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Chapter 65 God Promises To Deliver A Remnant And to Establish A New Nation But Warns That His Judgment Will Come On Many Who Reject Him.
Isaiah continues his theme that not all will suffer the fate of Edom. He learns that God will raise up a new nation, springing from the old and containing many from among the nations. But the large part of those who called themselves His people will be brought into judgment
God Reply Is That He Will Act Sovereignly To Call A People To Himself And Will Form A New Nation (Isaiah 65:1 ).
“I am enquired of by those who did not ask for me,
I am found by those who sought me not,
I said, Behold me, behold me to a nation,
Which was not called by my name.”
This is Yahweh’s reply to the question as to whether He will save the undeserving. He will create a new nation. Those who had no intention of asking things of Him, or of seeking Him, will find Him and enquire of Him, because He, Yahweh, will cause it to be so. He will say, ‘Behold me, behold me’ to a nation which was ‘not called by His name’, that is a new nation which He will form but which up to this point has not borne His name. It will be composed of those who in the past were not seen as His or responsive to Him, and had not claimed membership of the covenant, but to Whom He will sovereignly say, ‘Look to Me’, and they will look.
So by His own powerful call He will bring to His feet some who have constantly had nothing to do with Him. This is probably to be seen as including some of those referred to in chapter 64. 5-8. The Potter will mould the clay (Isaiah 64:8). But it probably also has in mind the future call of the Gentiles. They too will come.
‘A nation’. This may possibly refer to a nation within the nation, a minority from whom He will form a new nation. But it is probably, in the light of His words, intended to include the fact that Gentiles also will come, for they especially were not called by His name. Thus He is declaring that hope has not gone because, although He must judge His people, He will form for Himself a new nation to replace the old, which will include all Whom He brings to Himself, a nation composed of the least expected. He will produce an Israel which is truly of God.
The Majority Of His People Will Reject Him For Their Idols And Will Receive Their Just Punishment (Isaiah 65:2-7 ).
On the other hand those who do claim to be called by His name, but are hypocritical, will be rejected and punished because of their unfaithfulness and idolatry.
“I have spread out my hands all the day,
To a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
After their own thoughts.’
In contrast with those in Isaiah 65:1 are these who have been the constant subject of God’s appeals through Isaiah, who profess to be called by Yahweh’s name, but have been rebellious and instead of walking by the covenant and the Law, have walked in a way that is not good, following their own ideas and desires. He has spread out His hands to them all day, that is unceasingly, but still they will not listen.
Note the reversal here of the usual position. Usually men stretch out their hands to God, but God had become so concerned for them that He had reversed the roles. It was not His fault if they did not respond.
‘A people who provoke me to my face continually,
Sacrificing in gardens and burning on bricks,
Who sit among the graves,
And lodge in the secret places,
Who eat swine’s flesh,
And broth of abominable things is in their vessels,
Who say, “Stand by yourself,
Do not come near to me, for I am holier than you.”
These are a smoke in my nose,
A fire which burns all the day.”
He points out that the reason that they will not listen is because they are people who constantly provoke Him to His face by sacrificing and offering incense to false gods in the sacred gardens on rooftops and in sacred groves (Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 66:17 compare 2 Kings 21:18). Both sacrificing in gardens (to Baal and Asherah) and burning on brick altars were forbidden (Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5-6). (The descriptions here are of pre-exilic Canaanite religion, which evidence suggests ceased as a result of the Exile. The words cannot therefore be post-exilic).
‘Who sit among the graves, and lodge in the secret places.’ This refers to consulting the dead and various occult practises. The infamy of what they did is revealed by their secrecy (compare Ezekiel 8:8-12).
‘Who eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels.’ They deliberately partake of that which has been declared unclean, and what is socially abhorrent (see Isaiah 66:17). The broth of abominable things may refer to the eating on the third day of the meat of a peace sacrifice which has become bad, as described in Leviticus 7:18 as ‘abominable’.
‘Who say, “Stand by yourself. Do not come near to me, for I am holier than you.’ This is speaking of elitist sects in which participants move from grade to grade and engage in ever more degrading ritual. They are exclusivist and divisive, and by their attitude reveal that they are heavily committed and dedicated to false gods. This may include the ‘one in the midst’ of Isaiah 66:17.
