David Guzik's Commentary on the Bible
ISAIAH 65 - THE LORD ANSWERS THE PRAYER OF THE REMNANT
A. The immediate answer: The LORD will indeed bless His genuine servants.
1. (Isaiah 65:1-7) The LORD sees the shallow repentance of the remnant.
I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; who sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves, and spend the night in the tombs; who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!” These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. “Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay; even repay into their bosom; your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together,” says the LORD, “Who have burned incense on the mountains and blasphemed Me on the hills; therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.”
a. Isaiah 63:7 through 64:12 is the prayer of the remnant, voiced through the prophet Isaiah. It is one of the most beautiful and moving prayers in the Bible. Yet it does not seem to be representative of the heart of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Here, God speaks to that heart, a heart with a shallow repentance.
b. I was sought by those who did not ask for Me: The Jewish exiles in Babylon were examples of those who did ask for the LORD but they would not find Him, because for the most part they sought Him insincerely. Yet, God would be found by those who did not seek Him - namely, the Gentiles.
i. Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10:20-21 : But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” These were bold words indeed from Isaiah, “so bold, say Origen and others, that for this cause, among others, he was sawn asunder by his unworthy countrymen.” (Trapp)
c. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people: It wasn’t that the LORD had ignored the Jewish exiles in Babylon, and other like them. He stretched out His hands all day long to them. Some responded (like Daniel, or like the one prophetically praying in Isaiah 63:7 through 64:12), but most were a rebellious people.
d. Who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts: This defines what it is to be a rebellious people - simply, to walk in a way . . . according to their own thoughts. To trust in our own wisdom, our own judgment, our own thinking, is to be among the rebellious people.
i. This idea is repeated in several different places in Scripture. The phrase in the book of Judges that characterized the wickedness of that age shows it: everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; Jdg_21:25). Proverbs expresses the idea like this: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12; Pro_16:25). To live according to their own thoughts may sound like freedom, but really it is bondage. God’s solution to living according to our own thoughts is revealed in Romans 12:2, to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
e. A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face: The walk of these people, according to their own thoughts, expresses itself in the most offensive and unholy ways before the LORD. The people sacrifice in gardens to idols. They sit among the graves, breaking the commands against contact with the dead (Numbers 19:11). They eat swine’s flesh, and drink the broth of abominable things.
i. Each of these sins were grossly offensive to the LORD. It is tragic, but true, that walking according to our own thoughts will always lead us in to direct, blatant, opposition to the LORD.
f. Yet all the while, even in the midst of such extreme offense before God, they can say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!” No wonder God considers such people as smoke in My nostrils. Therefore, judgment is promised to them: I will not keep silence, but will repay . . . your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together.
i. How could anyone think “I am holier than you!” when the are steeped in the sins described in this passage? This is a dramatic display of the blindness pride brings. They could say, “I am holier than you!” and really mean it, because of their deep blindness.
ii. Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon titled Self Righteousness - A Smoldering Heap of Rubbish on this text. In it, he describes how dangerous and insidious self righteousness is. “Moreover, self-righteous men, like foxes, have many tricks and schemes. They condemn in other people what they consider to be very excusable in themselves. They would cry out against others for a tenth part of the sin which they allow in themselves: certain constitutional tendencies, and necessities of circumstances, and various surroundings, all serve as ample apologies. Besides this, if it be admitted that they are wrong upon some points, yet in other directions they are beyond rebuke. If they drink, they do not swear; and if they swear, they do not steal: they make a great deal out of negatives: if they steal, they are not greedy and miserly, but spend their gains freely. If they practice fornication, yet they do not commit adultery; if they talk filthily, yet they boast they do not lie. They would be counted well because they are not universally bad. They do not break every hedge, and therefore they plead that they are not trespassers. As if a debtor for a hundred pounds should claim to be excused because he does not owe two hundred: or, as if a highwayman should say, ‘I did not stop all the travelers on the road; I only robbed one or two, and therefore I ought not to be punished.’ If a man should willfully break the windows of your shop, I warrant you, you would not take it as an excuse if he pleaded, ‘I did not break them all; I only smashed one sheet of plate glass.’ Pleas which would not be mentioned in a human court are thought good enough to offer to God. O the folly of our race!” (Spurgeon)
ii. Spurgeon also focused his attention of the most religious of the self-righteous: “Those who come with the language of repentance but without the spirit of it, are sometimes the most self-righteous of all, for they say ‘I am all right because I am not self-righteous.’ They make a self-righteousness out of the supposed absence of self-righteousness. ‘Thank God,’ say they, ‘we are not as other men are, nor even as these self-righteous people.’ Hypocrites all the way through.”
