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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
The opening verse of this great book gives us information concerning the prophet Isaiah and the period covered by his official ministry. “The Vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Of his personal history we know but little. Jewish tradition claims that he was related to King Uzziah. That he must have come from a prominent family may be gathered from the fact that he had ready access into the presence of the kings of Judah, Ahaz and Hezekiah, and probably also the others. That he was married we learn from the book. He had two sons which bore prophetic names. The one was Shear-Jashub (a remnant shall return), prophetically indicating that God would leave a remnant of His people. The second son was Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “hasting to the spoil, hurrying to the prey,” prophetic of the coming and threatening invasion of Assyria.
Nothing else is said of his personal history in the book which bears his name nor do we find anything about his death. There is a trustworthy tradition that he lived during the reign of Manasseh, also that he suffered martyrdom, because he reproved the vices and idolatries rampant during the reign of that wicked king. This tradition says that the mode of his death was by being sawn asunder. (See Hebrews 11:37 which, in case this tradition is true, would apply to Isaiah.) Josephus, the great Jewish historian, speaks of the cruel persecutions under the reign of Manasseh in the following words: “He barbarously slew all the righteous men that were among the Hebrews; nor would he spare the prophets, for he every day slew some of them, till Jerusalem was overflowed with blood.”
The Times of Isaiah
Isaiah lived during the eighth century before Christ. This is fully confirmed by the chronology of the kings of Judah mentioned in the first verse of the book. To understand fully the prophecies which he made in the name of Jehovah, a good knowledge of the times in which he lived and acted as Jehovah’s mouthpiece is eminently necessary. We shall enter into it a little more fully to help the student of this book.
Isaiah must have lived to a very old age, for it is quite certain that for fully seventy years he exercised his God-given office. Two hundred and forty years before Isaiah the kingdom of Israel had been divided, after Solomon’s apostasy. The glory had departed from both the kingdom of Israel or Samaria (also called Ephraim), and the kingdom of Judah. Both had been greatly affected by civil wars and conflicts with other nations. The kingdom of Israel sunk deeper and deeper, ruled over by a number of depraved kings, who plunged the people into the grossest idolatries with the accompanying immoralities, so that God’s righteous judgment fell upon it first. During the prophetic ministry of our prophet the judgment fell on the ten tribe kingdom of Israel. About the year 736 B.C., Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian king, had killed Rezin, the king of Damascus, with whom Pekah the king of Samaria had made an alliance. Tiglath-Pileser then invaded the northern kingdom of Israel, took many cities in Gilead and Galilee and carried the inhabitants into his own country. (See 2 Kings 16:5-9 ; Amos 1:5 , etc.) This was the first captivity of Israel. The rest of the inhabitants of Samaria, the kingdom of the ten tribes, were carried away by the successor of Tiglath-Pileser, that is Shalamaneser. (Read about this in 2Ki 17:3-18 , 1 Chronicles 5:26 , and Hosea 8:16). Now, Isaiah’s home was in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Judah, and he witnessed from there the calamity which had come upon the ten tribes.
Isaiah began his ministry under the reign of Uzziah. He was a good king, a worshipper of the Lord, yet he did not remove the places of idolatrous worship. He had a sad end 2 Kings 15:1-38 ). He is also called Azariah. Chapter 6 in Isaiah tells us that he had his great vision in the year when this king died of leprosy. The son of Uzziah, Jotham, reigned in his stead. He did not trouble himself about the high places and the idolatrous groves, and the condition of the nation was that of corruption (2 Kings 15:22-26 ). He built cities, castles and towns; he prepared for war in time of peace. The ancient Assyria had seen its end with Sardanapulus and in its place arose the two kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia. Babylonia soon took the lead and Assyria was joined to the Chaldean monarchy. The dissolution of the great Assyrian monarchy took place during the reign of Jotham, yet we have not evidence that Isaiah uttered a definite prophecy during the reign of Jotham. He probably did, but we cannot locate it in the book.
Then came Ahaz, the twelfth king of Judah. He was an ungodly ruler and his reign was marked by disaster. (See 2 Chronicles 28:1-27 ; 2 Kings 16:1-20 .) In idolatry such as burning incense in the valley of Hinnom, and burning his children in the fire of idol worship, he was as wicked, or almost so, as his grandson Manasseh. As a punishment the Lord sent the kings of Syria and Samaria against him. In one day Pekah the king of Syria killed a large number of Jews and took 200,000 captive. They were only saved from deportation by the intercession of the prophet Obed. The full record of this is found in 2 Chronicles 28:1-27 . Then Ahaz trembled before this strong alliance and resolved in calling in the aid of the Assyrian.
It was at that time that prophet and king met at the waterworks as recorded in chapter 7. The prophet assured the wicked monarch that Jerusalem had nothing to fear from Syria and Samaria, that Jehovah would protect Jerusalem. He urged Ahaz to ask a sign, which he refused to do. Then the Lord gave him a sign, that of the virgin who should conceive and bring forth a son and call his name Emmanuel. It is a prediction concerning the virgin birth of Israel’s Redeemer King, the Son of God. The thought is this; How can Jerusalem and Judah perish as long as He, the Messiah, David’s Son and David’s Lord, has not come? Isaiah also told the king that the menace then threatening would be speedily removed, but that his alliance with the Assyrian would bring disaster. But Ahaz, though he saw a fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the kings of Syria and Samaria, did not heed the warning. When an invasion of the Edomites and Philistines threatened 2 Chronicles 28:17 , etc.), he turned again to his old ally, the king of Assyria. He made him costly presents. Tiglath-Pileser, as already stated above, conquered the kings of Syria and Samaria. Ahaz visited his heathen friend and ally in Damascus, and when he saw there a beautiful altar, he sent a model of it to Urijah, the priest, in Jerusalem, who constructed one like it, and afterward Ahaz used it to commit idolatry and all the abominations which go with it. (See 2 Kings 16:1-20 .) But the prophecy about disaster through the Assyrian king was not fulfilled during the lifetime of this wicked king. It came with Sennacherib’s invasion during the reign of the next king Hezekiah. He invaded the land but could not touch Jerusalem.
Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, was the very opposite to his wicked father. He was one of the most godly kings which occupied the throne of David. He started in with overturning the altars of idolatry and cutting down the groves where his predecessors had permitted the wicked religious ceremonies of heathendom. Then the temple was renovated. He also destroyed the brazen serpent which Moses long ago had made, and which had been preserved as an object of idolatry, much as ritualistic Christendom worships the literal cross of wood or metal. He restored furthermore the observance of Passover. After his successful war with the Philistines, he decided to cast off the yoke of the Assyrian by not paying the tribute which his father Ahaz had promised to pay. Then Sennacherib advanced with a large army and spread ruin in every direction. Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem and prepared for a siege 2 Chronicles 22:1-12 ). Then he sent ambassadors to the Assyrian and sued for peace. Sennacherib demanded a large sum of money and gave him assurance that the army would be withdrawn 2 Kings 18:13-37 . Hezekiah agreed and stripped even the temple of its treasures to pay the vast sum. Then Sennacherib went down to Egypt but was defeated by Tirhaka, king of Ethiopia. Maddened by the defeat he approached Jerusalem again, and sent messengers from Lachish and demanded its surrender. Hezekiah then spread the whole matter before the Lord, in the house of the LORD, and received the answer that the city was safe. Isaiah’s ministry in all this is found in the historical portion of his book. When Sennacherib dared to advance towards the city, the angel of the Lord slew 185,000 of his men in one night. It must be remembered that a large portion of the prophecies of Isaiah up to chapter 39 are occupied with these events, and can only be rightly understood in the light of the history of Judah of that period.