‘These are a smoke in my nose, a fire which burns all the day.’ Yahweh is not impressed by them. They are a continual smoke in His nose, something which makes Him want to splutter and spew them out. There may be here a contrast with the delightful aroma that arose to Him when offerings were made by the righteous (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Exodus 29:25; Exodus 29:41).
“Behold, it is written before me,
I will not keep silence but will repay in full,
Yes, I will recompense in full into their bosom,
Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together, says Yahweh,
Who have burned (sacrifices or incense) on the mountains,
And blasphemed me on the hills,
Therefore will I measure into their bosom,
Their recompense for what they have formerly done.
The sins of these people and the similar sins of their fathers is written before Him, that is, it is permanently recorded and will therefore be permanently remembered. And He will not withhold action and do and say nothing. They will be paid in full. Yes, they will be paid in full and with personal effect (‘into their bosom’). So whoever are saved it will only be a remnant.
For they go into the mountains and hills to burn sacrifices and incense to Baal and Asherah. Their thought was that the nearer they got to the heavens the more likely that Baal would be forced to respond to their suggestive copulation But this is blasphemy against Yahweh. Therefore all will receive personally for what they have done. ‘Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together.’ Unless we assume a resurrection of the wicked which Isaiah has nowhere mentioned the idea would seem to be that they suffer for their own sins and for the sins of their fathers to which they have acquiesced.
So while God has guaranteed that there will be a nation that survives, it will be a new nation. And large numbers of the old nation will face their necessary judgment. This is the inevitability, the necessary response of a Holy God.
A Remnant Will Be Saved, But Large Numbers Must First Face Judgment (Isaiah 65:8-12 ).
During his inaugural call (chapter 6) Isaiah had been warned that the people of Judah/Israel would go through refinement after refinement because of the depths of their sinfulness. God had warned him not to expect easy results. Few of His so-called people would be saved. But in the end, He had promised, there would be a stump remaining, a holy seed (Isaiah 6:13).
‘Thus says Yahweh,
“As the wine dripping is found in the cluster,
And one says, ‘Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it’,
So will I do for my servants’ sakes,
That I may not destroy them all.
And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob,
And out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains,
And my chosen ones will inherit it,
And my servants will dwell there.
And Sharon will be a fold of flocks,
And the valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down in,
For my people who have sought me.” ’
The ‘wine dripping’ (tiros) is probably the juice that flows from the grapes before the treading of the winepress commence. If so it is apposite here. Israel are like grapes ready for the winepress of God’s wrath (Isaiah 63:3), but the early juice drippings represent the remnant. Such early drippings were in fact particularly potent (Hosea 4:11). That is why men said, ‘Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it.’
So the remnant will be preserved as so often in Isaiah (e.g. Isaiah 1:26-27; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 8:13-14 a; Isaiah 10:20-23), because they have a God-given quality different from the remainder.
‘So will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.’ There is no longer a thought of Israel as The Servant, it is the faithful in Israel who are now ‘His servants’, and it is for their sakes that He will refrain from destroying all. It is thus made clear that large numbers will yet perish like Edom, but that in response to Isaiah’s pleas, and the work of the Servant/Anointed One, not all will perish. The holy seed, the ‘many’ for whom the Servant suffered will be spared (Isaiah 53:11-12).
‘And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains, and my chosen ones will inherit it, and my servants will dwell there.’ God reveals His determination to fulfil His promises to the patriarchs, here represented by Jacob. Such continuing seed and the reception of the land as their inheritance were two foundation pillars of Israel’s belief patterns. Now He guarantees that He will fulfil both the promise of the seed and the promise of the land (Genesis 13:15; Genesis 28:13-14). They are the inheritors, and they will inherit it. And those who are faithful to Him, His servants, will dwell there.
Note the use of the plural ‘My chosen ones’, and ‘My servants’, Their destiny as the chosen Servant (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 44:1) has been performed by Another, and through His redemptive work (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12) they now carry on His work. Israel is to find its fulfilment in Him Who is the fulfilment of the ideal of Israel. It is He Who is ‘Israel’, the true representation of Israel, which is why they are no more described as Israel. And they are no more the Servant, for they failed in that responsibility also, while God’s prime purpose in Abraham has been fulfilled in the Anointed One. The faithful, however, are still His chosen and still His servants.
