Thoughts On Isaiah The Prophet

The great subject of the introduction to this prophecy is the way in which Jehovah presents Himself after declaring their state of ruin. There is a day of Jehovah on all the earth; and if there were not a remnant, all the people would be as Sodom and like Gomorrah. The hand of Jehovah will be against all that the world exalts. Every thing or one that is lifted up shall be brought low: Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day (chap. 2:17). God will purify the earthly people by His judgments. The rest will be the object of a terrible judgment (chap. 2:18-21).

I desire to consider the character of the prophecy as given to the Jews. It takes in a circle much greater and concerns the nations as well as Israel.

There is an important principle to remark, namely, that every prophecy supposes ruin of the state of things in which the prophecy is presented. When all goes according to the mind of God, there is no need of warning. It is manifest here in a striking way. Prophecy reveals all the hopes that belong to the faithful when the dispensation breaks down. It announces the failures, and the judgments on what man essays to do because of the evil.

The mass of the Jews is not saved, but there is a remnant saved in the midst of them. The church is but a remnant. We begin as a remnant, and where the Jews end. This supposes that the state of the world is bad and that the world has not gone on well. God sends threatenings and warnings to the mass, when all goes ill; and He makes promises to the faithful remnant to sustain and encourage it. When Israel failed, or the priesthood, in Eli, God raises up a prophet, Samuel. It was when all failed under the kings even of the house of David, that God raised up Isaiah. Ahaz had introduced idolatry into the house of God, and the testimony of Isaiah was sent to announce, not a remnant only, but the Messiah. The state of what God established in presence of the glory of God shews that the people cannot stand before this glory (chap. 6:5).

God sends prophet after prophet, and chastisement after chastisement, during seven centuries, and He only struck fully when the Son was cast out of the vineyard and slain. Meanwhile the promise of the Messiah sustained the hope of the faithful. They felt the state of things whilst waiting for redemption. Anna spoke of the infant Jesus to all those that looked for redemption. The principle of such immense importance in prophecy is, that because of the unfaithfulness of the mass God rejects that which He has Himself established; and He announces that He is going to replace what is ruined by something which is infinitely better. God in His goodness gives the light beforehand to brighten up the hearts of the faithful. The goodness of God treats them as friends and fills them with confidence. If one recognises the prophecy, one must recognise that God had judged and condemned that which exists. If God had not set aside man, thefre were no need of a new Adam. If the ark of the covenant had not been in the hands of the Philistines, there would have been no need of Samuel the prophet, any more than of Isaiah if the house of David were not fallen. Wherefore prophecy is called a charge or “burden.”

It will facilitate the understanding of the book if one point out the divisions of the book.

Chapters 1 to 4 are the introduction, and blessing at the end, chapter 1 speaking of the Jews, chapter 2 of the Gentiles.

Chapter 5 is a prophetic discourse which compares the state of the vineyard with that which God had done for Israel at the beginning; interrupted by

Chapter 6, which compares it with the glory of Christ. It is thus God judges His people. The prophet is installed in his work.

Chapter 7 to 9:7 are a prophecy of Immanuel and of the remnant, of Immanuel’s land and of the Assyrian when Immanuel is there.

Chapters 9:8 to 12 resume prophecy about Israel.

Chapters 13 to 27 look at the nations and the circumstances of Israel in the last days (chap. 18) among the nations.

Chapters 28 to 35 are details about Israel, each prophecy closing with a blessing.

Chapters 36 to 39 are a history of Hezekiah and the Assyrian as typical of the dead and risen Son of David, and the Assyrian of the last days, closing with a prediction of the Babylonish captivity.

Chapters 40 to 66 are the restoration of Israel, witness against the idolatry of the nations but idolatrous, and rejected because of rejecting the Messiah. Israel is found at last among the rebellious when Jesus shall come back, the remnant being kept on the earth for the glory of Jehovah.

Chapter 1.

We see the summary of the burden of the prophecy in verses 1-9.

There was much piety according to the world. They continued in a round of religious forms to render worship to God, without perceiving the lack of life, of faithfulness, and of purity by which they were characterised (v. 10-13). Having a show of godliness they had denied its power. They made long prayers at the corners of the streets; but their conscience was not right with God. There was a moral blindness before the judicial blindness. As we learn from the next chapter, the land was full of silver and gold, with horses and chariots, full of outward blessings but also of idols. The multitude of sacrifices did not make their ways true in relation to God. Hence (v. 14, 15) the very things God had instituted or enjoined became in their hands such as He hated, because the conscience in His people was not according to His mind.

The word therefore is (v. 16, 17), “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes: cease to do evil; learn to do well.” There is the weighty matter. Have a good conscience before God: if not, you become blind of yourselves before you are blinded of God. God distinguishes between actions. One cannot learn to do good before ceasing from evil. One cannot have the light in the conscience, without leaving first that which wounds the conscience.

Jehovah imputes not iniquity (v. 18). Moral government follows (v. 19, 20).

The saddest thing for the heart of God is, not that the world is wicked, but that the city which bears His name, on which His eyes rest continually, should be so evil. “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them,” v. 21-23. His judgment begins with His house. We see in Ezekiel 9 that, when the remnant are marked, He causes all the city to be smitted, beginning at His sanctuary. He points out afterward the iniquities in detail. We have here a great present principle: if Christendom has deserved the judgment of God, His judgment begins with His house to purify it. In this sense we are with difficulty saved. It was over Jerusalem that Jesus wept.

“Therefore saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: and I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city,” v. 24-26. He will avenge Himself of His enemies who corrupted Zion; He will satisfy Himself in dealing with His adversaries. And when He shall have executed His judgment, He will restore Jerusalem as of old. But if judgment must fall on Israel, the consequence will be that out of Zion shall go forth the law. Jerusalem will be then more truly than ever the throne of Jehovah. “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake Jehovah shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them,” v. 27-31.

Thus the first chapter of the prophecy applies to the state of the Jews announcing the judgment, and gives the hope across the judgment that God will purge His people therein. This will be the means of gathering the nations.

Chapter 2.

In the last days the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. Some might think the law’s going out of Zion might be by the gospel. But the gospel is not by the execution of judgment on the nations as here. God will deal with the nations by public judgment and righteousness on earth (v. 1-4). It is not the church, but the Lord who is spoken of; and this has evidently never yet been. They have dreamt these things for Christianity; but it is ‘he judgment of God that is to bring all this about. (Compare Matt. 24:6, 7.)

The intelligent spirit of prophecy always speaks as in verses 5, 6. “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of Jehovah. Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.” The rejection of the people had not yet happened. Judgment begins at the house of God, but does not stop there. God will judge His people; and will He not judge the idolatrous world?

The nations boasted of their power and of their riches. They will be the first to be judged; but above all, the so-called christian countries, where profession is found highest, must be found at last the objects of the indignant wrath of God. When He exercises judgment on man’s idols and pride, He resumes the course of His earthly government on the earth.

Chapter 3.

Divine judgment notices every detail of iniquity, oppression, and even vanity. All must be brought low.

Chapter 4.

God pushes the judgment and the ruin to the uttermost; but Christ the Branch of beauty and glory shall appear at that time for the remnant. All the wicked shall, have been cut off (v. 2-4). The Branch of Jehovah shall be beauty and glory. The glory will be displayed over all the extent of the holy city (v. 5). Verse 6 describes an active protection on God’s part. Those who remain after the purifying are saints, and the glory of God shall be manifested over the city that He has chosen to place His name there.

One can see in these four chapters the importance God attaches to the land. He takes cognisance of the iniquity of His earthly people, cleansing them by His judgment. He washes away the filth of the nations also.