Concerning the Authorship of Isaiah
We have stated before that according to Jewish tradition Isaiah perished by the hands of wicked men by being sawn asunder. Equally wicked men have “sawn him asunder” in a different way. We mean the so-called “higher or destructive critics.” Did Isaiah really write this book? Could it be the work of one man? Are there not evidences of a composite authorship? These and other questions have been raised, and their answers given by men whose boast is of superior scholarship, of greater knowledge than the knowledge of the past generations; men who blasphemously assert that their finite brains have absorbed more knowledge in these matters than the infinite Lord of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, possessed in the days of His dwelling on earth.
For some 2,500 years no one ever thought of even suggesting that Isaiah did not write the book which bears his name. The criticism of this book and the denial of this great prophet being the sole author of it is a very modern thing. It started with a man by the name of Koppe, who attacked, in 1780, the genuineness of chapter 1. He was followed by another theologian who expressed doubt as the Isaiah being the author of chapters 40-66, generally called the second part of Isaiah. Rosenmureller, the notorious Eichorn, the Hebraist Gesenius, Ewald and others took a hand in it in sawing Isaiah asunder, each questioning certain portions of the book. The great Leipzig professor, Franz Delitzsch, also joined the band of “scientific butchers,” and declared that the second part of Isaiah is of post-exilic authorship. This was done by him in 1889, and after this with the year 1890 a veritable flood of criticism set in, led, by Canon Driver, George Adam Smith, Duhm, Stade, Hackman, Comill, Cheyne and many others. Their infidel discoveries have been readily accepted in this country and are now being taught in Methodist colleges, in the Union Theological Seminary of New York, the Chicago University, in Baptist, Presbyterian and other denominational institutions. But let it be said that there are also scholars just as mature as these critics who stand up for the Isaiahan authorship of the whole book. We mention Stier, Weber, Strachey, Naegelsbach, Barnes, Bodenkamp, Cobb, Benjamin Douglass, Green, Thirtle, and many others.
The critics have invented a Deutero-Isaiah, that is a second Isaiah, who should have written the second part. Then another set of “scholars” with their scientific microscope discovered that this Deutero-Isaiah could not have written everything of this second part; that there was a third, or Trito-isaiah, who wrote chapters 55-66. They also found out with their scholarship that parts were written in Babylon, and other parts in Palestine. They are still at it, “sawing Isaiah asunder.” To mention their methods, their hair-splittings, their philological objections and their claims would fill pages, and we would, if we were to follow it, oblige our readers to examine the inventions of the natural, darkened heart of man, which does not believe in God. There are 1,292 verses in the book of Isaiah. Out of these the ultra critics allow 262 verses to be genuine and the rest, 1,030 verses, are rejected by them.
We repeat here what we say in the studies of Isaiah at the close of our analysis and annotations.
But what does all this mean? It is a denial of what is written in the first verse of this book, “The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.” And if several men wrote this book, if part was written during the Babylonian captivity and other parts added after the captivity, then this statement with which the book begins is untrue. This first verse assures us that the book is a whole, that all we find in it is the vision of one man. To deny this breaks down the truthfulness of the book and reduces it to the level of common literature. This is what the critics have done. But the book of Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament. The Jews always believed this book to have been written by Isaiah. They held this belief when our Lord was on the earth. He Himself read in the synagogue of Nazareth from chapter 61 which critics deny to be the writing of Isaiah. Quotations from Isaiah are frequently found in different parts of the New Testament. Twenty-one times we read of Isaiah and his words in the New Testament. The phrases used are the following: “Spoken by the prophet Esaias;” “Fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias;” “Well did Esaias prophesy;” “In the book of the words of Esaias;” “As said the prophet;” “These things said Esaias;” “Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias,” “Esaias also saith;” “Esaias saith.” This is evidence enough that the Lord and the Holy Spirit through the evangelists and the Apostle Paul set their seal to this uncontradicted and unanimous belief that Isaiah wrote this book. The critics by their methods impeach the testimony of the Lord Himself or charge the infallible Lord of Glory to have been limited in His knowledge and that He acquiesced in the current traditional belief of the Jewish people, knowing better Himself.
All the arguments of the critics are disproven by the book itself. One only needs to study this book and the careful study will bring out the unanswerable fact of the unity of the book of Isaiah. Only one person could have written such a book and that person did not write it by himself, but was the mouthpiece of Jehovah. This is the conclusion of an intelligent and spiritual study of the book itself. The silly and arbitrary restrictions the critics make, that Isaiah could not have written certain passages, because it was beyond his horizon, or that he could not have mentioned Cyrus, the Persian king, by name, over 150 years before he was born, springs from the subtle infidelity which is at the bottom of the destructive criticism, which denies the supernatural altogether.
The Message of Isaiah
The name Isaiah means “Jehovah saves” or “Jehovah is salvation.” He has well been called the evangelical prophet. There are more direct quotations as well as indirect allusions to this great book in the New Testament than from any other prophetic book. Josephus relates that Cyrus, the Persian king, was greatly moved by the reading of the book of Isaiah, one of the evidences, that Isaiah was not compiled after the exile. In the passage where Josephus speaks of the edict issued by Cyrus permitting the Jews to return, he says: “This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet has said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision, ‘My will is that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back My people to their own land, and build My temple.’ This was foretold by Isaiah 140 years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition came upon him to fulfill what was so written.” The early church held Isaiah in great esteem and recognized its great message. When Augustine had been converted he asked Ambrose which book he would advise him to study first. Ambrose told him, “The prophecies of Isaiah.” All the great men of God, the instruments of the Spirit of God like Luther, Calvin, Knox and others acknowledged the greatness of this book and its message.
What Peter says as to the contents of the writings of the prophets of God is more true of Isaiah than of any of the other prophetic books except the Psalms. “The Suffering of Christ and the glory that should follow.” Isaiah’s message reveals the Redeemer and King of Israel. He is the “Holy One of Israel” mentioned by this title twenty-five times. The Redeemer of Israel is Jehovah the Creator. He announced His virgin birth, the child to be born of the virgin, the Son given, and reveals the titles of that Son (9:6). He describes Him in His lowliness, His tenderness, His miracles, as the servant of Jehovah, and above all as the sin-bearer in that wonderful fifty-third chapter. But how much more Isaiah was permitted to reveal of His glory. He pictures in prophetic vision that kingdom which is yet to come, and which will come with the return of our Saviour-Lord. The details of His coming, His glory and His kingdom are unfolded in the special lecture on this subject which the reader finds with the other lectures at the close of the annotations.
Another great message is the predictions of future glories for and blessings for Israel, Jerusalem and the nations. These have been grouped by us in the third lecture on Isaiah under the following heads: (1) Israel’s Restoration to their Land, (2) Israel’s Spiritual Blessings, (3) The Blessings for the Land, (4) The Future of Jerusalem, (5) The Future Blessings of the Nations, (6) The Blessings for all Creation.
THE SCOPE OF ISAIAH
It is a great book which bears the name of Isaiah. The scope of the book and the contents are of indescribable grandeur. The more it is read, the more its majestic greatness takes hold of the heart and mind of the reader. The revelations and predictions it contains are the foundations of our faith. They unfold the future of Israel, describe the glories of the kingdom to come and the blessings in store for this earth. Isaiah is the prophet of the future. The supernatural origin of the writings of this noble prophet is in evidence throughout the entire book.
