Saturday, March 6, 2021

Isaiah 62 - The Glory of Zion; God with us.

This chapter confronts the reader with a decision as to who is speaking here, is it the prophet or is it the promised seed - the Servant of God? I think throughout this chapter, we have words from Christ.

Isaiah 62:1-2a (HCSB) I will not keep silent because of Zion, and I will not keep still because of Jerusalem, until her righteousness shines like a bright light and her salvation, like a flaming torch. Nations will see your righteousness and all kings, your glory.

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, Zion refers to a fortified city prized by national Israel. In the New Covenant passages and in several Old Covenant prophets, Zion refers to the spiritual reality of God's people being present with Him. In Hebrews 12:18-29 we see this most clearly as earthly Israel is contrasted with spiritual Israel. Rather than gathering at Mt Sinai, with the blazing fire, gloom, and storm which was to terrifying that Moses was afraid; we who His people have come to Mount Zion, the living city of God (heavenly Jerusalem), wherein angels celebrate.

Isaiah refers to this in this passage, where he reports that Zion, also termed Jerusalem, will have righteousness that shines like heaven. She is marked by her salvation. Nations will see this glory and nothing is able to compare to it.

Recall the light of the world that John wrote of, John 1:1-5 (HCSB) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it." So intimately connected are the three-in-one that nothing happens apart from each being active, though the Spirit is often not mentioned, as in this passage from John. But Moses made note of the Spirit of God moving over the waters. The connection of John with Isaiah 62 is the light of the world that shines, which darkness cannot overcome. The shining light of the saints' righteousness is that of Christ Himself, and it brings salvation to sinners. This light overcomes the darkness of our unregenerate souls and brings life to that which was dead.

Isaiah 62:2b-5 (HCSB) You will be called by a new name that the LORD’s mouth will announce. You will be a glorious crown in the LORD’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God. You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land will be married.  For as a young man marries a young woman, so your sons will marry you; and as a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.

Seven statements as to what Jerusalem will be, none of it contingent upon national Israel's performance under their covenant. Unilateral actions of God in redeeming and purifying His people, declaring they will have a new name (see Rev 3:12), will be a glorious crown (see Rev 4:10, 11). His people decorate the One who redeemed them, no longer barren but married to God, who delights in those He chose and ransomed. National Israel never had this fatherly relationship with God; heavenly Jerusalem, the spiritual house Peter spoke of - these are those who call Him Abba, Father. They are the ones described as Hs bride (2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:7; 21:2, 9), the one to whom He is bound.

The first half of verse 5 is obscure: who are the sons marrying? John Gill thought this phrase was more properly interpreted, "as a young man dwells with a virgin, so thy sons shall dwell in thee" - which is how he says the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate render it. The last half of this verse is clear and is alluded to in the New Covenant passages, highlighted in Rev 19 and 21. In Rev 19 the marriage of the Lamb is announced, His bride has prepared herself and was given fine linen, bright and pure, to wear. This linen is the righteousness of Christ; the bride has prepared for this by being diligent in her walk in this wicked world, looking for the return of her Lord. In Rev 21, God's dwelling is with mankind as He makes all things new and the bride is revealed to be New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. There is no sanctuary because God almighty and the Lamb are such; there is no sun or moon because God's glory shines thereon and the lamp/light of the new world is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of this world.

Isaiah 62:6-7 (HCSB) Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen on your walls; they will never be silent, day or night. There is no rest for you, who remind the LORD. Do not give Him rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem the praise of the earth.

Here we have a double or dual application. Earthly Jerusalem did have watchmen - Ezekiel spends some time describing their function. In the kingdom of God inaugurated, present within the saints in this age, elders function in this role - warning of wolves and announcing the glories of the gospel of Christ. There will be rest for these watchmen when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven.

Isaiah 62:8-9 (HCSB) The LORD has sworn with His right hand and His strong arm: I will no longer give your grain to your enemies for food, and foreigners will not drink your new wine you have labored for. For those who gather grain will eat it and praise the LORD, and those who harvest the grapes will drink the wine in My holy courts.

Throughout Isaiah we've seen references to YHWH's raised arm, His strong arm. These refer to His might and power over all creation and allude to His deliverance of Israel from Egypt. For generations, pagan nations raided Israel and took her produce - usually as judgment for their sin, as seen in Lev 26:16; Deut 28:31-33; and Judges 6:3-6. YHWH will put a stop to this, meaning Israel would retain more of her wealth and be very prosperous. National Israel never saw this prosperity. As long as people focus on kingdoms of this world, they will have difficulty seeing the kingdom of God. Unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God!

Isaiah 62:10-12 (HCSB) Go out, go out through the gates; prepare a way for the people! Build it up, build up the highway; clear away the stones! Raise a banner for the peoples. Look, the LORD has proclaimed to the ends of the earth, “Say to Daughter Zion: Look, your salvation is coming, His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him.” And they will be called the Holy People, the LORD’s Redeemed; and you will be called Cared For, A City Not Deserted.

Once more we see reference to clearing the way, preparing the way for the people to come to the Lord, raising His banner so all can see. John the Baptizer prepared the way, announcing the Lamb of God, awakening Israel to the consummation of their standing and the announcing of the new way, by faith and not by physical procreation. This is the gospel proclamation that we are charged with, heralding Christ Jesus as the savior of sinners, announcing peace that comes apart from the law and prophet even as it was foretold therein.

As promised to Abraham, salvation is proclaimed throughout the earth, as God will redeem His people from every nation, tongue, and tribe. The Lamb is coming to Zion, bringing salvation and His reward and gifts to those will be called "the Holy People, YHWH's redeemed" - which Peter alludes to: 1 Peter 2:9-10 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." This is how all the ransomed souls are seen in the eyes of God.

Since this new city, made of spiritual stones, is the dwelling place of God, it will be cared for like none other; it will never be deserted for God is with us! That is why He was called Immanuel. Ponder that saints - God is with us! I dare say this is something we do not meditate on enough - even though it is a wonderful truth that bring great comfort in times of trials. Carefully consider how this concept is put into song, this from Matthew Smith's rendition of "What Wondrous Love is This!"

And what wondrous love is this

Though I raised my clenched fist

He opened up my hand to received His gift


And what wondrous love is here

The God Immortal has drawn near

And shed His blood to close the rift


Praise the Lord who gave Himself for us! Make His mercies known, proclaim His glorious gospel far and wide. He will gain the full reward for His work. He is worthy of our worship. God with us. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Isaiah 61 - Jubilee!

It's as if the prophet anticipated the climax of his work and saw the promise of the Messiah more and more clearly. It was most certainly a burden on his soul to have his kinsmen of the flesh come to see Him as well. That ought to be our desire!

Isaiah 61:1-3 (HCSB) The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him.

This language has peeked out in various passages in Isaiah's gospel, all of which are based on the Levitical teaching about the year of Jubilee in Lev 25, which came every 50 years and was the basis for debt cancellation, release of slaves, return of property, and redemption and atonement.

When Jesus came back from His time of temptation in the dessert, He was teaching in their synagogues, being acclaimed by everyone (Luke 4:15). Then He entered into the synagogue, as was His custom, in Nazareth - the city of His birth. He walked in and stood up, indicating He was ready to read. (Luke 4:17) The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written, in Isaiah 61, which details these Jubilee blessings and declared that His coming had fulfilled those promises! Jesus stopped quoting Isaiah at the point wherein prophecy was fulfilled at that time. The latter part of verse 2 will be fulfilled when He returns to judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new: and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn.

When John's disciples asked if Jesus was the promised one (while John was in jail), Luke 7:22-23 (HCSB) He replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.”

Jesus did send John reassurance but not in the way we might expect, not with words of fleshly comfort. He declared Himself as Lord of the Sabbath as His witness. He brought the age of the true Sabbath, the day of the Lord's favor! This is true Jubilee!

Isaiah 61:4-7 (HCSB) They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations; they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Strangers will stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners will be your plowmen and vinedressers. But you will be called the LORD’s priests; they will speak of you as ministers of our God; you will eat the wealth of the nations, and you will boast in their riches. Because your shame was double, and they cried out, “Disgrace is their portion,” therefore, they will possess double in their land, and eternal joy will be theirs.

The first part of this passage points to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which was the object of most Jews. Israel did have foreigners provide for them and trade with them, but did not have them as servants throughout the land. In Exodus 19, the infant Jewish nation was told they would be His kingdom of priests and a holy nation, IF they listened to Him and kept the covenant He gave them on Mount Horeb. Peter also used this language in declaring that all who had faith in Christ Jesus "are living stones being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood ... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession" (1 Peter 2:5, 9). The blessings promised in the Mosaic Covenant were temporal and dependent upon the obedience of those in that covenant; those promised in the New Covenant are spiritual (many with temporal aspects) and dependent on the faithfulness of the Messiah, in whom is the fullness of God. One is secure, like building on rock; the other is tenuous, like building on sand.

