him from among the dead, and took Him away to the heavens; now He is seen returning to redeem, regenerate, raise up, and righteously restore the very nation which refused and rejected Him. He exclaims (Isa. 63:4), “The DAY of vengeance was in mine heart and the YEAR of MY REDEEMED is come!”
And that day of vengeance will come; and the year of His redeemed people will come; and every thoughtful man living in this day of grace should face the all-important question as to how he stands personally with regard to this great Redeemer our Lord Jesus Christ. No man has a right to be considered wise who dates every day of his life “A.D.” (“In the year of our Lord”), and yet has not settled this question. He is the Saviour and Lord of those who trust Him; but remember, He will be the Judge of those who refuse Him. Of necessity sin must be punished in this world if any nation is to be maintained in peace and order. God is not less particular as to this. Truly our Lord Jesus Christ is the Deliverer from the coming wrath; but He will execute it upon the wicked who refuse to own His claims. Those who confess Him as Lord, and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, shall be saved (Rom. 10:9). No one, high or low, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, can afford to give precious time to the settlement of other questions until he has this one settled, for it affects his eternal well-being; and he may be despatched unexpectedly and unprepared, like others have been, into eternity, at any moment.
In this day of God’s free favour, of His saving grace, men commonly think of Jesus simply as “meek and mild,” a sort of philanthropist, who will put up with anything. It is true He is full of mercy, and grace, and love; it is true His love is long-suffering and kind; but let it not be forgotten, that true love, divine love, however long it may wait upon the sinner, seeking his salvation, will not be indifferent to sin; its punishment must be carried out. We see this at the cross; the very place which shows God’s love to us shows us His holy hatred of sin also.
In this day of weakness and effeminacy, wilfulness and toleration, men take the Name of Jesus and associate it with all sorts of movements, social and political and religious movements which the truth of His Person, as well as His teaching, utterly condemns. HE IS THE LORD. HE IS GOD. HE HIMSELF HAS SAID, “IF YE BELIEVE NOT THAT I AM HE, YE SHALL DIE IN YOUR SINS”: BUT ALSO, “HE THAT HEARETH MY WORD, AND believes ON HIM THAT SENT ME, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE, AND SHALL NOT COME INTO JUDGMENT; BUT IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE” (John 5:24).
“WHO IS HE?” Yes! let the question be answered before God for the reader’s own soul without further delay. And “What is He to you personally?” May you be enabled to reply in faith, “He is the Son of God: He is my personal Saviour!”
Before passing on to the final sub-division of Isaiah it should be noticed that Isaiah 34 is the one other place where the “day of vengeance” is mentioned. What have the enemies of inspiration to say to this? Here, again, Isaiah 1 and 2 show one handwriting, and that in a singular and striking manner. In both chapters the judgment falls upon Edom. Other prophets give the reason. There is “a great slaughter in the land of Edom.” “It is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.” His sword comes down upon Edom, the people of His curse (Isa. 34:4, 8). So in Isaiah 63, the Mighty to Save is coming to Zion; and the question is asked, “Who is this that comes from Edom?” Isaiah 34 tells us who it is. It is the LORD; it is JEHOVAH. It is THE ANOINTED PREACHER, THE REDEEMER AND THE AVENGER, of chapters 61, 62 and 63. IT IS JESUS!
“Name above every name, Thy praise
Shall fill yon courts through endless days,
Jehovah-Jesus! Name divine!
Rock of salvation—Thou art mine.”
His Glorious Name
Verse 7 of Isaiah 63 is the beginning of the end. The remnant replies in the last two chapters. The spirit of Christ is seen in this feeble remnant spoken of as “the servants,” which now become the nation in a new way. They speak of His Name with confidence, and confess the nation’s sins with sincerity. Jehovah speaks of being found of the Gentiles, when the sinful nation refused Him; but for “His servant’s sakes” He will bless abundantly; and all flesh shall come and worship before Him (Isa. 66:23). His Name and his servants are together eminently prominent in these closing chapters.