The work of the Critics. Perhaps no other book has been of late years so much attacked by the destructive critics as the book of Isaiah. This in itself is an evidence of its genuineness and inspiration. Satan through his instruments attacks especially those parts of God’s Word where the Holy Spirit has revealed the Person of our Lord, His work and His coming kingdom. It is the first move towards the rejection of the Person of Christ. In reading some of the critical works on Isaiah one is reminded of a dissecting room. These critics follow the tactics of the Jewish King Jehoiakim. He took the penknife and cut the scroll upon which God’s message through Jeremiah was written. I wonder if archaeologists will some day find that penknife. If so it ought to be presented as a precious relic to the school of the destructive critics who might build a shrine for it in one of their institutions.
It would be interesting to follow the history of this criticism. We fear, however, it would not be very edifying to us who are believers in the inspiration of this book. What the critics have especially attacked is the authorship. They tell us that the book of Isaiah is of a composite origin. Isaiah did not write the entire book which bears his name. For about 2500 years no one ever thought of even suggesting that Isaiah did not write the book. Then they invented an unknown person who is called the Deutero-Isaiah, i.e., a second Isaiah, who is said to have written the sublime chapters 40-66. With this they did not stop. They found out that this Deutero- Isaiah only wrote chapters 40-55 and a Trito-Isaiah wrote the greater part of chapters 55-66. With their supposed learning they discovered that some of these chapters were written in Babylon and others in Palestine. Some of the most radical critics have even gone beyond this.
To give the result of the work of the critics, men like George Adams Smith, Canon Driver and A. B. Davidson, declare that out of the 66 chapters, which compose the book of Isaiah forty-four were not written by Isaiah. Others cut out more than that so that actually they claim out of the 1292 verses found in the book of Isaiah only 260 were penned by the prophet.
But what does all this mean? It is a denial of what is written in the first verse of this book. “The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.” And if several men wrote this book, if part was written during the Babylonian captivity and other parts added after the captivity, then this statement with which the book begins is untrue. This first verse assures us that the book is a whole, that all we find in it is the vision of one man. To deny this breaks down the truthfulness of the book and reduces it to the level of common literature. This is what the critics have done. But the book of Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament. The Jews always believed this book to have been written by Isaiah. They held this belief when our Lord was on the earth. He Himself read in the synagogue of Nazareth from chapter 61, which the critics deny to be the writing of Isaiah. Quotations from Isaiah are frequently found in different parts of the New Testament. Twenty-one times we read of Isaiah and his words in the New Testament. The phrases used are the following: “Spoken by the prophet Esaias”; “Fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias”; “Well did Esaias prophesy”; “In the book of the words of Esaias”; “As said the prophet Esaias”; “The saying of Esaias the prophet”; “These things said Esaias”; “Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias”; “Esaias also saith”; “Esaias saith.” This is evidence enough that the Lord and the Holy Spirit through the evangelists and the Apostle Paul set their seal to this uncontradicted and unanimous belief that Isaiah wrote this book. The critics by their methods impeach the testimony of the Lord Himself or charge the infallible Lord of Glory to have been limited in His knowledge and that He acquiesced in the current traditional belief of the Jewish people, knowing better Himself.
All the arguments of the critics are disproved by the book itself. One only needs to study this book and the careful study will bring out the unanswerable fact of the unity of the book of Isaiah. Only one person could have written such a book and that person did not write it by himself, but was the mouthpiece of Jehovah. This is the conclusion of an intelligent and spiritual study of the book itself. The silly and arbitrary restrictions the critics make, that Isaiah could not have written certain passages, because it was beyond his horizon, or that he could not have mentioned Cyrus, the Persian king, by name, over 150 years before he was born, springs from the subtle infidelity which is at the bottom of the destructive criticism, which denies the supernatural altogether.
Turning to the book we find that there are two great parts:
1. The earlier prophecies (1-35)
Historical parenthesis (36-39)
2. The later prophecies (40-66)
In the first part we find that Isaiah witnesses against the moral and religious conditions of the people. Judgments are announced upon Jerusalem, Judah and upon the nations. Judgments to come are the leading features in the first 35 chapters. The blessings of the future after the execution of these judgments are also revealed, but they take a secondary place. We see in the first part the gathering of the storm-clouds, we hear the rolling thunders of divine judgment, and in the distance the calm and sunshine after the storm. The second part is introduced with the words of comfort, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” While we read also of judgments in this part the great revelation of the later prophecies of Isaiah is the restoration which is in store for Jerusalem and the great blessings which the nations and the earth will receive when Jerusalem has been restored and her people redeemed.
in the first part the Assyrian is announced to come against Jerusalem. The Assyrian invasion stands in the foreground. This Assyrian enemy however is the prophetic type of another external foe, who appears in the endtime. Then the deliverance of Jerusalem is announced and the Assyrian completely overthrown. In the second part the Assyrian enemy is no longer mentioned. From this we conclude that these chapters were written after the Assyrian period. Israel’s restoration from Babylon and from the greater dispersion which has lasted so long is predicted in the second part. The wonderful results of this restoration are here revealed. These two parts are therefore inseparable. The Isaiah who wrote of judgments is the Isaiah who makes known the blessings. The entire book gives the history of Israel, past, present and future. Both parts reveal Him who is the Holy One of Israel, the Redeemer. His incarnation, His obedience as God’s servant, His rejection, His suffering and death, His second coming and kingdom rule are progressively revealed from chapters 1-66.
The division of the first part. If we omit chapters 36-39, which are historical, we find that the main divisions of the first part are three.
First division (1-12) . In this division we find first Israel’s sin and apostasy; their hardening; God’s judgment upon them. This is followed by a vision concerning the future, 2:1-5. Six woes are pronounced in chapter 5 upon the apostate nation. We find the birth of the Redeemer announced. His Person, His work and His future glory are indicated. The Assyrian is mentioned for the first time; his pride and overthrow are pictured. The section closes with a vision of the future. The second coming of Christ, the restoration of the people Israel and what will come in blessing to the Gentiles and to creation is predicted. It closes with a beautiful song of praise, which redeemed Israel will sing in that day. Attention has often been called to the fact that the opening verses and chapters of a book give the key for the whole book. The first twelve chapters of Isaiah contain the whole book of Isaiah in embryo.
Second division (13-27) . Here we find first the judgments upon different nations announced. Babylon’s judgment stands in the foreground. When that final judgment falls upon Babylon and its king, Israel will find mercy and in a triumphant utterance celebrate the fall of the king of Babylon. All this has a meaning for the future. Then judgments are announced against other nations. Palestina, Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia, Egypt, Elam, Arabia and Tyre are mentioned. Eleven chapters, 13-23, are taken up with those judgments, which were only partially fulfilled in the past.
With the twenty-fourth chapter the subject of judgment is continued. Chapters 24-27 contain a great prophecy. The judgment announced is the coming judgment for this world when the Lord Jesus Christ appears the second time. All classes are affected by it and the high ones that are on high (Satan and his angels) and the kings on earth are involved in it. This portion ends with several songs of praise. The remnant of Israel praises Jehovah for deliverance and for His mercy to Jerusalem. Then there is a prophecy concerning the blessings of the future, when the Lord in connection with the blessing bestowed upon Israel will make a feast of fat things for all people. The last verse of this section announces once more the regathering of His scattered people to bring them back to Jerusalem. The great trumpet mentioned in 27:13 is the same of which the Lord speaks inMatthew 24:31 1 , only our Lord tells us in addition that the angels will be used in this service.