This does not concern the church which will come again with Jesus in glory. Such is the position in which Christendom is found. Meanwhile, since the rejection of Jesus until He come again, God has visited the world by His Spirit to gather God’s joint-heirs with Christ for heaven.

The nature of prophecy, which enters into the mind of God on the ruin and rejection of His people, is of all importance. It is what distinguishes the faithful who have the intelligence of Christ—faithful in the fallen state of things. Their conduct at the same time is directed and governed by the revelation they possess of another order of things to come.

Chapter 5.

There are two great principles presented in chapters 5 and 6: in the former the judgment God pronounces on the vineyard in reference to the fruits He must look for from it; in the latter is the introduction of the glory of the Messiah, and what this glory demands from the people. Prophecy supposes a fallen condition, and would be superfluous if the state God established had no need of a special testimony. God bears witness against the state of things and gives promise in Jesus.

God considers whether the vineyard bears the fruit that a vineyard so cared for ought to bear. It is a general principle that applies to the Jews, to the church, and to each individual. If the church has received more than the Jews, God is entitled to expect that it produce more. When one takes the glory of Christ, one sees what ought to correspond to that glory. The two principles constantly turn up. God has formed the state of things, whether among the Jews or in the church, with reference to Christ.

Here is what God says of Israel: “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they “rain no rain upon it.” For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression: for righteousness, but behold a cry,” (v. 1-7). The “well-beloved” is the Lord Jesus. God asks that people—even the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah—should judge between Him and His vineyard. He has done much for a nation that had a certain responsibility on the earth. He will accompUsh all His counsels, but first of all He proves Israel to see if they will make good themselves the design of God.

But man always fails for what God expects from him, and He would have it seen what man is. God does all that man could ask, and this only manifests the ill-will of man. Sacrifices, temple, service—God had arranged all. The people fail in all; and God destroys what He had Himself made. He breaks the fence. All that the father had the elder brother possessed. But God destroys what He had made, and He will accomplish all His counsels (Lam. 2:1-9). The Lord has cast off His altar, He has abhorred His sanctuary. His people having been unfaithful to His blessings, the means He had placed for the blessing of His people He has taken all away. When the people are far from God, they attach themselves to ordinances; it is the mark that all is going to ruin. From the moment that God is of little importance to the conscience, ordinances become the objects of superstition and take the place of God. Here it is, “the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord! “When God is just about to destroy them, it is then men attach the more importance to them. God confided to man true privileges; but man fails: God takes all away, and the result is a judgment.

From verse 8 God enumerates the various sins which were in the midst of Israel. “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope: that say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it! Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” (v. 8-11, 18-23).

The Israelites despise the warning of judgment; the wicked take advantage of the delay; just as the like was to happen in the last days of the christian testimony (2 Pet. 3). But God does not hurry His counsel. He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He knows well that He must judge at the end. Man attaches himself to his own wisdom, and as long as God does not chastise, man hardens his heart. God has done all for His vineyard, but this producing nothing but wild grapes; He judges His vineyard on the earth.

The church is also on the earth under responsibility here below. It has more light and more knowledge than Israel. This changes nothing as to the counsels of God, who commits His glory to the faithfulness of the church here below. If we do not represent aright this glory, judgment is impending on the church here below.

Instead of enfeebling the sense of our faults, the more that we feel the blessings, the dearer will be the glory of Christ to us; and the more also that we are alive to His glory, the more do we understand that the church here below must be judged as an economy here below. If any one can say that the church has duly guarded the glory of Christ in the world, he must have lost the idea of what the glory of Christ demands, just as an unconverted person has no notion of what is due to the righteousness and holiness of God.

Chapter 6.

Here it is a question of the glory of Christ, as we see by comparing John 12:40 with verse 10 of our chapter. The prophet sees here Christ as Jehovah of hosts who is manifested in the temple; the Spirit of God, putting together His glory and the state of His people, judges this state in reference to that glory. This is the Spirit of prophecy and of faith.

The unity and the condition of the church, do they answer to the heart of the Bridegroom? Everything for us is to be in accordance with God. The state of His people, was it according to the glory of Christ which it is my privilege to share?

“Woe is me for I am undone.” He judges the state of the people, his own conscience being touched. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me,10 etc. God establishes the prophet. The witness of prophecy consists in the setting forth of the holiness of God in the midst of His people. The live coal from off the altar had touched his lips, and his iniquity was taken away and sin purged.

There is a moment when the people of God become, as happened to the land of Pharaoh, the occasion of the outward manifestation of God’s judgments: a serious and terrible thought, yet suitable. For where ought God to execute His righteous judgments if not where His light has been diffused and disobeyed? There must fall most stripes (Luke 12). It is Christendom which is now charged with this responsibility. It is for these times the vine of the earth, the grapes of which shall be trodden in the winepress of His indignation (Rev. 14). God will send them strong delusion (2 Thess. 2:11). It is just so here for the Jews of that day. “Make fat the heart of this people,” not the Gentiles (v. 10). Christendom which received not the love of the truth that they might be saved shall be judged in the same way. God will send them the working of delusion that they may believe the lie.

The judgment must go on to an entire desolation (v. 11, 12). There is a manifestation of glory, the prophetic testimony of purged lips, judgment on the people and land; but there is also the spirit of intercession, along with and by the Spirit of prophecy. Only we must remember that the Jews are to be restored on earth, the church will be glorified in heaven.

The spirit of faith knows that it is impossible for God to abandon His people for ever. He subjects them to judgment up to desolation; but says the prophet, “Lord, how long?” He knows that there is a term and that finally grace abounds for the people. There will be a tenth (v. 13); then it is over again cropped down; but the holy seed, that is, the remnant, will be manifested. During winter the tree seems dead; but in spring, when the grace of God renews its shining on the people, the tree recovers.

This prophecy was given in the year that Uzziah died, and iniquity began to draw near under Jotham. The spirit of faith is pre-occupied with the glory of God, does not hide sin, but counts on grace in spite of sin. The principles which apply here are found again also for the church, though the details of application may not be the same. The church cannot say, Lord, how long? for the earth; but the responsibility of the vineyard, cultivated yet bearing bad fruit, abides. We may desire for our souls intelligence in God’s ways toward His people, and the application to ourselves and to the church of these great principles.

Nothing is more important for our souls than the church as an order of things here below for manifesting the glory of Christ during His absence. Our judgment on the state of the church should have as its rule the manifestation of Christ’s glory as the Head in heaven. I cannot have a deep feeling of the benefits conferred by any one without having the sense of the responsibility that results from the relationship. If we have unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, we shall gain nothing by hiding from us the glory of Christ.

Chapter 7.

In general the prophets date their prophecies from the name of the kings during whose reign they prophesied. One always finds in their writings something which gave rise to their prophecy. Here it is the reign of Ahaz. The prophecy of Isaiah pertains to his last days.

Prophecy does not appear when the people walk according to God’s mind. There might be a walk which appears good, but which goes little by little into evil. Before Israel made the fall of the golden calf, there was no need of a prophet, any more than during the leading of Joshua; for Israel enjoyed the goodness of God. When the state of the people is bad generally, God must encourage the remnant by prophecy, which is not only the revelation of things to come, but also a testimony given. Prophecy is also a means of deliverance; it always condemns those in whose midst it takes place; it is the judgment of existing evil and the revelation of the method God is going to employ to deliver. Noah divinely warned condemned the world by building the ark; he prophesied the deluge for 120 years, because the wickedness of men was come to its height, and deliverance was in the ark. That judgment should be executed on the world, it was needful that it should be announced beforehand. Such is the principle. Prophecy is an appeal to repentance, for it is a manifestation which exists; it is not yet judgment, but still grace. There is always necessarily revelation for the faithful remnant from Him whose strength never fails. It is always Christ, in whom everything ends without exception: even all the course of this world concurs to the glory of Christ.