The Name of Jehovah is now known to the remnant. Long ages of education blessedly ends in this! Moses in the fiery mount heard it proclaimed from the midst of a cloud—“Jehovah, Jehovah God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will in nowise clear the guilty, visiting the sins of fathers upon children, to the third and fourth generation.” It is no wonder that worship bowed Moses before Him to the earth, and that he asked Jehovah to go with them in the midst. But, mark, in reply the Lord says, “Before all thy people will I do marvels, such as have not been done in the earth, nor in any of the nations; and all the people in the midst of whom thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee” (Ex. 34:6-10). And it has been so; but the results are supremely blessed. His Name is known, and all the nations are blessed consequently.
The soul now, knowing His Name, recounts Jehovah’s loving-kindnesses and praises, “according to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel” (v. 7). Looking right back to the time of Moses, the soul sees Jehovah’s glorious Arm working on their behalf; the same Arm which is now revealed to faith; the Arm of His strength; the Arm that brings salvation; “His glorious Arm, dividing the water before them”; when He “led them by the right hand of Moses,” to make Himself “AN EVERLASTING NAME” (v. 12). This is the first of the seven times His Name is here mentioned. Second, it is a “glorious Name” (v. 14); thirdly, owning Him as their national Father and Redeemer, the remnant say, “Thy Name is from everlasting” (v. 16); and fourthly, the adversaries “were not called by Thy Name” (v. 19); fifthly, “make Thy Name known to Thine adversaries” (Isa. 64:2); sixthly, “there is none that calls upon Thy Name” (v. 7); seventh, Jehovah then finally replies: I am sought and found by the Gentiles who were “not called by My Name” (Isa. 65:1).
This last mention is both interesting and instructive, for it involves our coming into the blessing of the gospel today; and so in Romans 10:20 the Holy Spirit of God thus uses this verse. But whilst it is true that righteousness and salvation for poor sinners of the Gentiles is here, yet we need to be reminded that such blessing, great as it is, opens the door for us into higher blessings and associations with our Lord Jesus Christ than is in view in Isaiah. The Epistles in which we have these things unfolded take us right up to Christ where He is, Head over all things, to the assembly, His body. We do not find this in Isaiah at all. The mystery was hidden in God; and silence was kept as to it, until the Holy Spirit made it known after our Lord Jesus Christ was glorified.
The servants of the Lord have a remarkable place of distinction in these final chapters of the book, as indeed they have in other scriptures. They are the remnant of Israel, and become the nation. Few in number at first, the smallest becomes a strong nation (Isa. 60:22). The apostles of the Lamb had this distinguished place, His servants, when Jesus was on earth; therefore they are to sit on twelve thrones over the twelve tribes in the day to come. Paul converted from heaven does not come into this; nor does he speak of our blessed Lord in the character, as “the Lamb.” After the assembly is caught up to heaven, then servants of the same character will appear again among the Jews. In Revelation 7 it is said, when great judgment is about to strike the earth, “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our Lord in their foreheads.” These servants are “of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (vv. 3-4). In the gospels they are in view, in such scriptures as speak of Christ’s return to the earth, when He finds his servants waiting and watching; and He rewards them. There will be real and unreal even as now; but the hypocrites in Zion will be afraid, and be cut off. The servant who says, “My Lord delays His coming,” and “smites his fellow-servants,” will be cut asunder and cast out with the hypocrites, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, on the other hand, it is said of “the faithful and wise servant” who cares for and feeds Christ’s little flock, who are to possess the kingdom, “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when He comes shall find so doing” (Matt. 24:45-51). The unreal will oppress and smite the faithful, but the Lord will judge them at His coming and will say to the faithful, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
We may apply these verses now, for rewards for service will be given in the kingdom. The more we consider the True Servant, the more we shall become like Him. He could say, “I am among you as One that serves”; and we are to be among His own thus today, as it says, “By love serve one another.” Nor will the Lord ever give up His precious service. It is said in connection with His coming, “He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth to serve them.” Neither shall we cease to serve, for in the book of the throne, the book of Revelation, we read, “No curse shall be any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and HIS SERVANTS SHALL SERVE HIM, AND THEY SHALL SEE HIS FACE” (Isa. 22:3). No weakness or weariness will be known then, but with everlasting joy and rejoicing, our blissful service will adoringly flow on, in deepening delight in Him whom we serve, and whose face we see. Even now may He fill our hearts to overflowing with Himself—
“His willing servants, let us wear
The seal of love for ever there.”