Third division (28-35) . In this section we find first six woes. The first section also contained six woes. The first woe is against Ephraim. Then follows the woe against Ariel (Jerusalem) that distress is to come upon this city. Blessing is promised after this visitation. Then there is a third woe against those who seek to hide their counsel from the Lord and their works are in the dark. The fourth woe is upon those who enter into an unholy alliance with Egypt, seek help there instead of the Lord. The fifth woe is directed against those who trust in the arm of flesh, in horses and chariots. The sixth woe is against the Assyrian destroyer. But alongside of these woes we find the promises of blessing to Israel in the future. A king is to reign in righteousness. The work of righteousness is to be peace. Jerusalem and Israel’s land is to be desolate till the Spirit be poured out from on high, then the wilderness shall be a fruitful field (32:13-20) . The 34th chapter is a great prophecy of the future day of the Lord when His indignation will be upon all nations and when His fury will be poured out upon all nations and when His fury will be poured out upon all their armies. It is the day of the Lord’s vengeance and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion (verse 8) . The last chapter in this section, chapter 35, shows again the future blessings for Israel and for the earth and the return of His people to Zion. And they come with singing. “And 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.”
We call attention to the fact that these three great sections follow the same course and end in the same way. The ending of each section reveals the restoration of Israel, the singing of the redeemed people and the blessing which will result from restored and blest Israel for the nations and for the earth.
in dividing the earlier prophecies of Isaiah into three sections we have not considered chapters 36-39. These chapters are of a historical character, Hezekiah’s experience with the Assyrian invasion, Hezekiah’s prayer, the prophet’s message to the king, the destruction of the Assyrian army, the king’s sickness and recovery and his fall into pride, are the contents of these four chapters. They may be looked upon as an appendix to the first part of Isaiah’s vision and the preface to the second part. The Assyrian and his destruction is the culmination of the first part; the prediction of Isaiah concerning the Babylonian captivity (chapter 39:6-7) opens the way for the later prophecies.
The division of the second part. In these later prophecies we find likewise three great sections. However the character of the predictions found in the second part differs much from the earlier prophecies. The historical settings so prominent in the first part are entirely absent in the second. We briefly hint at the structure and contents of these three divisions.
The first division (40- 48) . This section begins with the message of comfort to Jerusalem. The first two verses of the fortieth chapter are the keynotes of the great symphony of Israel’s future blessing and glory, which gradually breaks forth in this part, swelling higher and higher. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem (literally: to the heart of Jerusalem) and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Throughout these later prophecies we find the comfort in store for His people, that their wanderings will end in restoration, their enemies will be conquered and their sins pardoned. Should it surprise anyone that the language employed in these great messages differs very much from the language of the first and earlier prophecies?
We find in this opening section a great deal of the majesty and glory of the God of Israel. A contrast is made between Israel’s God and the idols of the nations. The one great proof brought forward is that the God of Israel has the power to predict future events. Read chapter 41:21-25. All this is spoken to encourage the faithful remnant of Israel to trust in Jehovah. In view of the Babylonian captivity, which Isaiah had announced this is of special meaning. Again and again Jehovah speaks in these chapters of Himself and His power to forgive, to save and to deliver. “I am He--the first and the last--I even I am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour--I am the Lord your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King--there is no God beside me--a just God and a Saviour”; these are a few of the direct utterances of Jehovah through Isaiah in this section. Jehovah has the power to save and to deliver His people.
Here we read of “the servant of Jehovah.” It has a twofold meaning. The redeemed remnant of Israel is spoken of as the servant of the Lord. This is what Israel will be in the future. But this title as used in the opening verses of chapter 42 refers to Christ.
The people of Israel are prophetically seen in this section in Babylon but about to be delivered from Babylon. The great deliverer Cyrus, whom God called, is named in this portion of the book. The Lord who speaks of His power to tell the future things manifests this power in naming an unborn being and telling beforehand what his work was to be. Cyrus and his mission are recorded over 150 years before this Persian king was born and the record is found in chapter 44:24-45:25. Cyrus is called “the anointed”--”my shepherd”--”whose right hand Jehovah upholdeth”--”who performs all Jehovah’s pleasure.” He is likewise called “a ravenous bird from the east” (46:11) . The return from Babylon is predicted to take place through the instrumentality of this king. But a greater restoration through a greater Anointed One, the Redeemer of Israel, is promised in these chapters. The end of the section looks forward to that great coming restoration. The last verse declares “there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.”
The second division (49-57) . This section brings the servant of Jehovah prominently before us. It is no longer the redeemed Israel, nor Cyrus, but the Lord Jesus Christ comes fully into view. The opening verses of chapter 49 with which this division begins are again the keynote to the entire section. The Servant of the Lord is here called Israel, for He is the true Israel. In Him God is glorified. He Himself breaks out in the mournful complaint. “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught.” He is called to bring Jacob to God, yet Israel is not gathered. But the Gentiles hear of Him, whom Israel refuses. “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” All is indicated in these verses what the Servant of the Lord would do. His people, the nation, would despise Him and Israel would not be regathered at once but the Gentiles were to hear of Him. In chapter 50:4-11 we read again of Him. Here His suffering is mentioned more fully. “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” (50:6) . The last time this Servant, the Christ, is mentioned by Isaiah is in chapter 53. Here we find the marvellous portrait of Him who suffered, died as the sinbearer and of His exaltation. After the sublime fifty-third chapter the Servant of the Lord is not mentioned again.
This section also speaks of what is in store for Israel when at last they believe in Him whom they once despised. The most glorious promises follow the fifty-third chapter. The fifty-fourth chapter has never yet seen its fulfillment and can only be fulfilled when the remnant of Israel bows before the One whom they once despised. These chapters of this section look forward to their future blessing. The last verse of the second division is the same as the last verse of the first division, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
The third division (58-66) . This is the great finale of Isaiah’s symphony of Israel’s coming restoration and redemption. It is the most majestic and sublime portion of the book. Here the remnant of Israel takes a more leading part. While in the previous chapters of these prophecies we hear promises of restoration in this concluding division we see a small and feeble remnant actually back in the land. It has nothing to do with the small remnant which returned from Babylon. It is a remnant of believing Jews brought back to the land and suffering in the midst of the great tribulation which precedes the glorious manifestation of the Lord and the literal fulfillment of the promises of the blessing for Jerusalem. We have a record of their soul exercise, their troubles and their prayers in chapter 63:7-64:12. In chapter 64:1 they pray for the coming of the Lord. And that coming in great power and glory is described in this division. The Redeemer comes to Zion and He comes bringing the day of vengeance for all His enemies (chapter 59:20; 63:1-6) . But who is able to expound the glorious things which are spoken of Jerusalem and the future of His redeemed people? Beginning with the sixtieth chapter we find an almost unbroken prediction of what is to be in the day when the Redeemer comes to Zion, what it will mean for His earthly people, for Jerusalem, for the nations and for all creation. This section is closely linked with certain predictions in the earlier prophecies; in fact, these closing chapters are expansions of the former vision of Isaiah as found in chapters 2:1-5; 11-12, and others. The last chapter is a resume of the great events predicted before. Here once more we read of the sudden manifestation of the Lord from heaven, the deliverance of the remnant of His people, the peace like a river for Jerusalem, the bringing back of the scattered sheep of Israel, the fiery judgments of the Lord and the conversion of the Gentiles. The last verse reveals the judgment upon the wicked. Their worm shall not die; their fire shall not be quenched. This fully corresponds with the ending of the two previous divisions, when the Lord saith, “there is no peace for the wicked.”