And after God had carried out His judgment as described in Isaiah 39:6-7 Jacob’s seed did come forth from him and inherit the land, and His chosen ones and His servants did dwell there. Unlike Edom their judgment was not final. And it was finally they who possessed Edom, and Edomites were forced to be circumcised and become members of the covenant and were absorbed into ‘Israel’ so that Edom was no more. But that was a fulfilment to a people not yet made fully holy.
The promise, however, was intended to offer more than the literal secondary fulfilment, and had they been able to see forward they would have looked at it in that way, for they would have taken it as a promise that, made truly holy, they would finally partake in the everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 4:3). As often with Isaiah the prophecies include strands and tendencies which are fulfilled at different times.
‘And Sharon will be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down in, for my people who have sought me.’ Sharon was to the west and Achor to the east, thus the whole land is in mind. The promise is that once again the land will be fruitful. Sharon was first to be made a desert under God’s judgments (Isaiah 33:9), thus this restoration follows that event. The valley of Achor (‘troubling’) was the place where the sin of Achan was purged by his death (Judges 7:24-25), and had clearly become symbolic of trouble, for according to Hosea 2:15 that troubled valley was to become a door of hope when God began to act, and here it is to become a place where cattle could rest. So the troubled places will become blessed. Unlike the devastated Edom, and those of His people who will experience similar judgment, His true responsive people will prosper. The picture indicates the future prosperity of His true people in terms that they would appreciate, and their final blessing in the new heavens and the new earth.
‘For my people who have sought me.’ Such blessings would be for those who sought Yahweh.
‘But you who forsake Yahweh,
Who forget my holy mountain,
Who prepare a table for Fortune,
And who fill up mingled wine for Destiny,
I will destine you to the sword,
And you will all bow down to the slaughter,
Because when I called, you did not answer,
When I spoke you did not hear,
But you did what was evil in my eyes,
And chose that in which I did not delight.’
On the other hand there is no guaranteed blessing for all. Those who forsake Yahweh and forget His dwellingplace (His holy mountain), indulging rather in idolatrous behaviour, will be subject to judgment by the sword. And this will be because when He called they did not respond, but continued in their sinfulness and refused to do the things that would please Him. This happened again and again, and one outstanding example is the final destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the people under the Romans (Luke 21:24), a specific example of the rejection of the old Israel, which had been replaced by the new as described in Isaiah 65:1.
‘Who forget my holy mountain.’ They went regularly into the mountains to perform sexual rites before Baal, but had no time for the one mountain that counted.
‘Who prepare a table for Fortune (Gad), and who fill up mingled wine for Destiny (Meni - ‘apportionment’).’ Fortune (Gad) was a widely worshipped Syrian god. Compare Baal-gad - ‘Lord of Good Fortune’, in Joshua 11:17, and Migdal-gad - ‘Fortress Tower of Good Fortune’ in Joshua 15:37. Meni means ‘apportionment’ related to the affecting of destiny. Both gods were connected therefore with the affecting of destiny. Their names are found on inscriptions both separately and together. It was all the more absurd therefore that they who were thought powerful enough to affect the future had to be wined and dined. These were Canaanite gods, confirming the Canaanite setting for the prophecy, and such gods are only known to have affected Israel in pre-exilic times. This causes great difficulty to those who try to date these prophecies later and have to try to explain this away.
‘I will destine you to the sword, and you will all bow down to the slaughter.’ Note the play on ‘destiny’. It is Yahweh rather than these false gods Who can determine these people’s destiny. And instead of bowing to these false gods they will have to bow to slaughter.
‘Because when I called, you did not answer, when I spoke you did not hear, but you did what was evil in my eyes, and chose that in which I did not delight.’ The reason for their punishment is made clear. God called them and spoke to them, but they neither responded nor heard. Rather they chose to go against His will, doing what they knew Yahweh saw as evil, and refusing to do what they knew He would delight in. And they finally rejected His Servant (John 1:11).
So Yahweh’s answer to Isaiah’s pleas is that a remnant will be saved, an unexpected remnant (Isaiah 65:1), but that large numbers will face His judgment because they go their own ways and refuse to respond to Him. In spite of his promises of a coming Deliverer Isaiah was well aware that much had to happen before He could do His work. But one thing he did know, eventually that work would be brought to completion. And he now closes his book with a vision of what is to come.
THE COMING OF THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH (Isaiah 65:13 to Isaiah 66:24 ).
The final vision of Isaiah centres on the fact that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Old things will pass away and all things will become new, just as he has constantly promised.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 65". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany