Thursday, December 31, 2020

Isaiah 32 - The Kingdom revealed

Chapter 32 is mostly good news, as the prophet hails the kingdom that will never end. But there is the warning against drifting away, with the wrath that awaits those who do not trust in YHWH.

Isaiah 32:1-2 (HCSB) Indeed, a king will reign righteously, and rulers will rule justly. Each will be like a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the rain, like streams of water in a dry land and the shade of a massive rock in an arid land.

These two verses announce the structure of God's kingdom: a righteous king and just rulers. Saints rule with Christ now (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 20:4 - 6) and Jesus is the righteous King (1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:20-22). Such rule is not a terror to men, but serve as a shelter and refuge from wickedness, providing refreshment and shade in dessert climes.

Isaiah 32:3-5 (HCSB) Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The reckless mind will gain knowledge, and the stammering tongue will speak clearly and fluently. A fool will no longer be called a noble, nor a scoundrel said to be important.

When the kingdom of God is consummated, all will see clearly, understand what they hear, and speak truth and they grow in grace and knowledge. No longer will the culture elevate fools and scoundrels. Compare verse 3 with the commissioning of the prophet in chapter 6: "Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed." Quite the contrast! All His chosen ones will see and perceive, will hear and understand; and be healed.

Verses 6 & 7 describe the fools, which are exalted by worldly cultures. They speak foolishness, plot wickedness: godless people who abuse the poor and seek to destroy everything. Isaiah 32:8 (HCSB) "But a noble person plans noble things; he stands up for noble causes." Israel's history is pock-marked by her abuse of widows and orphans, cheating people with false scales, and seeking the fleeting glory of a temporal kingdom. The noble person seeks to honor God by taking care of the poor and weak, dealing honestly with people, and trusting God to deal with wickedness.

Verses 9 - 14 are the warnings of what will happen to those who mindlessly (those without understanding) depend on their bigger barns. The prophet addresses this warning to the women, perhaps as a contrast to the woman described in Proverbs 31. Isaiah 32:9 (HCSB) "Stand up, you complacent women; listen to me. Pay attention to what I say, you overconfident daughters." Complacent and overconfident - characteristics of those who pay no heed to the warnings of the age-to-come. This passage reveals how their land will fail and be full of thorns, the palace deserted and the city forsaken; and this rebuke: Isaiah 32:11 (HCSB) "Shudder, you complacent ones; tremble, you overconfident ones! Strip yourselves bare and put sackcloth around your waists." People ought to tremble at the thought of what is to come, at how fragile their lives are. Time is running out.

The cities will continue to fall, the vineyards become barren, "until the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest. Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in the orchard. The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever. Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place, in safe and secure dwellings. (Isaiah 32:15-18)

On the new earth, the Spirit will rule in every heart, the provision of YHWH will be untarnished by sin, and justice and righteousness (recall the righteous king and just rulers from the opening of this chapter?) will be the rule, providing peaceful, safe dwellings. Again quite the contrast to Israel's condition - and ours! Does your soul ache to have this peace and safety? It will be ours if we are His.

This chapter comes to an end with a short contrast to drive the message home. Contrary to those who trust in YHWH, those who care not for His rule will be in despair. Isaiah 32:19 (HCSB) "But hail will level the forest, and the city will sink into the depths." Hail symbolizes the reign of God over weather, as He knocks the wind out of the prideful.

Isaiah 32:20 (HCSB) "Those who sow seed are happy beside abundant waters; they let ox and donkey range freely." But those who are content with food and shelter, not seeking the vainglory of earthly wealth, will be satisfied with land that provides produce and provision for the animals. I hear the Lord's counsel as He taught on the mount:

Matthew 6:25-34 (HCSB) “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  

Israel's history provided the backdrop to Jesus' words, as He had provided food and clothing during their 40 years of wandering. His counsel stands in our day, as we see the wealth of this world taken away from the workers and stored up by the "landowners." This is YHWH's reminder that with food and clothing, we are to be content, for our God has gone to prepare a place for us and will return to take us to be with Him forever. So while we live here as pilgrims, let us sojourn with our eyes fixed on Him. He is our rock and strong tower. And He gives peace to His own - peace the world cannot comprehend. What cause do we have to worry?

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