The same order of revelation prevails in the second part of Isaiah as in the first. We have seen how every division in the first part closed with predictions of blessing for Israel, their restoration and the glory of Jerusalem as well as the blessings which the whole earth will receive when that has come to pass. The same revelation is contained on a larger scale in the second part. The same order of events is maintained. And how solemn it is that each division of the later prophecies of Isaiah in the second part of his book closes with the declaration of the punishment, yea, the eternal punishment of the wicked. There is no peace for the wicked. Their worm dies not; their fire is not quenched. Evil teachers claim there is a restitution of all things including the wicked dead. Isaiah in his vision makes known what that promised restitution of all things is. The restoration of Israel; the restoration of Israel’s land; the restoration of Jerusalem; peace for this earth; deliverance for groaning creation--all these he reveals. But solemnly God has said, “There is no peace for the wicked.”
The great unity of the book of Isaiah proves that he wrote the entire book. The arrangement and contents tell us that it is not the work of man, but of the Spirit of God.
MESSIANIC PREDICTIONS IN ISAIAH
It would be of much interest and profit if we could take up each division of this great prophetic book and study some of its revelations. This we cannot do. But we shall point out two great topics which are progressively revealed in the vision of Isaiah. We shall study first the messianic unfoldings in this book, and then the great coming events, such as Israel’s future blessings in the earth and the blessings of the kingdom to come.
Of all the prophets Isaiah saw the most about Christ. Only the book of Psalms contains a larger number of messianic predictions. Every glory of our Lord and every phase of His life on earth were beheld by this great man of God. His incarnation, His growing up in Nazareth, His public ministry, His message to the people, His rejection by the nation, His sufferings, the shame and the cross, His death with its meaning, His resurrection, His ascension, His glorious exaltation and future manifestation as well as His work as Prophet, Priest and King, are all found in this book. We shall point out some of these great predictions and the connection in which we find them.
The Redeemer promised is Jehovah Himself. That the Messiah is Jehovah Himself, who appears on earth in the midst of His people, God manifested in the flesh, is seen in this entire book. The call of Isaiah to the prophetic office was in a great vision in which he saw Jehovah and His glory (Chapter 6) . Whom he beheld is explained in the Gospel of John, the Gospel which tells us so fully of the essential deity of the Lord Jesus. “These things said Esaias when he saw His glory and spake of Him” John 12:41 1 ) . He who was on the earth and whom His own received not is the One whose glory Isaiah saw in the temple vision.
He is called throughout Isaiah “the Holy One of Israel.” Twenty-five times this title of the Lord, who deals in judgment and in mercy with His people, is found in Isaiah. Read 1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14. This phrase is found in only six other passages in the Old Testament. The Holy One of Israel is Jehovah; He is the Redeemer of His people. “Our Redeemer Jehovah of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel” (47:4) . “Thus saith Jehovah, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (48:17) . This Holy One is the Creator. “The Holy One hath created it” (41:20) . He hath stretched the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth (41:13) . He appeared as the Holy One in their midst and they knew Him not but despised Him. In chapter 50:2-9 He is beheld as the One who clothes the heavens and who gives His back to the smiters. In chapter 49:7 the Redeemer, Jehovah, the Holy One, is seen as despised and abhorred by the nation. At His second coming Isaiah predicts Israel shall discover that the rejected and despised One is Jehovah. “Therefore My people shall know My Name, therefore they shall know that I am He” (52:6) . The words “I am He” (Ani Hu) is a divine Name and our Lord used it when He said to the woman at the well “I am” and to the company in the garden of Gethsemane.
In chapters 7 and 8 His name is revealed as “Immanuel,” God with us. Throughout Isaiah’s vision the Redeemer, the Anointed One who is rejected by the nation, who suffers and dies, who comes again to dwell in the midst of His people, is Jehovah.
His incarnation. The first messianic prediction in Isaiah relates to the incarnation of the Son of God. We find it in chapter 7:14. As it is well known its messianic character is denied by Jews and by the higher critics. The virgin birth is clearly predicted in these familiar words by Isaiah and the Holy Spirit in the first chapter of the New Testament tells us of the fulfillment of the words spoken by the Lord through Isaiah. In the first chapter of Luke the full announcement of the birth of Immanuel by the virgin is made by Gabriel to Mary. The rejection of this first great prophecy of the incarnation means the rejection of the incarnation itself.
Such alas! has been the case. We do not attempt to enter into the objections which are made againstIsaiah 7:14 4 . Not one of them has any foundation. The authority of the New Testament is sufficient to any believer.
The historic setting, however, is interesting and solves the problem why Isaiah received just this message at that time. Ahaz was threatened by King Pekah of Israel and by Rezin of Damascus, because he refused to make common cause with them against Assyria. He preferred the friendship of Assyria. When it became known that these two kings were planning an attack upon Jerusalem, Ahaz and the whole city were terror stricken. He decided at once to send to Assyria for help. How he sent messengers with valuable gifts to Tiglath-Pileser and called himself his servant and his son, is written in2 Kings 16:7-8 8 .
Isaiah was then told by God to meet Ahaz at the waterworks of Jerusalem and to take his son Shear-Jashub along. The meaning of this name is “the remnant shall return.” In his interview with the king the prophet exhorts him to be true to Jehovah and that the house of David has nothing to fear. If he accepted the divinely given message he would be quiet and delivered of his fear and faintheartedness. Then God offers Ahaz a sign, either in the depth or in the heights above. But the unbelieving king refused the offer. His wicked heart dreaded the consequences of such a sign. He did not want to be near to God and get a sign that God was near to him. He felt that in such a case he would have to abandon what God condemns and give up the alliance with the Assyrian. Then God gives the sign. It is the sign of the birth of the Messiah. The Deliverer is first announced in the Bible as being the seed of the woman; then as coming of the seed of Abraham from Isaac and Jacob; then of Judah and finally that He should be of the house of David. Here the prediction is narrowed down to the fact that He should be born of a virgin, necessarily of the house of David. Ahaz the King of Judah feared for Jerusalem and the royal line. He had no cause to fear for God promised David a son to come from his loins, He whom King David addressed as his Lord, the root and offspring of David. The house of David was perfectly secure. Thus the unbelief of Ahaz was made the occasion for this great prediction. Christ to be born of the virgin and yet “God manifested in the flesh.”
In chapter 9:6 the incarnation is announced once more and in a prophetic vision it is seen as already accomplished, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” The child is the Son of the virgin and He is God’s unspeakable gift, the Son. As Man born of the woman He will have the government upon His shoulder and possess the throne of David. This looks forward to His second coming. The Son given is the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. His humanity and deity are here blended together.
His life and ministry on earth. The leading features of this blessed life and service on earth are revealed in Isaiah. We call attention to a few of the more prominent predictions.
His lowliness. He who was rich became poor for our sake. This poverty seems to be indicated inIsaiah 7:15 5 , “butter and honey shall He eat.” His lowliness is more fully predicted in 53:2, “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground; He hath no form and comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
The Servant of the Lord. As such He is filled with the Spirit. “And the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (11:2) . “Behold My servant whom I uphold, Mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him” (42:1) . His method is seen; He is unostentatious in His service. “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street” (42:2) . His loving tenderness. “A bruised reed shall He not break and the smoking flax shall He not quench; He shall bring forth judgment unto truth” (42:3) . These words are applied to Him in the New Testament Matthew 12:18-50 ) . His obedience we find predicted in chapter 50:5: “The Lord hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.” His message is given likewise. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (61:1-2) . It is a well known fact that our Lord read these words in the synagogue of Nazareth and pronounced them fulfilled. He also gives us a very important hint in reading this prediction. He stopped short in reading this passage. The rest belongs to His second coming. The first and second coming of Christ are repeatedly blended together.