If we examine these two reigns, we see prosperity, and in part fidelity. It is said of Uzziah, “he did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah”; and the same of his son Jotham. God not having yet withdrawn His hand, there were blessings belonging to them; but look at what there was below. When the Spirit of God acts, He takes cognisance of evil and sees what sin is; He does not pass lightly over things and persons as the heart of man does, but wishes the good of the people and their conversion. Therefore does He take account of evil, and that before it is manifested; for He does not withdraw His hand till there is no remedy.

Such is the place prophecy holds in the ways of God, but at the same time it nourishes and strengthens faith by shewing in the glory of the Messiah the remedy for all evil. All the moral power of prophecy is taken away if we consider the things to come without considering the action of God for the moment. Anna spoke of Christ to all those who, feeling the state of things, looked for redemption.

To understand prophecy one must understand what God says as He says it, just believing simply the things as they are said. It is because of not following this plain rule that people find so many difficulties.

There is one circumstance more, which shews God’s attitude toward Ahaz and Hezekiah. Ahaz took away the altar which was before Jehovah and put in its place a pagan one. At that time the house of David being the last support, its fall dragged with it and displays the end of Israel; while Hezekiah who succeeded is like the resurrection for Israel, and displays the coming blessing for the remnant when Christ shall appear in His glory.

The Spirit of God thinks always of His people according to their privileges; when the heart is far from God, it judges otherwise than God does and according to its actual evil state. But God cannot do so. One must see the church as God formed it for Himself; and God cannot derogate from His holiness nor from the estimation He has made of it. Conscience cannot judge soundly if it judge according to its state and not its privileges; for it is according to our privileges that God always judges. When God judges, He compares the state of things present with what was when He set it up: and He sees only wounds and putrefying sores, and nothing whole. God judges and thinks according to our privileges; and we cannot judge soundly save when we judge as God judges, and this makes us humble.

“Make the heart of this people fat,” etc. (Isa. 6:10): when was this an accomplished fact? Seven hundred years later, after Christ and even the testimony of the Spirit had been rejected. Before the execution faith judges, and the judgment is in God’s mind long before it happens. When the Christian is divinely warned by prophecy of the state of condemnation before the end, if he wait for it, all is lost. Prophecy supposes the knowledge of God, who was in relation with Israel till John the baptist.

Let us now look back and compare all we have had with chapters 6, 7, and all the rest of the book. When Jehovah says (Isa. 1:24), “I will ease me of mine adversaries and avenge me of mine enemies,” He spoke of those in Israel. It is most terrible when the people of God take such a place as is not said of the poor sinner ignorant of God. There is a consuming fire for the adversaries (Heb, 10:27). God’s people come under His judgments. There will be a remnant, but for the mass of the people judgment. Yet Zion shall be restored according to God’s faithfulness. The separation of the remnant will take place at the end, judgment will fall on the people, not on the remnant. Those that return shall be redeemed by righteousness and Zion by judgment. It is a great mistake to think that chapter 2:2-4 is yet accomplished. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” There are two things: Jerusalem the centre, and Jerusalem compared with what it was. Judgment must be executed; and Zion, delivered by this judgment, becomes the centre of power, all nations flowing to it. In what follows one sees the moral judgment which was not executed till seven hundred years after it was pronounced. The day of Jehovah will be against all that is lifted up, for His Spirit judges all, and His hand will subject all to His power. It is only His people that are His enemy—none on earth like those who have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved; they will be faithful to Antichrist. There is nothing so opposed to God as what is near God, as we see in Judas. There must be judgment on all that is proud and lofty. The haughty looks of man shall be humbled. If there is in our hearts a single object that we desire to exalt us, it will be judged and broken. That day is against all the oaks of Bashan, etc.

Such is the sum given us in this book as to Jews and Gentiles, the first four chapters being introductory, with details in chapters 3, 4. Chapter 5 begins a pleading with God’s people3 chapter 6 interrupting the prophecy to give the prophet his mission, and chapters 7 to 9:7 the birth of Messiah in relation to Israel and the land, the Assyrian attacks, and the power of Messiah triumphant. Chapter 9:8 resumes the chastisements on Israel with deliverance in the end (chaps. 11, 12), for there is always deliverance after judgment.

From chapter 13 to 35 are the details of judgments on the nations, and of what will happen to Israel, that is, Judah and Ephraim, followed by the typical history of Hezekiah in chapters 36-39.

Chapter 40 begins with comfort for the people from Jehovah, with their chastening from His hand for their wickedness, first, in idolatry, next in rejecting the Messiah, and ends with glory and blessing when they repent and He is received. The thought of God does not stop till He has shewn that grace over-abounds and till He sets His people in blessing. The way in which the Holy Spirit judges all is by referring all to His blessing if we have not full confidence in His goodness. One cannot have full confidence in His goodness without also having a full conviction of the sad state of God’s people; if we avoid pronouncing this judgment on the actual state of things and on ourselves as sharing the same moral state we cannot know all the goodness of God. Israel is taken as His witness against idolatry and also of the rejection of Messiah; so that the end is to identify the nations with Israel, and all that which is identified with evil shall suffer the effects of evil. Two things shall happen together, terrible times and the return of Christ in power and glory.

We see in chapter 4:3 that all the escaped in Jerusalem shall be written to life. There will be a manifestation of glory in this world, as in a little measure there was in the wilderness. “And Jehovah will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” v. 5, 6. We have here the judgment of Israel and the glory manifested. The first four chapters give us the end of all as to Israel, but glory at last. Prophecy always supposes a state of displeasure on God’s part, but blessing and glory after judgment. It was given to be believed and understood before accomplishment. If God charges any one by a message, he must understand it before the judgment, else for him it is useless: to say the contrary is Satan’s snare, for in understanding it only when accomplished, the moral effect is lost. To have God making known His mind in what does not touch ourselves directly, we have the great proof of His love and enjoy communion with Him, which always separates us more from a world about to be judged.

Jerusalem being the centre of the things which must come to pass, one must be at the centre to take in the circle. There was but one prophet sent to the heathen, Jonah to Nineveh. God ever sends warning before judgment, shewing also the interest He takes in the creature.

Hear what the Spirit says in chapter 5. It is important to remark that it is always the Spirit of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10, 11). We shall ever find allusion to Christ; and if we read without understanding that it is Christ who speaks or is spoken of, they are lost for us.

In general, prophecy applies as here to a people with whom God is in relation. God calling His people to consider their state, He would reveal His judgments to them, but begins by making them pay attention. “My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he fenced it,” etc. (v. 1,2.) It is the plaint of God in recalling to His people what He has done for them. This applies to our consciences. God has a right to look for fruit according to the pains He took, and if there were none, there must be necessarily judgment. God never stops at what is spoilt to repair the breaches; He looks at what He did at the beginning, and compares it with the actual state. Therefore does the Lord say to the angel of the church in Ephesus, “Thou hast left thy first love,” Rev. 2:4. What God demands of us is that we look at what He did at the beginning, and that we compare ourselves, not with the actual state that is spoilt, but with the fruits and testimonies given at the start; and if we do not bear these fruits, we are guilty, and here is the consequence: “Judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.” The principle of verses 3, 4 applies also to the church.

The fact is that God’s people are reduced to silence. Israel was placed under responsibility, as is the church; and, if enjoying all the privileges, they failed, all fails on man’s part. God has chosen Israel for His glory on earth, and the church also for His glory in heaven; and we must not confound ourselves with them. We have failed, but God will accomplish all in Christ. There are always men failing under responsibility and Christ who does not fail; and God executes by Him judgment on the creature, whether Israel or the church. Judgment will come before God accomplishes His purposes of glory.