These servants in Isaiah are instructed by Him. The last mention of Christ as the Servant in Isaiah is in Isaiah 53:11. There the “Righteous Servant” is said to instruct others in righteousness. The first mention of these servants is in Isaiah 54:17, “Their righteousness is of Me, says the Lord.” Then they partake of His character.
One of the first things they say God looked for was, “Children that will not lie.” It is striking and significant how Scripture constantly condemns lying. The last two chapters of the Bible speaks solemnly of those who “make a lie”; and the last on the list of those who are cast out to the second death are “all liars.” Satan is the father of lies, and those who are marked by lying in life and lip may here read their doom, unless they come to the One who can save and sanctify them. The hypocrites at this time make a “refuge of lies” (Isa. 28:15-17); but “the remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity nor speak lies” (Zeph. 3:12-13). Neither pride, nor guile, nor lying will mark these servants. They take hold of the glorious name of the Lord and with true confidence rejoice in Him, in whom their righteousness is. Through God’s work in them they are also able to say, “I hate and abhor lying: but Thy law do I love” (Ps. 119:163).
They are spoken of nine times in these closing chapters. (1) They pray, “Return for thy servants’ sakes, the tribes of thine inheritance” (Isa. 63:17). In Isaiah 64 they long for His presence in power, “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence” (v. 1); for they knew that the ear had not perceived, nor had the eye seen, the things He had prepared for them (v. 4). Wonderful indeed it is, that these things are now revealed to believers by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Cor. 2:9-10).
Jehovah replies to their prayer. He says: (2) “So will I do for My servants’ sakes” (Isa. 65:8). This is the second mention. (3) “My servants shall dwell” in My mountains (v. 9). (4) The hypocrites are punished. “Behold My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry;” (5) “Behold, My servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty;” (6) “Behold, My servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed;” (7) “Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart”; (8) He shall call “His servants by another name” (Isa. 65:13-15); (9) “The hand of the Lord shall be known towards His servants, and His indignation toward His enemies” (Isa. 66:14). And this concisely sums up the position at the end. The oppressing hypocrites say they are holier than the others (Isa. 65:5); but God says they are a smoke in His nose. Just as proud professing Christian leaders today cast out of the assembly the best brethren (see 3 John), so these men cast out the real servants here (Isa. 66:5); but the Lord is at hand with judgment for the wicked and with full blessing for His servants. “The former troubles” shall be forgotten; they shall be blessed in the God of truth. He then says to them, “Be ye glad and rejoice for ever;” “I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” It will be like a new creation, for He says again, “As the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, so shall your seed and your name remain.” Happy, happy servants of the Lord; their righteousness, and their happiness too, is of Him; no weapon that is formed against them can ever prosper. Through Him they are more than conquerors; they reach and realize the rich promises of God, which are Yea and Amen in Christ.
The Man Child
A short verse in the last chapter shows how the salvation and the glory of which Isaiah has spoken so eloquently is secured. In verse 7 we read of the “Man Child.” This must not be confounded with the end of the next verse, which refers to the “nation,” Zion’s “children.” They are brought forth naturally, at the proper time. In the case of the “Man Child” it is extraordinary; it is exceptional, and remarkable. All the hopes of a nation, especially of Israel, according to the promises of God, centre in a Man Child. Israel will be brought as low as it can well be; how then shall God’s promises in connection with them be secured? This remarkable “Man Child,” who comes upon the scene at the very time of Israel’s distress, is the answer. Amidst the scenes which shift so swiftly and so suddenly He is seen, in these final verses, as the Centre of all. The mockers and the enemies are overthrown. The small remnant becomes the favoured nation. The Sign of God is set up. All nations and tongues gather to see His glory. All flesh come to Jerusalem to worship before the Lord. A permanent monument of His judgment upon the wicked is witnessed. But the “Man Child,” the Seed Royal, the Seed of David, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of the Woman, is the Sign of God, and the divine explanation of it all. He is there. And the tiny remnant will be able to say in the language of Isaiah 8, in the face of all their enemies, “EMMANUEL!” “GOD IS WITH US!”