As servant of the Lord He brings light. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death upon them hath the light shined” Matthew 4:15-25 ) .
His miracles are also touched upon. In chapter 35 we read: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” When He appeared in the midst of His people He did these miracles to prove to the nation that He had the power of the kingdom in His hands; howeverIsaiah 35:1-10 0 looks forward to the kingdom, which is yet to come.
His rejection by the people Israel. This rejection was predicted by Isaiah. As already quoted in chapter 49:4, He is seen as despised and abhorred by the nation, so that He mournfully complains, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought.” On account of this rejection “Israel is not gathered” (verse 5) . More fully is this rejection of the Servant of the Lord seen in the great fifty-third chapter. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief-, and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not.”
His mission to the Gentiles. While Israel is predicted to reject this servant, the Gentiles are to see His light and rejoice in His salvation. It is true most of these predictions await His future work, when He comes again and the Gentiles will be given to Him for an inheritance, but they also imply what is now in force. “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand and keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” (42:6-7) . “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the desolations of Israel that Thou mayest be my salvation to the end of the earth” (49:6) . Through Him Gentiles are saved now and when He comes again even the ends of the earth will know Him and He will reign over the Gentiles. Unto Him every knee must bow and every tongue shall swear (45:23) .
The sufferings of Christ. It was given to Isaiah to behold 700 years before the Son of God appeared on earth an almost complete picture of the sufferings of Christ and their vicarious character. How the obedient servant was to be treated by men is for the first time mentioned in chapter 50:6: “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.” But the great revelation of the sufferings of Christ is found in the famous fifty-third chapter. It is the culmination of the second part of Isaiah. The center of the chapter is “brought as a Lamb to the slaughter.” The most ancient as well as reliable Jewish expositors apply the chapter to Messiah. The great expositors of the Church in the past have all read the story of the cross of Christ in this chapter. The New Testament repeatedly quotesIsaiah 53:1-12 2 and knows no other fulfillment than in Him, who was the man of sorrows.
The Spirit-filled evangelist Philip heard the eunuch reading from this chapter and then opened his mouth and preached Jesus unto him. The infidel Jews have invented a theory which teaches that the nation’s sufferings are described and not the Messiah’s. This wicked denial the destructive critics have fully indorsed.
The last three verses of chapter 52 belong to the fifty-third chapter. If we count them to the great chapter we find five progressive parts:
1. The Servant-His suffering and His exaltation, so that the nations are astonished at Him and kings shut their mouths. It is the keynote of the prediction that follows (52:13-15) .
2. His life and His rejection by the nation (53:1-3) .
3. His sufferings; smitten, afflicted, wounded and bruised (53:4-6) .
4. His submission and His deliverance (53:7-9) .
5. His glorious reward (53:10-12) .
But what is all contained in this matchless chapter! We have in it a description of the Servant, the vicarious sufferer, the triumphant victor as nowhere else. Twelve great statements are made concerning His work on the cross:
1. He hath borne our griefs. 2. Carried our sorrows. 3. He was wounded for our transgressions. 4. Bruised for our iniquities. 5. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him. 6. With His stripes we are healed. 7. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 8. For the transgression of my people was He smitten. 9. Made His soul an offering for sin. 10. He shall bear their iniquities. 11. He bears the sin of many. 12. Made intercession for the transgressors.
His holy, spotless character is revealed. As a lamb He suffered in patience. He had done no violence nor was deceit in His mouth. He suffered and died for others. He suffered for His people John 11:50-57 ) . It was God who smote Him, the Lord who bruised Him, who put Him to grief. There is in the whole Bible no grander unfolding ofJohn 3:16 6 than this great chapter. Whoever rejects Isaiah’s vision of the Sinbearer, rejects the gospel and denies the atoning work of the cross.
We also behold His grave, we see Him risen in this chapter, exalted, interceding, justifying many, having a seed, an offspring as the last Adam, securing the travail of His soul and dividing the spoil with the great. Ah! who can tell out the majestic grandeur of this great peak in God’s revelation! After this great vision, the Servant of the Lord is not mentioned again, nor His sufferings. The glory side comes more fully in view in chapters 54-66. And it will be fully realized when Israel has confessed Him, whom they once rejected.
The predictions of glory and the second coming of Christ. More numerous and richer are the messianic predictions, which reveal His exaltation and the fact of His glorious second coming.
Isaiah beheld His personal, visible and glorious coming, not as the sufferer but as the King. He saw Him coming in majesty and glory. His glory is seen in these visions as covering Jerusalem and the land and eventually the whole earth. He comes to Zion to redeem His people and deliver them out of the hands of their enemies. He comes to overthrow the wicked one and to execute the judgments of God on the earth. He comes to establish peace and dwell in the midst of His people and rule as King over the nations. We can call attention to a very few of the many predictions from different chapters; our remaining study will bring this great theme more fully to our view.
“He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (2:4) . This is the program of God. Peace on earth will thus be accomplished. It follows His visible manifestation. He appears in the glory of His majesty and will alone be exalted in that day (2:10, 11) . His glory will cover Jerusalem (4:5) . “With righteousness shall He judge the poor and reprove with equity for the meek in the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” (11:4) . “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (11:9) . “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (12:6) . “I will punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquity” (13:11) . “Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger” (13:13) . “The Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his ancients gloriously” (24:23) . “And it shall be said in that day, Lo this is our God, we have waited for Him and He will save us; this is the Lord we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (25:9) . “The Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of earth for their iniquity” (26:21) . “Behold a King shall reign in righteousness” (32:1) . “And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together (40:5) . “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord” (59:20) . “Arise, shine for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (60:1) .
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art Thou red in thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winevat? I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me; and My fury, it upheld Me. And I will tread down the people in Mine anger, and make them drunk in My fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth” (63:1-6) .
“For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire, and by His sword, will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. For I know their works and their thoughts; it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see My glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles” (66:15-16; 18-19) .
These are a few of Isaiah’s predictions concerning the future glory of our Lord and the work of judgment and mercy He will execute. May it be our delight to meditate on these great prophetic unfoldings of the Person and the glorious work of our Lord, till some day we shall be face to face with Himself and through grace become partakers of His glory.
FUTURE GLORIES AND BLESSINGS
The book of Isaiah abounds in great predictions of glories and blessings in store for this earth and its inhabitants. Not one of these have been fulfilled in the past, nor are they now in process of fulfillment. They must therefore be fulfilled in the future. To this we might add that not one of these great predictions can be fulfilled till the predicted judgments have taken place.
Isaiah uses some 45 times the phrase “in that day.” He uses these words almost exclusively in the earlier prophecies contained in chapters 1-35. This day is the day when Jehovah is manifested and when He deals in judgment with the earth. We give a few of the more prominent passages in which that day is mentioned (chapter 2:10-22) . Here the day is described as bringing the exaltation of the Lord and the utter casting down of all that is lofty and high (chapter 13:9-13) . These words tell us that it is the day in which the world will be punished for its wickedness and that heaven and earth will be shaken (chapter 24) . In this great judgment chapter we read that all classes will be affected by it, the earth will reel to and fro like a drunkard and be removed like a cottage. Then the kings on earth will be punished. The high ones on high, the wicked spirits in the heavenlies, will be shut up in prison. This great day Isaiah beheld is the day “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12 ) . Such a day has not yet been. It will surely come. Never before have things been so ripe for that day as they are now.