“And now go to: I will tell you what I will do,” etc. (v. 5-7). Judah was the plant of Jehovah’s pleasure, but it brought forth wild grapes. God judges the vineyard, as also Christendom. We have enjoyed superior advantages, and, our christian responsibility being greater, judgment will also be greater. God enters into details to shew the righteousness of His judgments. It is not only covetousness ending in desolation, and corrupt luxury in death and hell, but excuses for iniquity growing up to contempt of divine judgment, as we see in the profane indifference of Christendom, when men have God’s warnings and think they will never be executed. “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet. 3:3, 4). It answers to the insult of God in verses 18, 19. “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope: that say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it.”

Another character still is lack of discernment in good and evil. Satan brings about transgression and hardening of the conscience; his desire is always to darken the intelligence, as the desire of the Christian should be always more and more to judge according to God. It was the prayer of the apostle that the Colossians (chap, i:9) should be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. So Ephesians 1:17. It is what distinguishes from those of whom it is here said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (v. 20, 21).

“Because they have cast away the law of Jehovah of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel, therefore is the anger of Jehovah kindled against his people, and he hath stretched his hand against them, and hath smitten them,” v. 24, 25. God does not strike all at once. He sends partial judgments, and since they do not awaken, worse judgments; but there is always before it forbearance and mercy on God’s part. What God did at the beginning is the great principle that God recalls to His people. Therefore is He just in His judgments.

In chapter 6 is another principle. God speaks there, not of what He did at the beginning, but of glory. When I compare the state of the primitive church, I say, Where are we? I can also say, What glory! There is what God would give, and He shews the glory of God in His temple. Israel will be blessed by His manifestation and the enjoyment of this glory. But if the people are unclean, they must have only judgment, and not glory. Read verses 1-4 for the manifestation of the glory of Christ Himself. They could not comprehend, because the heart of the people was grown fat, as we see in verses 9, 10. But where the glory was presented to Isaiah, he says, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts,” v. 5. Such is the conviction of the prophet before God; he has the understanding of good and evil, instead of being overjoyed that he had seen Jehovah. This makes him say, Woe is me! The only thing that it becomes one to say is, Woe is me! “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged,” v. 6, 7. Because he is thus purged, the prophet is rendered capable of being a messenger, and says to God, “Here am I; send me,” v. 8. “And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not,” v. 9. From the moment it is a question of presenting the people, it is, “Make the heart of this people fat,” etc. It is no longer a question of repentance. The time of judgment is come: repentance is for the remnant. This will be infallibly. Pharaoh was blinded that God might deliver His people; and for those who refuse to receive His testimony, God shall send them strong delusion. For He has been patient to the last degree, but they refuse instruction from Him. He deals with Christendom as with Israel.

God is long-suffering; for seven hundred years elapsed since the threat till its execution. When He sent the Heir, every means had been exhausted: I do not speak of efficacious grace. His people said, We shall have the world without God if we get rid of the Heir. If the Christian understands the mind of God, this separates his heart from the actual state of things, because he sees the course of this world, which does not understand God. If the Spirit of God gives intelligence to the prophet and to us, one also understands that it is not for ever. “Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and Jehovah have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil-tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof,” v. 11-13. One must own that the judgment is just, but God is faithful. It is only for a time; though it will come, and though there be judgments, the church shall be in glory. So there will be a remnant of the Jews, but it will be anew consumed; they will come into the land, but the Gentiles will come also: as the oak and the teil-tree, which being cut down have still the trunk; “so the holy seed shall be their stock.” God guards His remnants.

When the prophet’s mouth was purged, God tells him the judgment, and then he turns to intercession. We ought to understand these principles, and apply them, not to Israel only, but to the church, and to each individual. The beginning of conversion goes well, but afterwards—! One must judge oneself, or God judges us in His love, for He is always love. If God saves us perfectly in Christ, we are brought in to be the objects of His Father by government; and when a Christian walks for the glory of God, he is happy, and can say, Send me; for God never fails for those who trust in Him.

We find here not only the great principles of the government of God, but moreover the introduction of a personage (Immanuel, the Lord Jesus) on the scene of prophecy, and the consequences of this introduction. God had raised up to Israel a stay in David. It was the last support of God’s people on the earth. Before raising up the house of David, God had tried all means possible to maintain relations with His people. The priesthood had failed in Eli, the ark was taken, and God had pronounced Ichabod, The glory is departed. Samuel is brought in, and God abides by His channel in sovereign grace toward His people. Saul (“asked for”) is unfaithful. Under priesthood, under royalty, under prophecy, in a word under all forms and all means that God had prepared, Israel always failed. Yet God raised up the house of David. Solomon fails. Though more faithful than others, his family also fails. God had promised to chastise it, but that He would never entirely withdraw His favour. Christ Himself has been the accomplishment of this promise, as of all others. Man always fails to keep his relationship with God, but all is accomplished in Jesus. The family of David failed, and it is in Christ alone that the Jews find the blessing that is attached to it.

In the person of Ahaz the family of David abandons completely its fidelity. Ahaz associates himself with the king of Assyria, imitates the altar seen at Damascus, and places it in the very temple of God. When the family of David itself thus fails, and every hope is ruined, prophecy introduces the promise of Christ to be the support of the faithful. This sign was to be in the family of David itself. It is a fact of all-importance. The Messiah, the Son of God, was to shew himself in Israel, and Israel to shew itself unfaithful spite of the presence of Messiah. What is before us here is the house of David, not Israel alone. By iniquity the conscience is bad and faith is feeble. Ahaz does not ask for a sign. He makes a show of not wishing it by reason of piety.

Though the house of David failed, God does not at all fail; and He says to Isaiah, “Go forth now to meet Ahaz.” He intervenes at the moment the thing is necessary. Shear-jashub signifies the remnant will return. The people, being unfaithful, have no force against their enemies. But there, in the circumstances where all hope is taken away, God presents the promise that the remnant should be sustained by the testimony of God Himself. He comes in between the sorrowful circumstances and the faithful, that their faith should not fail. At the extreme point of the misery God manifests Himself, and all is light. God would have it so: otherwise the heart rests on the flesh, and forgets God. If the heart loved God naturally, this would not be necessary; that is to say, it would not be necessary for every outward prop to fail His children, if their heart were only occupied with counting on Him; but the bent of the heart estranges from God. He had not yet delivered His people from the Assyrian; but where there is a lack of faith, the heart is fearful before the enemy, even before a powerless enemy. God shews comfort to His people. He has a perfect knowledge of all that is done, and despises the strength of the enemy. He knows who Pekah and Rezin are, and that Damascus is head of Syria. When it is God who sends our enemies as a chastening against us, we have no strength against them. God knows all the difficulties. What is wanting is the faith which gives a perfect security against all the circumstances possible.

God points out the intentions of the two kings (v. 4-6), intentions which perhaps Ahaz did not know. But God besides has His king at Jerusalem, and they will not succeed in setting up another. “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within three score and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established,” v. 7-9. God knew all the details, as He gives Ahaz to see. Whatever Syria, Damascus, or Rezin might plan, it was not what God willed. On this all turns. What the Christian wants is consciousness of his relationship with God: then there is nothing to fear, It is not the strength of the enemy which the people have to dread, but their own iniquity which enfeebles them. The danger presented ends in nothing; but if we seek any support whatever in something of this world, God abandons us, leaving us to the consequences of our relation with the support we have chosen. Thus Pekah and Rezin had no strength against Judah, for God would not deliver Jerusalem to these confederate kings: but Ahaz, fearful and unbelieving, rests on Assyria, and it is from the Assyrian that Judah must be delivered. Meanwhile the true Deliverer, the real support, namely Immanuel, is revealed, when he failed who should have reigned according to God. Therein is a most important lesson.