iii. Man is so corrupt that he can be self-righteous over almost anything. “This weed of self-righteousness will grow on any dunghill. No heap of rubbish is too rotten for the accursed toadstool of proud self to grow upon.” (Spurgeon)
2. (Isaiah 65:8-16) A promise of blessing for the true servants of the LORD, and a promise of chastisement for the false or shallow servants of God.
Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it,’ so will I do for My servants’ sake, that I may not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for My people who have sought Me. But you are those who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who prepare a table for Gad, and who furnish a drink offering for Meni. Therefore I will number you for the sword, and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear, but did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be ashamed; behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, but you shall cry for sorrow of heart, and wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name; so that he who blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hidden from My eyes.
a. “Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it,” so will I do for My servants’ sake: Despite the unholy rebellion and pride of some of the remnant, God still has His servants, and He will bless and restore them. The will be regathered into His land, for He says: “My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.” He has a special place for My people who have sought Me.
i. The picture of Isaiah 65:8 is striking. The idea is that God finds a few “good grapes” among the corrupt cluster of His people. It is for the sake of these - for My servants’ sake - that the Lord shows blessing and restores. “Found suggests that the grapes were oozing as they were picked and that this was specially prized. Hence there is some good . . . Marvellously, then, the Lord finds his people a blessing, and he prizes and guards them.” (Motyer)
ii. “If the Church had clearly understood this simple example, then, it would not have dared to teach Israel’s total rejection. Even as He would have saved Sodom for the sake of five righteous people, so He will spare Israel, His vine, for the sake of His servants, the cluster of good grapes.” (Bultema)
b. But you are those who forsake the LORD: Not all are numbered among the servants of the LORD. They are destined for judgment, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear, but did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight. On top of all their other sins is the sin of simply refusing to listen to God’s correction.
i. It is one thing for us to fall into sin through weakness or ignorance; such sin is indeed sin, and God must deal with it as such. But refusing to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit is far worse. It is bad enough to be speeding down the highway; it is worse to ignore the flashing red lights in your rearview mirror.
ii. Wolf on Gad and Meni: “They were presenting offerings to the gods ‘Fortune’ and ‘Destiny,’ so their destiny would be the sword.”
c. Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry: Because of this, the true servants of God among the remnant will be blessed, but the false servants will be cursed. Why? It is necessary, so that he who blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth. If God does not reward His true servants, and curse His false servants, then God is not shown to be the God of truth.
i. The God of truth is literally “the God of (the) Amen . . . the God who says ‘amen’ to all his promises, affirming their reality and his trustworthiness to keep them.” (Motyer)
B. The ultimate answer: The LORD will redeem and remake all of creation.
1. (Isaiah 65:17-19) The promise of a new heavens and a new earth.
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
a. Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: As the ultimate answer to the problem of man’s sin, God will create a new heavens and a new earth. This takes place after the millennium, the glorious thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, when this very earth and sky is done away with and God makes a new heavens and a new earth.
i. Peter used this promise to encourage believers to holy living: Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). In the book of Revelation, John also sees this: And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea (Revelation 21:1).
ii. From John’s context we see that this new heavens and a new earth comes after the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) and is connected not with the millennial earth, but with the eternal state. If all we had to go by was Isaiah’s statement, we would automatically connect this new heavens and a new earth with the millennial earth, because immediately after Isaiah 65:17-19, we clearly find the millennial earth described. But based on what we find in 2 Peter and Revelation, we must see that Isaiah is in the prophetic habit of switching quickly from one time frame to another, speaking of the eternal state in Isaiah 65:17, and of the millennial earth in Isaiah 65:20-25.
b. And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind: This is another indication that Isaiah 65:17 does not speak of the millennial earth. Other passages of Scripture referring to the millennium show that there will be definite remembrance of former times on the earth. The whole temple ritual existing in the millennial earth (Ezekiel 40-46) will be a remembrance of the former days of Levitical sacrifice. The former nations of the world will remain (after judgment), and will serve the LORD and Israel (Psalms 72).
c. I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing: There will be a Jerusalem in the eternal state, in the new heavens and a new earth. Revelation describes - in stunning imagery - the descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven to the new earth (Revelation 21:2-27). It is in this Jerusalem, the eternal New Jerusalem, that the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
i. John clearly connects this promise to the New Jerusalem: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).