This “Man Child” is spoken of in John 16, in Revelation 12, and in Isaiah 66. That our Lord Jesus Christ is meant is perfectly plain. Speaking “in allegories” to His disciples in John 16:16-29, of “the little while,” He used the illustration of the birth of a Man Child and the consequent joy, to set forth their joy at seeing Him in resurrection, after the time of suffering. In Revelation 12 the Man Child brought forth by the woman (Israel) is to rule all nations; but He is “caught up” to God and to His throne. In Isaiah 66 He is seen back again, with the remnant of Israel. In these three scriptures we have the three outstanding events, of vast importance, in connection with the One of whom it is said in Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” First, His resurrection after His atoning sufferings on the cross. Second, His exaltation to wait at the right hand of God. Third, His return, to take up the government of Israel, and of all nations. It is no wonder that Isaiah 9:6 goes on to say, “And His name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace.” This is the Man Child, the Strong One who steps suddenly on the scene to secure Israel’s exaltation.
He finds the temple, the house, profaned by hypocrites, but He who made the heavens His throne, and the earth His footstool, looks to the afflicted and contrite remnant, who tremble at His word (vv. 1-2); He finds the sacrifices hypocritical and abominable; and He brings calamities upon those who are casting out the real; and to these suffering ones He appears, to their joy (vv. 4-5). When this remnant are in the throes of dire distress, there suddenly sounds a voice of noise from the city! a voice from the temple! a voice of the Lord that renders recompense to His Enemies!” (v. 6). The Man Child is seen standing in the city; the Messiah of Israel is there; and this involves the birth of a new nation, a nation to be exalted in Him above all nations. It is small indeed at the moment; made up of the faithful, God-fearing remnant, the servant of the Lord at that time; but “a little one shall become a thousand, and the smallest a strong nation” (Isa. 62:22); indeed, in their prayer they say to God in all confidence that they, the suffering servants of the Lord, “are the tribes of thine inheritance” (Isa. 63:17). This is very wonderful, but Scripture shows it to be correct; and the Lord Jesus promised those other servants, who were with Him during the days of His sore trial, when He was here on earth before, that they should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30).
Some may marvel at such things. Scripture anticipates this. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?” It is asked, “Shall a nation be born at once?” The cry today among the nations is, “Wanted a man!” But when the cry of distress rises from the faithful remnant of Israel, the Man is there at once! And He is such a Man! In resurrection life He stands with them! Before His ascension He was seen and handled by the disciples. He then said to them, “A spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have.” He is indeed a real Man. They thought, in their astonishment, they had seen a spirit. But in flesh and bones He stood before them, His blood having been poured out to secure their redemption. He is Israel’s (as well as our) Redeemer, Saviour, and Lord.
It is because of Him, their blessing and that of Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, will be like a new creation. “Rejoice,” therefore we read, “rejoice ye with Jerusalem and be glad with her!” Peace is extended to her like a full-flowing river, and the glory of the nations is like an overflowing stream. Her children are comforted and abundantly blessed (vv. 8-18). This explains that verse, “all Israel shall be saved.” Remembering that “not all are Israel which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6), we see here the unreal cut off, but not one of the true seed, the true children, are allowed to perish; they are all saved; and this is the time when it takes place. They are truly Israelites; the national adoption-sonship, the glory, the covenants, the law-giving, the service, and the promises, are all theirs. What an honoured nation, lifted up above all nations; no other nation is so near to God; no other nation is so great and so glorious; but it is in Christ they are exalted; and of them, of Israel, “as according to flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”
Conclusion. The Sign of God
It will be in the midst of Israel—the new-born nation blessed so richly in their Messiah—that the Sign of God will be set. God says, “I will set a Sign among them” (v. 19). The Sign will stand in supreme sovereignty and divinely displayed excellence, attracting by its grace those who come with worshipping hearts to behold His glory. The tidings will be carried over the world by the escaped of Israel; for having come out of all nations, they will be well fitted in word and wisdom to carry the news to all (as He says) “that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles” (v. 19); “and they shall come and see My glory.” What a day that will be! The Sun of righteousness will shine in supreme splendour! The Salvation of God and the Sign of God will be seen and known by all!