God offers a sign to the feeble-hearted Ahaz and to the people seeking a prop apart from God. He would shew to the worldling all that is possible for Him to shew of grace and power; and He would make His children feel that their incredulity and unfaithfulness are without excuse. God bids the king to ask a sign below or above (v. 10, 11); but Ahaz (v. 12) shrinks from being too near God, and having a real proof that God was there, for fear of being obliged to follow Him, to abandon the outward supports of his infidelity, and to renounce everything but God. There is nothing that the outward people of God dread so much as nearness to God; though His nearness is a blessing without limit, the heart dreads it, because it will not quit what God condemns.

Nevertheless God will not abandon the house of David. He promises Immanuel (v. 13-15). The application of this promise concerns the house of David and the people of Israel, not here the salvation of the church. God gives the sign in spite of them. It is the birth of the Messiah. Ahaz did not wish God to be near him; but God would be with them, and Immanuel is the sign.

The two kings occasioned fear to Ahaz; but he on whom he sought to rest is sent as a chastening on him. (See 2 Kings 16.) There is what one should fear—that God should take the rod. He will hiss for the enemy, for the fly far off in Egypt, for the bee in Assyria; He will shave as with a hired razor, so as to sweep all clean (v. 17-20). God would be our strength: the heart of man never wishes it. The fear we have of evil befalling us makes us seek support in that which appears to us a way without danger; and these are the very things God employs to chastise us. The kings of Israel and of Syria came against Judah of their own will. God stops them. Ahaz and his people would lean on the king of Assyria; and God makes the Assyrian come against them in the end.

It is always what the will of man seeks that becomes the instrument of chastening. When the assaults against the people of God flow only from the will of man, there is nothing to fear. Beware of dreading the nearness of God: it is to be far from the source of all blessings.

Chapter 8.

Notwithstanding, the grace of God abides toward His people. The scourge of God comes; but if He brings the Assyrian, He promises at the same time Immanuel. If Maher-shalal-hash-baz testifies to the Assyrian in making speed to the spoil, and hastening the prey, God cannot abandon the house of David and Immanuel’s land (v. 1-10). The Assyrian shall go over, and reach even to the neck, but no farther. God thereon vindicates against him the rights of Messiah, even as it is ever our resource that we are Christ’s. This people had refused the softly flowing waters of Shiloah; they had despised the house of David, rejoicing in Rezin and Pekah, not in God’s gentle way, which keeps the heart ever dependent. If the flesh can have a support, it is in man, in what looks strong; it has no confidence if there be only God for the morrow. From the moment we would for to-morrow rest on a good thought of to-day, it is our own righteousness. God would have us be in appearance the most feeble, that He should be our only strength.

As they despised the waters of Shiloah, the Lord brings on them the waters of the river strong and many; He sends against them as their master him on whom they leaned. Such is the end of man’s wisdom. “Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us. For Jehovah spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy: neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid,” v. 9-12. How busy is human prudence, and how vain! We are taught of God not to imitate this. The nations shall do all this, but their counsels come to nought, “for God is with us.” The one counsel for the faithful is Immanuel. “Neither fear ye their fear nor be afraid.” Their word shall not stand. The thought of the Assyrian is to do his own will, not that of God. All depends on this only word, Immanuel. What avails confederacy against Him? The Lord spoke in strength of hand. Therefore His word is, “Sanctify Jehovah of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken,” v. 13-15. Give to God all the holy heed that is due to Him. Nothing then can shake us, because nothing can shake God. Yet is He in Jesus for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both houses of Israel; for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem—this because of their infidelity. They too did not like to have the Eternal near them. The introduction of the Messiah is in view of the power and the invasion of the Assyrian. (Compare Micah 5.) But the result for the mass of the people is that they reject Immanuel, and stumble on Him to their own utter ruin.

The remnant is separated, the testimony bound up and sealed (v. 16). The Eternal came Himself in the person of Jesus. He is the confidence, the sanctuary of those that believe; He is a rock of offence to the unbelieving. Hence results a relation more intimate: “Seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon Jehovah, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from Jehovah of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion,” v. 17, 18. The testimony is sealed there, while God turns away His face from the house of Jacob: nay more, “Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me.” They are for signs and for wonders in Israel.

The people have lost God who disowns them meanwhile, and, seeking light but finding none, they turn to familiar spirits and wizards. But the true heart, having Christ before it, cleaves to God and His word— “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” v. 19, 20. And then we pass from the anguish and darkness of despair for the Jew when he refused the Messiah to the last days when light begins to dawn once more (v. 21, 22; chap. 9:1, 2).

Thus chapter 7 presents to us Immanuel, heir of David’s house and hope of the remnant which shall return (Shear-jashub); chapter 8, the land of Canaan in relation to Him. It is Immanuel’s land. There the remnant separated; and the nations in misery and darkness, till the despised light reappears in glory (chap. 9:1-7), overleaping the mystery of Christ and the church of the heavenly places, after which the general history of Israel is resumed in continuation of the judgments of chapter 5. Chapters 6-9:7 are a parenthesis to introduce Messiah.

We have seen in chapters 7, 8, Messiah born to reign. It is no longer only principles, or reasonings of God with His vineyard. There abides the absolute promise of God, though the son of the virgin, Immanuel, be rejected. Christ and His disciples, instead of being received, become a sign in Israel. Incredulity seeks a support, and this support becomes a difficulty and scourge, but there remains for faith the accomplishment of God’s mind in Christ.

The waters of Shiloah being despised, the Assyrian comes into the country. The prophet with the two children is for a sign to the two houses of Israel. The Jews have in unbelief rejected Jesus, who is become a stumbling-stone to them, and their chastisement is in anguish and darkness. Two consequences result from this. The remnant could not enjoy the earthly promises made to the Messiah, but they have the testimony sealed up. Those who have rejected the testimony wander without light from God in the land which is trodden under the feet of the Gentiles. The Jews abide in bondage. Syria attacks Zebulun and Naphtali; it is the first invasion. Tiglath Pileser comes into Galilee; it is the second. But what follows is worse. Nevertheless the light shines in this land of the shadow of death; but all becomes graver still by the rejection of this light.

There is then a new element on which depends the lot of Israel. Christ has been there (Matt. 4:15), and He has been rejected. The election from among the Jews is based on this foundation. All the Jewish election is added to the church (Acts 2:47), in place of being saved for another end as in Micah 5:3.

Christ having been manifested to but rejected by the nation, they are blinded. A judicial darkness is fallen on the Jews. His rejection by them opens the way for the election from among the Gentiles, whilst the elect from Israel are added to the church. Jehovah hides His face from the house of Jacob (chap. 8:17); but the prophetic Spirit waits for Him to act in favour of Israel. The church anticipates the faith of Israel when the Messiah is rejected, believing in Him; and this even becomes the occasion of provoking Israel to jealousy.

If Israel had received Jesus, Israel would have been blessed; the wickedness of man would not have been proved, and Israel would not have lost their right to the promises. The wisdom of God places Israel under mercy like the Gentiles (Rom. 11), and opens thus the door to the Gentiles in accomplishing the promises. Jesus is minister of the truth of God for the Jews and of mercy for the Gentiles (Rom. 15). We have “pre-trusted in Christ” (Eph. 1:12): that is, those of the Jews whose hope was in Christ before the nation bows at the end when He is seen in glory. We have believed without seeing, in contrast with Thomas and Israel. Those who shall believe when they see Him are to be blessed, but are not to be in His glory. This changes nothing as to the promises on God’s part. Israel had lost all right to the promises; but these abide, because God had sworn to Abraham, and He is faithful. He judges Israel, hides His face from Jacob; nevertheless He keeps all His promises, and Israel waits till judgment falls on faithless Christendom, as it fell on the Jews. God will resume His ways with His people, and Israel shall be blessed.