Whatever we find in future glories and blessings in Isaiah is always in connection with that day. The glories and blessings do not precede that day, but the day precedes the glories and blessings promised. Therefore we say the fulfillment of these great predictions has not been in the past, they are not now being fulfilled and they cannot be fulfilled till the storm clouds of divine judgment have swept over this earth and the Lord has been manifested.
The great majority of Christians hold the unscriptural view that in the Church and through the Church the visions of Isaiah are fulfilled in a spiritual way. But they forget the great day in Isaiah and the fact stated that the glories and blessings predicted follow that day.
What then are these predicted glories and blessings? We find that the larger number of them belong to the people Israel. We look at these first.
The future blessings of Israel. This wonderful people has a wonderful future. God has not cast them away and to them still belong the promises and the glory. Israel is set aside throughout this present age and judicially blinded. Isaiah had to announce this fact. We find that in the vision which called him into the prophetic office the message was given to him that the nation should not hear and that their eyes should be blinded. The consummation of this predicted blindness came after they had rejected Christ. We find these words of Isaiah (6:10) quoted three times in the New Testament. InMatthew 23:13-15 5 . Israel had then rejected Him and He began to teach the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven in parables. InJohn 12:40 0 when the Lord was about to suffer and to die. InActs 28:27 7 at the close of the book of Acts after the gospel had been preached to them by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven. They rejected it and the last statement of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who loved his people so well, is a significant one, “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles and they will hear it.” Since then the message Isaiah received has been fully carried out. They are judicially blinded and scattered among the nations. Their land is desolate. Their city is trodden down by the Gentiles. Their sufferings and woes have been indescribable. God has hidden His face from them and in His wrath He has forsaken them.
But Isaiah’s vision tells us likewise that this condition is not to be permanent. The curse will be changed into blessing and they will receive double for all their sin.
Their restoration to the land. They will be brought back to the land. In chapter 11:10-12 we find one of these unfulfilled predictions of Israel’s restoration. It has been taught that these words were fulfilled in the return of the remnant from Babylon. Notice, however, that it saith “and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” It speaks of a gathering from a world-wide dispersion, not from the Babylonian captivity. It includes the islands of the sea and it is distinctly stated that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people. The entire chapter shows that it is a future thing.
In chapter 14:1-2 is another unfulfilled prediction. “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land.” The nations are mentioned as helping them to return. This fact is indicated elsewhere in Isaiah (chapters 18:7, 66:20) . This regathering is stated in 27:13. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem.” Also read 35:10; 43:5-6; 49:10-12. All the great predictions in the later prophecies concerning Israel’s glorious state in the land make such a regathering necessary.
The spiritual blessings. The calling of Israel as a nation is stated inExodus 19:5-6 6 . “Now therefore if ye will obey my voice, indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me, above all people, for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Up to now this has never been; yet God’s gifts and calling are without repentance. The day is coming when the Lord in His infinite grace will bestow upon the remnant of His people such spiritual blessings, that they will be healed of all their backslidings and become a holy nation and a kingdom of priests in the earth.
This is beautifully revealed in the first song of redemption in chapter 12. Closely connected with their regathering predicted in the preceding chapter is their grateful expression for the spiritual blessings they received. His anger is turned away, comfort has come at last. They sing and praise for Jehovah has done excellent things. Then the Lord gives them rest from their sorrows, fear and hard bondage (14:3) . The songs of redemption in chapters 25-26 celebrate the same blessings. The forgiveness of their sins is promised in chapter 33:24, “the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (43:25) . “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins return unto me, for I have redeemed thee” (44:22) . This is followed by a song. “I will bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not tarry and I will place salvation for Israel My glory” (46:13) . Read also 54:6-10. Then the Spirit of God will be poured out upon them. This is promised in chapter 32:15. The promise is connected with their restoration to the land. The same promise is found in chapter 59:20-21. First the Redeemer comes to Zion and the Spirit is promised unto Israel and Israel’s seed. These great future blessings are especially revealed in chapters 61 and 62. “But ye shall be named the priests of the Lord, men shall call you the ministers of our God.” Thus their priestly calling among the nations will be realized. But when? After the day of vengeance, the second coming of the Lord (verse 2) . The same blessings are stated in verses 7 and 10. Then they shall be called “the holy people,” “the redeemed of the Lord” (62:12) . In one day the new birth of the nation will take place (66:8) .
But let us understand that these blessings are not for the apostate portion of the nation. Millennial Dawnism, as well as others, claims that all Israel will receive these blessings, not alone the wicked element which sides with the man of sin and worships him, but also all the past generations who died in their sins will be raised up and brought back to the land and possess these things. No such teaching is found in the Word.Ezekiel 37:1-28 , the vision of the raising up of the dry bones, has nothing to do with a physical resurrection; it is a type of their national restoration.Ezekiel 20:38 8 makes it clear that the rebels, the apostates, will have no share in these blessings. These will not enter into the land saith the Lord. Two parts of the people will be cut off and die and the third part only shall be brought through the fire.
The blessings for Israel’s land. The land of Israel, Palestine, is called by Isaiah “Immanuel’s land” (8:8) . Desolation has come upon it on account of the transgressions of the people. It is now an unfruitful land, a land of wastes and ruins. But there is a glorious future for Immanuel’s land and He who lived His blessed life in that land, where He shed His blood and died, will also make it a glorious land. We can only link a few passages together where this is promised. Read 30:23-26; 60:17-22; 61:4; 62:4-5; 65:21-24.
The future of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, still trodden down by the Gentiles, has a glorious future. It will become the great capital of the kingdom, which will cover the whole earth. In chapter 1 Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem as a harlot and that murderers dwell in it. This is true now and blood-guiltiness rests upon it. But afterward, Isaiah announces, “thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” That will be after the Lord has come. Then “out of Zion shall go forth the law and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (2:3) . The Holy One of Israel will make His dwelling place there and cover it with His glory (4:2-6; 11:9-10; 12:6; 24:23) . Then they will rejoice on account of it. “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; we have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks” (26:1) . 33:20-21 shows another picture of Zion and Jerusalem. Also 54:11-14; Jerusalem will be a praise in the earth (62:7) . “But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in My people, and the voice of weeping shall no more be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (65:18-19) . What a beautiful word this is! His people rejoice in Him and He rejoices in them. Jerusalem has become at last the place of joy and peace and Jerusalem is His joy. Then He will fully have the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Once more Jerusalem is mentioned in the last chapter, “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her, rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her” (66:10) . The nations redeemed will rejoice. But we may well think of the joy of the glorified saints, including all the saints, both the Old Testament and New Testament saints. They all loved Jerusalem. We love Jerusalem, and when He rejoices in the accomplishment of His purposes we shall rejoice with Him. His joy will be our joy in glory.