The last sentence in this passage shows how devoted God is protecting and rewarding His people. Those who were not His people but have now been made His people receive mercy (1 Peter 2:10) - the "double land" refers to the new earth that Peter also wrote about. All the inhabitants of that land, the royal priesthood, will have eternal joy, based on the unbounded blessedness and bliss of fully realizing what Christ has done for us. We see through a glass dimly now, but will see Him face-to-face one day!

Isaiah 61:8-9 (HCSB) For I Yahweh love justice; I hate robbery and injustice; I will faithfully reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations, and their posterity among the peoples. All who see them will recognize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.

When YHWH announces He loves justice and hates theft and injustice, He is reminding national Israel of their consistent failure to be just, as they fell into oppression on a routine basis. Zechariah 7:8-14 is one such time when God spells out Israel's failures to do justice, Micah reminded them that to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God" was the sum of obedience pleasing to YHWH. Since man is unable, in his natural condition, to do these things, God Himself has made a covenant by His Son, and His reward is in His hand, to give to every son and daughter He has purchased with His death. All the nations will be in awe of the glories of God poured out on His people and then all the nations will be judged and swept away as He descends upon the new earth with His spiritual house.

Isaiah 61:10-11 (HCSB) I greatly rejoice in the LORD, I exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth produces its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

The response to one who has been raised up by the Spirit is to GREATLY rejoice in YHWH, to exult in God! He has clothed us in His righteousness - that of the highest royalty! Garments of salvation are necessary - recall the parable of the wedding feast and the one at the end who had no proper clothes. These are not the ostentatious robes of the Levitical priesthood but the humble yet glorious robes of the eternal righteousness of the glorious Creator and Judge of all flesh! No amount of increase in the bounty of this world can truly compare with the amazing transformation of a sinner being raised up and clothed in Christ!

Saints - are you in AWE at being in Christ? Look deeply into His Word, seeking to see Him more clearly, more gloriously and mighty! Let your soul be swept up to the heavenlies, wherein we are seated with Him, to rejoice with all the saints because the Lamb has conquered and ransomed us from master sin!

People of the word: time is short, the Judge is coming. You will find no refuge, no hiding place anywhere on this world. He who created the world sees all and judges righteously. Cry out for mercy and plead for the Judge to pardon you and cleans you and give you a new heart.

Jesus is coming again. This time, not to deal with sin but to gather those who eagerly await Him. His reward is in His hand - and so is His sword.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Isaiah 60 - God's Glory in Zion

This chapter is another example of what is called dual or double reference prophecy, where the Scripture gives word pictures of what will happen soon on this earth (near) and what will happen at the end of the age, on the new earth (far). As in the Olivet Discourse, references to near and far are mixed together in Hebrew fashion, making it difficult for our linear western minds to make sense of it. Hence, many think this chapter is ONLY near, lending false support for a dispensational view.

Isaiah 60:1-3 (HCSB) Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you. For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance.

In 59:9 the people of Israel cried for light, even as they refused the light God had given them; so it is in our current chapter. Isaiah used similar language in 9:2, 29:19, 30:26, 51:17, and 52:2. In this context, his words are reminiscent of the creation account, wherein darkness covered the earth and God created light. The opening of John's gospel conveys this very same message, which begins and ends this chapter: A great light has come in the midst of the sin-darkened world. And His own knew Him not. Lastly, we see in verse 3 a foretelling of the end of the age: Revelation 21:23-25 "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there."

Isaiah 60:4-5 (HCSB) Raise your eyes and look around: they all gather and come to you; your sons will come from far away, and your daughters will be carried on the hip. Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will tremble and rejoice, because the riches of the sea will become yours and the wealth of the nations will come to you.

Sons and daughters (young ones - being carried on the hip) were signs of wealth in the ancient near east. Having these children would cause the Jewish people to rejoice and be satisfied. But I think we ought to look back to the promise to Abram and how it is being fulfilled in the New Covenant - Abraham would be the father to many and all who believe on Christ are children of Abraham, according to promise, not according to fleshly lineage. This will cause all indwelt by the Holy Spirit to tremble and rejoice, as all the riches of the earth will be ours when Jesus returns to make all things new.

Verses 6 - 9 describe the wealth that will be brought to Israel, including camels carrying gold and frankincense; flocks of sheep and goats for sacrifice to glorify God's house; ships from Spain bringing children with silver and gold; all for the honor and glory of YHWH - the Holy One of Israel!

Isaiah 60:10-12 (HCSB) Foreigners will build up your walls, and their kings will serve you. Although I struck you in My wrath, yet I will show mercy to you with My favor. Your gates will always be open; they will never be shut day or night so that the wealth of the nations may be brought into you, with their kings being led in procession. For the nation and the kingdom that will not serve you will perish; those nations will be annihilated.