From the first to the second verse of chapter 9 the present economy is quite passed over, and we light on the accomplishment of the promises for Israel. It is a question of Israel and the world, not of the church. The prophetic Spirit waits for what God will do, and beholds across the ages, the glory of Jehovah in the Messiah shedding His blessing on His people Israel. The first coming of Jesus has not accomplished verses 2-7. He has not delivered His people from the yoke of the Gentiles, the reign of the false king, or the efficacious lie of Satan. One often sees half a passage of the Old Testament cited in the New Testament, because the accomplishment of the other half is hot arrived. Thus Christ is gone on high and has received gifts for men, but not yet “for the rebellious,” that is, the Jews who will receive the rain of the latter season. All the present economy lies in the interval. It is no question at present either of Jews or Greeks, but of man, a new creation in Christ and called out of the world for heaven.

The Child was already born, the Son given; but Israel have not owned Him. When they are renewed, Christ will be owned, as born “unto us” and given “unto us.” The church anticipates the people in all this; but for heaven.

There is here a principle of intelligence for prophecy, to see how we can employ the passages put in the mouth of the Jews. In chapter 53:1-4 it is the Jews who esteemed Christ “smitten of God and afflicted.” They said if He were the Son of God, let Him come down from the cross. Not so the believer, who enters into the enjoyment of the fruits of His suffering. “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.” “Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” It remains true that He died for the Jews as an elect nation, but also to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. These in the name of Jesus can say, that God caused the iniquities of us all to meet on Him. But Gentiles as such cannot say, “We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”; as grafted on the olive, they can now say what Israel will say by-and-by. The church can say more, for on our behalf Jesus sits on the throne, not of David, but of His Father. We shall sit on Christ’s throne, but not on the throne of David; to it we have no right whatever, not being of David’s lineage. But we shall be seated on the more elevated throne of our Lord as the glorified Son of man. We are one with Christ, the coming King, and shall reign with Him, kings and priests to God, even His Father. In this sense it is not for us to say, like Israel, “Unto us a child is born,” because we shall not be subjects of the kingdom, but co-heirs with Christ the King, not the people reigned over, but kings reigning with Him.

Christ has not yet the government here spoken of upon His shoulders, nor is there the increase of government and peace without end, nor is His name yet called Prince of Peace as here in the exercise of His functions. He is prince or originator of life whom God raised up from among the dead. He has not come yet to give peace in the earth, but a sword and division. He would have us fight, clothed with all spiritual armour. When Christ shall reign, He will be Prince of Peace as Son of David, and peace shall be on the earth. Christ must have the pre-eminence in all things, and have every sort of glory, as Son of God, Son of man, Son of David, etc., all things put under Him, and not merely Israel or the Gentiles. We shall sit with Him on His throne, as now He sits on the Father’s. Up to the present we are seated in heavenly places in Him, not with Him as yet, on high.

But He will also have the throne of David. God loves the people, and Jerusalem is the city of the great King: Jesus will have this glory, the church has it not. The Jews will enjoy it under His reign. It is an earthly state, and more limited. Jesus is also head of angels, and will have that glory too. He is personally the image of the invisible God, and Son of man, Head over all things, as all the ends of the earth shall call Him blessed (Psa. 72).

Jesus only took up the promises when risen, in a life to make all sure on the other side of the grave: a mere man could not do this (2 Sam. 23:5; Isa. 55:3; Acts 13:34). Jesus must introduce the blessing of God among creation. It is not here the Father and the Son, but Jehovah and the Son of David; and there is a counsel of peace between them both, to the end that creation should be blessed (Zech. 6:12, 13), Israel being restored to their own land.

We have been instruments of mischief to all creation, which now awaits for the manifestation of the children of God for its blessing and happiness too. We are gathered a kind of first-fruits of the new creation, while God hides His face from the house of Jacob. What gracious consideration in God towards us, for whom, having been in Adam the instruments of the ruin of creation, all creation waits, that we should be manifested with the second Man for the blessing! When Christ shall be Priest on His throne, the counsel of peace shall proceed for the blessing of the earth. As to us, identified now with His humiliation, we shall be identified with His glory; we alone shall see Him as He is in the intimacy of His love. The Jews will see Him as He shall be manifested in earthly glory. In the expression of faith, as in the Psalms, mercy is always before righteousness, because Israel had failed completely in righteousness, and there must be recourse to mercy and grace. We find in prophecy great principles of truth which can guide us, Christians, but also circumstances which do not concern us. Spiritual intelligence seizes the place of the church and the exaltation that God reserves for His Son Jesus, that all glory may centre in Him. The Christian’s heart is happy in seeing Jesus exalted everywhere and with all glory. The scriptures bear testimony to Him, and, in proportion as we apprehend better the glory of Jesus, the scriptures become more easy for us to understand.

Chapters 9, 10

The Spirit of God has given in the preceding chapters the Messiah (hope of the remnant and deliverer from the Assyrian), whose presentation to the Jews changes all the condition of the nation. He resumes now the prophetic history of the people of Israel. God has chastised His people, but this has not yet dealt with their pride: they confide yet in themselves (v. 8-12). The anger of Jehovah is not yet turned away, but His hand is stretched out still, for the people do not turn to Him that smites them, and have not discerned His hand. And till this is seen, there is resistance and a strengthening of self in one’s own power.

There are three things in the chastenings of God’s people: first, the instrument; second, the enemy’s malice; third, the hidden intention of God. If one looks at the instrument, it is only to accuse, or to be discontented. But even behind the malice of Satan there is the goodness of God. Sometimes the heart avows that the chastening is come in consequence of known evil, and then would just reform itself a little. But the hand of God abides stretched out still because there is no return to Him that smites, but the effort by a certain quantity of hypocrisy to appease God. The conscience has not been put in direct relation with God.

The consequence is (v. 14) His cutting from Israel head and tail, branch and root, leaders and led. So God takes away even a Christian from this world as a chastisement (1 Cor. 11).

When the people of God go wrong, there is always the spirit of false prophecy which would make them believe that all goes well. Men in authority love that they should not be discouraged: see the opposition to Jeremiah in Jerusalem. To this the false prophet lends help, to hinder the conscience from turning back to God, who would by chastening bring the conscience into direct contact with Him. The spirit of falsehood would persuade that they are very happy. They that call them blessed are the misleaders. Those that are so called and believe them are swallowed up (v. 16).

When the people of God are in a good state, they have at heart the glory of God without which they cannot be satisfied. It is not enough for them that there is no evil going on—this suffices man, but not the glory of God. There are still divisions and miseries because of their iniquities (v. 18-20). But the people is not yet turned to God, and His hand is stretched out still (v. 21). God does not crush His people even when He smites. He leaves some consolation. Nevertheless His people take up their pride again (chap. 10:1-4). At last God calls the great instrument of His anger, (chap. 10:5, etc.). The Assyrian is the rod of His wrath.

There are two phases in the history of the Jewish people. There is first the time when they are owned as the people of God, who chastens them by Egypt and Assyria, yet owns them. Later on He rejects them, and the people become Lo-ammi, Not-His-people. When Israel was carried away captive, it was Lo-ruhamah, but there was not yet an absolute cutting off as a people. When Nebuchadnezzar takes Jerusalem, the people become Lo-ammi. Israel is rejected. God no more owns His people. He watches over them still for final restoration to their land, but “the times of the Gentiles” begin.

Messiah has been presented to the Jews, but not to the ten tribes which had been carried away by the Assyrian. All the history whilst Israel is not owned belongs to the times of the Gentiles. Now in this part of Isaiah we leave aside the times of the Gentiles to follow Israel. God owns His people even in chastising them. The Assyrian is the instrument of the chastisement even at the last.