The future blessings of the nations. Closely linked with these great future blessings and glories for Israel His people are the blessings of the Gentiles. The many predictions which concern the Gentiles cannot be fulfilled till Israel and Jerusalem have entered into their blessing. The conversion of the world is nowhere taught to take place in this present age through the church, but it is always found in connection with converted Israel. This is an important principle. The day of the Lord will bring great judgments for the Gentile world. When these judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (chapter 26:9) . The Lord will deal in great and world-wide judgments with the Gentiles, especially with those which had the light and turned from the light. But there will be Gentiles who turn to God during these great judgments and believe the testimony, the gospel of the kingdom, preached at that time Matthew 24:14 4 ) . What are the blessings promised to these nations? We touch upon a few. In chapter 2:2-4 we find one of the most comprehensive. The nations will go up to that house of the Lord, which is yet to be built and which will be, according to another prophecy, a house of prayer for all nations. This great prediction is sadly spiritualized. It is applied to the church; and the fulfillment was, it is claimed, when the Lord selected the twelve apostles on a mountain. It has nothing whatever to do with the church nor with the church age. When Jerusalem has been restored, the nations which are left will go there to worship. Then war will end and not before. This is God’s peace program. In 11:9-10 we read that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord and the Gentiles will seek Him. The great things, which He hath done, will be known in all the earth (12:5) . Greater still is the vision of chapter 15:6-8. A feast of fat things will be made. Now God has spread the gospel feast and invites all to come. “Come, for all things are now ready.” But the invitation to this feast will soon end. Then comes “the supper of the great God,” a fearful judgment to which the fowls of heaven are invited Revelation 19:16-21 ) . This is followed by the feast of all peoples. The veil which is now over the heathen nations will be destroyed and all tears will be wiped away; the tears of sickness, the tears of want, the tears of affliction, the tears of sorrow. The gathering of the nations will be to Israel; they will be joined to them and thus the kingdom will extend over the whole earth. “Lift up thine eyes round about and behold, all these gather themselves together and come to thee” (49:18) . World conversion, the multitude of nations brought to the knowledge of God (not into the Church) is beautifully predicted in chapter 60. First we see the glory of the Lord shining forth; this is His second coming. But in what state does He find the earth? “Behold, darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people.” This is the apostasy, the moral and spiritual darkness the Lord will find on the earth. It will soon be changed by His glorious appearing. The Gentiles will then be brought to that light.
“And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on Mine altar, and will glorify the house of My glory. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; for in My wrath I smote thee, but in My favor have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted” (60:3-12) .
This is the vision of the kingdom to come. That coming age, introduced by the visible and glorious coming of Christ, will mean the end of idolatry and the worshipping of the Lord. “All flesh shall come to worship before Me, saith Jehovah” (66:23) .
The blessings for all creation. InRomans 8:1-39 9 we read of the future and complete deliverance of groaning creation. It will come with the manifestation of the sons of God. That manifestation takes place when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again. He who created all things and whose creation was marred by sin; He who came into His creation and died for the creature’s sin, will in that coming day deliver creation from its curse. The blessings of a delivered creation were beheld by Isaiah.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den” (11:6-8) .
Also read chapter 65:25. Only the serpent will continue to crawl in the dust as an abiding witness of Satan and sin; also as a warning, for after the kingdom age Satan will be loosed for a little season Revelation 20:7 7 ) .
All waits for the coming of these great blessings and glories. We insist again that they cannot come till “that day” of Isaiah’s vision has appeared. It will surely come, though it has tarried long. Judgment ends the present age and blessings for Israel, the nations and all creation are the characteristics of the age to come. The church and her heavenly destiny was not seen by Isaiah. In the New Testament we read exclusively of the church, how it began and how it will suddenly end. When the predicted judgments smite the earth the true Church is gathered home and is in His presence. Her destiny is not an earthly kingdom, an earthly Jerusalem, but with the King, the Lord of Glory in the heavenly Jerusalem. The destiny of the church is not to be ruled over in the kingdom, but to rule over the kingdom. May God’s Spirit give unto us the power to enjoy these great revelations and rejoice in them even before they are accomplished.
THE ACTORS OF THE PERIOD OF ISAIAH
765 Isaiah born
784-745 Jeroboam II
745-727 Tiglath-pileser III
740 The call of Isaiah’s vision, chapter 6
738 Arpad, Calno, Carchemish and Damascus taken by Tiglath-pileser III
734 Syro-Ephraimitic war; Gaza captured by Tiglath-pileser III; Galilee carried captive to Assyria
732 Damascus taken by Tiglath-pileser III
727-722 Shalmaneser IV
722 Fall of Samaria; end of the kingdom of Israel
722-705 Sargon II
721-709 Babylonia under Merodach-Baladan
720 Battle of Karkar; Sargon II conquers Arpad, Hammath and Damascus. Battle of Raphia
717 Sargon II conquers the Hittites, takes Carchemish, their capital
714 Hezekiah’s sickness
712 Merodach-Baladan sent messengers to Hezekiah
711 Siege of Ashdod by Sargon II
709 Merodach-Baladan driven from Babylonia by Sargon II
703 Merodach-Baladan again king over Babylonia
701 Siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib; Judah, Moab, Edom, Ammon and Philistia made to pay tribute.
Tirhakah (afterwards “king of Ethiopia”) head of the Egyptian army under Shabaka
699-643 Manasseh, king of Judah. Tradition claims that under Manasseh,
Isaiah suffered martyrdom
The Division and Scope of Isaiah
The book is an organic whole which proves that it can never be the piecemeal work of a number of men who assumed the name of Isaiah. That the language of the second part differs so much from the style of the first is no argument against the unity of the book at all. The style changes according to the character of the prophecy. “His style is suited to the subject and changeth with it. In his denunciations and threatenings, he is earnest and vehement; in his consolations, he is mild and insinuating. He so lives in the events he describes that the future becomes to him as the past and present” (Hengstenberg). If we believe that Isaiah was but the mouthpiece of Jehovah, that he wrote under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, as He moved him and put the words into his pen, all difficulties disappear. But as we have already stated the scope of the book is conclusive evidence of both, the inspiration of the book and its Isaiahic authorship.
There are two great sections first of all. The one, chapters 1-35, contains the earlier prophecies. Chapters 40-66 the later prophecies. Between these two portions is a historical parenthesis contained in chapters 36-39.
in the earlier prophecies judgments are announced upon Jerusalem, Judah and upon nations, while blessings of the future are also given, but they take a secondary place. In the later prophecies we likewise read of judgments but the major portion reveals the glories and blessings of the future.
In the earlier prophecies the Assyrian invasion as it took place is announced, giving at the same time a prophetic forecast of a future invasion from the north in the time of the end. In the later prophecies the Assyrian is no longer mentioned. The Babylonian captivity announced in the thirty-ninth chapter is seen by the prophet as past and he predicts the return and beyond that the return of the remnant from the greater dispersion and the final glory of the kingdom with the coming of the King.
We shall now give the scope and division of these books.
I. THE EARLIER PROPHECIES (1-35)
1. Prophecies under the Reign of Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz (1-12)
2. The judgment of the Nations and the Future Day of Jehovah (13-27)
3. The Six Woes. Judgment Ruins and Restoration Glories (28-35)
Each section of the earlier prophecies foretells great judgments but each section ends with the vision of a regathered and restored people.
THE HISTORICAL PARENTHESIS (36-39)
II. THE LATER PROPHECIES (40-66)
1. In Babylon: Deliverance Promised through Cyrus (40-48)
2. The Servant of Jehovah: His Suffering and His Glory (49-57)
3. Jewish History in the Endtime: The Glory of Israel and of the Coming Age (58-66)
Each section begins with a chapter which is the key to the whole section. Each concludes with a description of the two classes which compose the nation especially in the last days, and that there is no peace for the wicked but punishment.
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25