Perhaps God speaks of when Artaxerxes paid for Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of earthly Jerusalem - they were served by that king. He reminds Israel that they have been punished for their rebellion, yet He will have mercy on them, bestowing His favor upon them. Here is a look at prophecy fulfilled in our past, in national Israel's time. What comes next, I believe, is a look at prophecy fulfilled at the end of time, as recorded in Revelation 21:25-26 "Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it." For until then, wars and rumors of war will fill our ears and wicked men and their governments will not be eliminated until the Lamb returns to judge them.

Isaiah 60:13-14 (HCSB) The glory of Lebanon will come to you— its pine, fir, and cypress together to beautify the place of My sanctuary, and I will glorify My dwelling place. The sons of your oppressors will come and bow down to you; all who reviled you will fall facedown at your feet. They will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Lebanon coming to Israel reflects the restoration of that land as we read about in 35:2, with images of wealth (healthy trees flourishing) bring beauty to the dwelling place of God. This was accomplished with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, but God's glory never dominated that place as it had previous ones. His temple on the new earth will fulfill this prophecy, as the oppressors who have plagued God's covenant people will bow down and fall on their faces before us, as Christ noted in Revelation 3:9 "Take note! I will make those from the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying—note this—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you." God's people are now known as His temple; since we belong to the Holy One of Israel, even Christ, we are on Zion, not Sanai - the city of YHWH!

Isaiah 60:15-17 (HCSB) Instead of your being deserted and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you an object of eternal pride, a joy from age to age. You will nurse on the milk of nations, and nurse at the breast of kings; you will know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. I will bring gold instead of bronze; I will bring silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood, and iron instead of stones. I will appoint peace as your guard and righteousness as your ruler.  

This short paragraph lists 6 different contrasts between Israel's treatment by the world and YHWH's treatment of His people, with a statement in the middle showing why He does these things. These 6 contrasts deal with temporal things, dealing with the wealth symbols of the era: prideful, served by kings, having gold, silver, bronze, and iron instead of lesser materials. All these are promised so His people "will know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." Saints, we need to keep this in mind - the primary, over-arching reason anything and everything was created is to bring glory and honor to God. Our salvation is not primarily about us - it is so God will be glorified in justifying sinners; the angels will continuously marvel at this! And YHWH will appoint peace as our guard and righteousness as our ruler - something that was begun at His first advent and will be complete upon His second and last advent.

Isaiah 60:18-20 (HCSB) Violence will never again be heard of in your land; devastation and destruction will be gone from your borders. But you will name your walls salvation and your gates, praise. The sun will no longer be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will not shine on you; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor. Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not fade; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over.

Another series of contrasts, but all of these compare the fading glory and constant warfare of this age with the peace and rest of the age to come. No more violence, devastation, or destruction - things which plagued Israel and plague us this day. The walls that protect us will be called "salvation" and the gates called "praise" because the salvation Christ has earned for us keeps us secure for eternity, filling our mouths with praise!

Providing imagery for John's Apocalypse, Isaiah tells us no more sun and moon for light because YHWH will be our eternal light, God will be our splendor. LYWH will be our everlasting light - mentioned twice so we don't miss it - and sorrow will be gone. All that effects of the curse will be gone. See how God describes it: Revelation 21:1-4 (HCSB) "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away."

Eternal light and the glory of God - that's what Isaiah is painting for us. Same as we read in Revelation 22:1-5 (HCSB) "Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever."

Note the parallels between John's account and Isaiah's and see that both speak the same language, describing the same scene. And this is how our chapter finishes.

Isaiah 60:21-22 (HCSB) Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever; they are the branch I planted, the work of My hands, so that I may be glorified. The least will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am Yahweh; I will accomplish it quickly in its time.

In the New Covenant alone are ALL the members righteous, because each has been purchased by Christ and His righteousness imputed to them. We will possess the new earth forever because God has done this! Done this SO HE MAY BE GLORIFIED! He would be great in the kingdom must be a servant of the least; whoever wants to be first in the kingdom must be slave of all (Matt 20:26-27). This reflects the means by which the Lord Jesus came into the world, the least of us from a nowhere town; a servant to His own creatures to the point of death on the cross. Brothers and sisters, let none of us think we He is fortunate to have us; let none of think we are better than those who know Him not. All is done by God for His glory and we have no reason to boast except in Him. We are better than the worst reprobate, we are better OFF because the Lamb of God has given Himself for us.