He was seen and known as the Sign by just and pious Simeon, one of the remnant of Israel who said, when he held the infant Jesus in His arms, “Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation;” and “This child . . . is for a Sign which shall be spoken against.” Millions have since his day found salvation in Christ through faith; but the day of his public showing to Israel and the world, in might, in majesty, and in glory, has not yet come. He is still the Sign spoken against.
That the book of Isaiah should close by showing us the Sign of God once more is what the believer in the unity of its authorship would expect. It is like a connecting cord passing through all the sections, binding them together: a cord of the Holy Spirit’s workmanship; sometimes it is seen, sometimes it is not; but it is always there, throughout the book. It is formed (symbolically speaking) of the finest and fairest flax, intertwined with gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, telling us of the humanity, the deity, the royalty, and the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see it plainly in the first section, in Isaiah 7; it appears unbroken in the central historical section (Isa. 36-39); and here in our last chapter it is again prominent in the same remnant associations as before. First, we see Isaiah (the salvation of the Lord) with Shear-jashub (“the remnant shall return”), standing to speak of salvation, “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, etc.” The Sign of this salvation is, “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name IMMANUEL.” In the centre, it is the enemy who stands “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, etc.” He threatens destruction; and they say in the city “the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” God, however, promises salvation, and connects the Sign with the remnant. “This shall be a Sign unto thee . . . the remnant that is escaped . . . shall again take root.” The blaspheming enemies are destroyed; “and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” Finally, the last chapter shows us the remnant again, the Shear-jashubs; and the Personal “Salvation of the Lord with them”; the Sign of God is “set among them”; the children are brought forth; and God’s glory is seen in Jerusalem; but outside we read, “They shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have rebelled against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring of all flesh” (Isa. 66:24). Again, the blaspheming enemies are destroyed; but this time they become a permanent public witness of the just judgment of a holy God.
Inside the city, now exalted to royal eminence as the city of the Great King, to holy elevation as the city of the Lord, we see His glory displayed, and the Sign is set among them; He says, “I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see My glory” (v. 18). Yea, they shall bring the children of Israel to “My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, as “an offering”; and of them shall be taken “for priests and for Levites” (v. 20). And “ALL FLESH SHALL COME TO WORSHIP BEFORE ME, SAYS THE LORD” (v. 23).
The choicest words seem to be too poor to adequately express the brightness and blessedness, the beauty and abundance and glory of that day, when the sure mercies of David shall abound; when our Lord Jesus Christ, the Seed of David, raised from among the dead, shall reign right royally; when His people shall flourish, and be an eternal excellency as blessed in Him, an “everlasting sign” for God’s glory; when Jerusalem shall have her Lord as her everlasting Light, and her God as her Glory; when the nations of the earth shall walk in her Light, and kings by the brightness of her rising; when righteousness and praise shall spring forth before all the nations; when everything that has breath shall praise the Lord; when this now groaning earth shall shout and sing for gladness, because of Christ Jesus.
“Kings shall fall down before Him,
And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
His praise all people sing.”
That day shall surely come. But what shall we say of the present privileges and the incomparable possessions of those who believe on Him now, whilst He is the Sign spoken against? Not only is eternal forgiveness, eternal salvation, eternal redemption, and eternal life theirs in Him, along with an eternal inheritance; but as belonging to the assembly, they are espoused to Christ as a chaste virgin; to be true to Himself now, whilst awaiting His coming; then in heavenly scenes of supernal splendour He will present the assembly to Himself, His fair and well-loved bride. The highest earthly glory does not reach to this, great as it is. To God in the assembly in Christ Jesus shall be glory for ever and ever.