We see in Micah 5:1-7 that, when the Assyrian shall come into the land, Christ the ruler in Israel will be found there, “the peace.” This is not yet arrived. He shall be the peace then when the Assyrian enters. There is a remarkable type of this final attack of the Assyrian in the history of Sennacherib against Hezekiah. Therefore it is that chapters 36-39 are given. The Holy Spirit takes the actual and real circumstances of the Jews to bind up with them the prophecy of the last days. When Sennacherib came, it was Hezekiah who was in Jerusalem. He is a type of the time when Christ is to be there.

God employs the pride and iniquity of the wicked for the chastisement of His people; and afterwards He destroys the instrument. The Assyrian, God’s rod to strike Israel, glorifies himself against God, who breaks the rod. So in the early part of the nineteenth century Napoleon Bonaparte smote all the people of the Roman empire, but, being wrong, was after that smitten himself.

When the Assyrian shall have done his work, it is the ceasing of the indignation against Israel: an important point in Israel’s history. The destruction of the Assyrian (not of Antichrist) is the end of Jehovah’s anger. The Antichrist will have appeared and been judged before. The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God, who will search out and punish the glory of man’s high looks on all sides, and shall make a consumption even determined in all the land. Christ will maintain Israel.

Chapter 11.

It is no question here either of Christ as Head of the church or of the church’s glory. He is presented as Messiah for the earth ruling, the judgment on the enemy being executed. He is not here called the Root of David, the source of blessing, but a Branch. In Revelation 5 He is the Root of David, in chapter 22 He is Offspring as well as Root. For the church He has a suited relation. He is not judging the earth yet. When He comes again, He will judge, and slay the wicked. (Compare v. 4 and 2 Thess. 2.) Consequently Christ must be looked for to reign over the earth, ruling in righteousness and deciding with equity for the meek of the earth. Actually it is the haughty and unjust who possess the earth. Christ and His own have not yet His rights here below.

In verses 5-9 we see the fruit of the curse gone from the earth, which, by the presence of Christ and the Spirit poured from on high, shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea. Christ here is not glorified above, nor is it the gospel here below.

Verse 10 is not at all realised yet. Christ is an object of reproach, not of glory. But “in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” He will be the centre, and the Gentiles will seek Him then: now it is the hour when God the Father seeks true worshippers, a people from among the Gentiles for His name.

In that day not only will the curse of the earth be taken away, and the nations flock to Christ the exalted King; but “the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth,” v. 11, 12. As He of old brought His people out of Egypt He will recover the remnant of them from the north and south, east and west. Ephraim and Judah will not only be re-united as a people, but in heart also (v. 13), as they never have been.

From verse 14 we learn that the neighbouring nations, which escape the last great Assyrian, or king of the north (Dan. 11:41), shall become objects of judgment to returned Israel, when they spoil their more distant enemies. The comparison of the two prophets shews exactness in detail, where unbelief sees only extinct races and thinks accomplishment impossible.

It is plain that verses 15, 16 can only apply to an earthly deliverance of Israel like that out of Egypt.

Chapter 12.

Here we have a song of praise and thanksgiving for their deliverance. “Thou shalt say,” etc. (v. 1) means unequivocally Israel. God’s anger has not only turned away and ceased, but He is their salvation (v. 2). For all Israel in that day shall be saved. Therefore with joy they draw water out of those exhaustless wells and say Hallelujah (v. 3, 4). But it is Jah Jehovah, not the Father as we know Him now through the Lord Jesus. The effect of their deliverance is that His glory as the Eternal is known in all the earth (v. 5). The Father is known in His family, not in all the earth as such, though by His children everywhere. But here it is the kingdom, and He is known as the Holy One of Israel in Zion. Jehovah reigns, and by Israel He makes Himself known in all the earth.

If we have well seized these two chapters, we cannot confound what is said of Israel and of the church. Christ as the Judge of all must have slain the wicked with the breath of His lips (see chap. 30:33) in order that the blessing should come to pass. Otherwise we confound the kingdom of Christ’s patience with the kingdom of righteous government. If one leads the church to believe that this happy time is come, and that she is to make good all these things, it is to mislead the faithful and to encourage unbelievers. For natural pride is increased by these misapplications of what can only be realised by Christ’s coming to reign. Our place meanwhile is to suffer with Christ.

Here we can remark the force of 2 Peter 1:20: no prophecy of scripture is of its own [particular] interpretation. It is not a question of Nineveh, etc., nor of any other thing in or by itself, but finally of the glory of Jesus, where all meets and all ends. It speaks of a vast and connected system of glory which must be taken as a whole, even as the Spirit wrote it.

In the preceding chapters we have the relationship of God with His people closed by the manifestation of Christ in glory. Here begins a new prophecy, which presents to us the relationship of Israel with the nations. This section of the prophecy goes from chapter 13 to the end of chapter 27, terminating with songs of joy and deliverance, as in the first section.

Chapter 13.

The first of these predictions begins with what is in contrast with Zion, that is to say, with Babylon, and the answer to the messengers of the nations, which is in chapter 14, that Jehovah hath founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall betake themselves to it, when Babylon is destroyed.

Babylon is not only the capital of Nebuchadnezzar and of the habitable world; it is Babel, signifying confusion. It is there men are united to exalt themselves and make themselves a name and a reputation in the world. At the end all the world sets itself to get exaltation for which commerce furnishes the means; and everything there, men’s bodies and souls, will be for sale, as we see in Revelation 18. The Spirit of God taking the city of the Chaldees as an occasion gives the mind of God on the city of idolatrous corruption and pride up to the end, and even brings in here future circumstances of which history presents no accomplishment, and whose order is in contrast with that which is already arrived. Thus the Assyrian, if we follow the history, was destroyed before the grandeur of Babylon; whilst the Spirit, speaking of what will happen in the last days, tells us that the Assyrian is to be destroyed after Babylon. In the time of the prophet Babylon had not yet any pretension to be the capital of an empire, but was a provincial city or at most a secondary power, seeking independence of Assyria, and at times gaining it, till it at last became not only aggressive but supreme.

In verse 6 the fall of Babylon is announced as the day of Jehovah. That which will happen in that day is indicated in verses 6-12. There is all that the world has to look for.

One sees in the world either the arrogance of him who has the upper hand, or the envy of him who is below. God will cause to cease the pride of man in both ways; He will punish (as here) not the dead only, but the living, the habitable earth, all that from which the world draws its glory. Its great chiefs, its victories, its wealth, ease, luxury, splendour, what is it but arrogance and self-exalution? That day will be blessed for those who are poor in spirit, because they will enjoy peace; but the destruction will be so great that a man will be more prized than the gold of Ophir.

“Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove,” etc. (v. 13-22). All this is “a promise” to the Christian. (See Heb. 12:25, 26.) If he is in his place, he is separate from all the interests of the world, he belongs to heaven, to Jesus, which cannot be shaken. The world passes away, and God will make it cease, and this will give rest. It is for us a “promise,” as we have seen. Jesus speaks to us from heaven and makes us this promise of shaking once more, not the earth only, but also heaven; because all that which surrounds us is an obstacle which hinders us from enjoying what Jesus has promised us. Christians hasten this time by their faith. God would have us wait for it because His patience is great, and the work of saving souls still goes on here below (2 Pet. 3). If the destruction of all the world-system is not a promise to us, it must be that we are attached to what is on the earth. There is a kingdom which cannot be moved and which will move all others; and it is for this that christian simplicity waits. Can we truly desire, as the accomplishment of a promise, that God should shake the heavens and the earth? Are our hearts attached to not one thing which shall be the object of that destruction? May God make us see the end of it, that our hearts may be separated from all that is going to be destroyed!

Chapter 14.