2. (Isaiah 65:20-25) The blessed state of the millennial earth.
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.
a. No more shall an infant from there live but a few days . . . for the child shall die one hundred years old: Quickly - as is the prophetic habit - Isaiah shifts gears, and now speaks not of the eternal state, but of the millennial earth. There will be death in the millennial earth, but in the transformed biology and ecology of the world under the reign of Jesus Christ, people will live incredibly longer, as they did in the days before the flood.
i. In the millennial earth, people will live so long that if someone dies being one hundred years old, people will consider that one accursed.
b. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit: The millennial reign of Jesus Christ will not only be a time of biological transformation, it will also be a time of social transformation, when perfect justice reigns over the earth. Never again will someone be robbed of the fruits of their labor. If you build a house, no one will steal it from you. You will inhabit that house. If you plant vineyards, no one will steal the fruit of it. You will eat their fruit. God gloriously promises, My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
i. This may not sound like much, but for those who live in profoundly unjust times, this simple justice sounds like a miracle.
ii. One significant reason there will be such justice on the millennial earth is because Satan will be bound for these 1,000 years, unable to work his destructive mischief on the earth (Revelation 20:1-3).
c. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them: There will be babies born and children raised in the millennial earth, and this is another indication that we are not in the eternal state. In the eternal state, we neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven (Matthew 22:30). In the millennial earth, those allowed to enter are blessed of the LORD, and they and their descendants will populate the earth.
d. It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear: The millennial reign of Jesus Christ will not only be a time of biological and social transformation. It will also be a time of profound spiritual transformation and intimacy. There will be an immediate and constant sense of the presence of God, and His knowledge will cover the earth (Isaiah 11:9).
i. This does not mean that every on the millennial earth will be saved; only that the opportunity for such close relationship will be widely enjoyed. We know that not all will be saved during the millennial earth because:
ii. Though not all will be saved on the millennial earth, we may suppose that the proportions will be reversed. Today, it is but a remnant that are saved, because many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14) and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14). In the millennial earth, the few will be those who don’t know the LORD and are not saved.
iii. One of the reasons why most are saved and know the LORD on the millennial earth is because not all survivors of the Great Tribulation are allowed to populate the millennial earth. After the Great Tribulation - which in judgment reduces the population of the earth by at least a third (Revelation 9:15; Rev_9:18) - Jesus Christ will return to the earth, and in the judgment of the nations, determine who will be allowed to populate the millennial earth (Matthew 25:32-34). The millennial earth will have a “screened” population, that in terms of righteousness, will not be perfect, but better than the present earth.
e. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together: The millennial earth will also see a remarkable ecological transformation. No longer will predators stalk their victims. Instead, even the wolf and the lamb will get along, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
f. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD: This is the glorious result of the transformation that happens during the millennial earth. The world will be different biologically, spiritually, socially, and ecologically.
i. The Bible speaks powerfully to other aspects of the millennial earth. Tragically, the Church through history has often ignored or denied the promise of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The early church until Augustine almost universally believed in an earthly, historical reign of Jesus, initiated by His return. Tyconius (in the late 300’s) was the first to influentially champion a spiritualized interpretation, saying that this Millennium is now (amillennialism). His view was adopted by Augustine, the Roman Catholic Church and most Reformation theologians. Growing out of amillennialism is the doctrine of postmillennialsim is an outgrowth of amillennialism, saying the millennium will happen in this age, before Jesus’ return - but that the church will bring it to pass. But the clear teaching of the Bible isn’t amillennialism or postmillennialism, but what is called premillennialism - the teaching that Jesus Christ will return to this earth before the millennial earth, and He is establish and govern it directly. There are more than 400 verses in more than 20 different passages in the Old Testament which deal with this time when Jesus Christ rules and reigns personally over planet earth.
Saturday, March 8th, 2014
the Last Week after Epiphany
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