When God acts in judgment, there is always care taken of His people. “For Jehovah will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of Jehovah for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were: and they shall rule over their oppressors,” v. 1, 2. When the devastation of the habitable world takes place, there will be the deliverance of the people of God, Israel, who will take possession of the earth.

From verses 3-23 there is a beautiful picture of the fall of Babylon’s king in its last representative—the beast of the close. The prophet takes occasion from events at hand in that day; but no prophecy of scripture is made to be of its own interpretation, none has been fully or entirely accomplished. And the reason is that the Holy Spirit has always Jesus and His kingdom in view. God has always the second Man in His mind. Even the first prophecy, that the woman’s Seed should crush the serpent’s head, is not yet fulfilled. All that there is in God’s word points onward to the glory of Christ.

There is a crowd of prophetic examples in the word of God, where but half is accomplished. Thus Psalm 8 is not yet accomplished in verses 6-9. We do not yet see all things put under His feet (Heb. 2). Again Psalm 68 is not yet accomplished fully. Hence the apostle omits “for the rebellious also” in Ephesians 4, because it will apply to the Jews in the latter day. It would be to lose the purpose of God to believe the prophecies accomplished on this side of Christ’s glory; for it would give to prophecy a particular interpretation.

In verses 12-15 we see that, as long as “the beast” is on the earth, he passes himself off for God. Nevertheless he is doomed to destruction (v. 19). God has but to give the signal, and he who broke kings like reeds is himself a broken reed.

To the Christian Christ is the true Morning Star; but “the beast “claims to be so. He attributes to himself all the glory of Christ. All these details here vaunted in verses 12-15 are true of the Lord Jesus; but the last holder of the power given first to Babylon’s head, would also ascend into heaven, and sit too on the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north, taking possession of Christ’s kingdom in Zion. Compare for part of the language Psalm 48:2: there was the city of the great king. The beast would also possess himself of Christ’s heavenly glory, and be like the Most High; but He who is Son of God and Son of man will overthrow the man of the earth, who shall cause no more fright after that (Ps. 10:18).

The beast and the false prophet being destroyed, Christ is King in Zion. In due time comes the destruction of the Assyrian, as we see here in verses 24-27. “Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass: and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For Jehovah of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” The Assyrian is no less senseless in rising up against Christ associated with Israel, the Prince of princes. The indignation is accomplished then, and Israel long chastised is owned of God. When Christ reigns in Zion, Israel is owned, but all the enemies are not yet destroyed. That which follows the destruction of Babylon and the beast is the destruction of the Assyrian, or king of the north. It is a mistake to confound the little horn of Daniel 7 with the little horn of Daniel 8, which last elevates himself not against the God of gods, but against the Lord of lords. For the indignation to cease completely the Assyrian must be destroyed (Micah 5). He will trample down the Assyrian in His land, because He owns Israel for His people. God will assert in the person of Christ all His rights over the earth.

In verses 28-32 is the judgment of the Philistines, the remains of the Canaanites. Hezekiah laboured for their submission. The Lord Jesus will finish it by a destruction more terrible when He stablishes His throne in Zion. When Babylon, the Assyrian, and the Philistines are put down finally, the poor and needy remnant shall lie down in safety, and Zion shall be their bulwark. (See Ps. 132.) Never in God’s word does that mountain mean anything but itself, being wholly inapplicable to the church.

Chapters 15, 16.

From chapter 13 we have begun to see Israel the centre of all the providence of God in the world, in contrast to all the other nations. Deuteronomy 32 shews Israel as the centre of God’s ways in the world. In antiquity there is no profane history of any importance which is not in connection with the Jewish people. God has a people in the midst of whom He governs and manifests His ways and the consequences of His character. This is true of Israel and the church. All that happens to them is the manifestation of the principles of God’s government. God abode visibly in Israel, His throne was there. He abides by the Spirit in the church. He acts always in government in the midst of His people; it is there He would manifest Himself and not abide only in heaven.

From the moment God is in Israel He identifies Himself with His people. In consequence of this the nations are treated according as they treated Israel. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” says the King. The moment they touch Israel, they touch the apple of His eye. In all these chapters we see the relations of Israel with the nations, and the nations judged of God because they trod down His people, though He used them also to punish His people. But the world enters into God’s mind and assails His people, because they are (not unfaithful to Him but) hateful to them, as they would swallow up all they have. When His people are unfaithful, God sends a testimony to them, as Jeremiah; but they accuse him of conspiring against them, of weakening them, etc., because he tells them that in consequence of their departure from God He will give them over to the Chaldeans.

Here we have Moab wasted and cut off with bitter sorrow, the more humiliating after all their pride. And the very burden which proclaims Moab reduced hopelessly, declares that David’s throne shall be prepared in mercy with One sitting on it in truth, judging and seeking judgment and hasting righteousness.

Chapter 17.

Next comes the burden of Damascus and its degradation from a city to a ruinous heap. In verses 4-6 we see the judgment of Israel, but gleaning grapes are left there. God chastises His people till they cease to rest on their own strength, instead of relying on God alone. Yet when dwindled down to a remnant of two or three here and four or five there, they shall look to Himself, the only source of strength, the Holy One of Israel. For their idolatry they had been desolated. But in the hour of their desperate grief, when nations seem once more ready to engulf and overwhelm them, rebuke comes, and the rushing multitudes are as chaff before the wind (v. 12-14).

When God’s people are faithless, they are able to act even after the prudence and wisdom of the natural man. When they do not rest on God, they are feebler than the world; and when they are given over to a chastening, they are immediately broken to pieces.

The prophet Habakkuk demands the judgment of God, because He is broken-hearted at seeing iniquity in the dwelling of righteousness. When God says He will punish and shews the prophet the desolation of His people, Holdest thou thy tongue, says the prophet, when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? Jehovah then answers, “The just shall live by his faith.” Our relations with God, because He dwells in the midst of us, bring His judgment on men because of what they do to the people of God.

Chapter 18.

It is needful to remember the position of the land of Israel. The rivers of Ethiopia (Cush) are the Nile and the Euphrates, which represent the two nations on the frontiers of Israel that had oppressed them, Egypt and Babylon.

The country .here summoned, “shadowing with wings” (v. i), is beyond those rivers. It was a country unknown at the time when the prophet lived, and was consequently in no connection as yet with Israel; but it will be so in the last days. To shadow with wings is an expression often employed in the word of the Lord for marking protection. It will be a powerful nation, outside their ordinary limits, undertaking to protect Israel.

The great nations of those days occupy themselves with the Jews (v. 2). From the time the nations begin to be the object of God’s judgment, they will be crushed (Zech. 12:1-3).

“All ye inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the mountains” (v. 3): God summons attention to that which He is going to do. “See ye when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.”

“For so Jehovah said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling-place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest,” v. 4. We see what God will do when the nations, following their own policy, will have restored the Jews to their land. He lets them act, and keeps quiet; but He keeps His eye on His dwelling-place.

“For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the springs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches,” v. 5. It is not yet judgment, so all comes to nothing, whatever the promise, as in all human things where God is concerned. Compare Isaiah 6:10.

“They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them,” v. 6. The people are brought back to their land to be given over as a prey to the nations, like wild beasts in winter or ravenous birds in summer. Such will be their fate when anew returned to Palestine, for God is not yet putting His hand to it. Jerusalem will again be the central object of political schemes for the world, though the world despises God’s people, and never occupies itself with them but to exalt itself. The Jew will be oppressed by the Gentiles once more in their land; but deliverance is at hand.

“In that time shall the present be brought unto Jehovah of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of Jehovah of hosts, the mount Zion,” v. 7. A present is to be brought of Israel and from Israel to Jehovah. They will bring an offering, and themselves be as it were an offering, to Jehovah, who will manifest anew His abode in Zion (alter all the long sorrows and desolations), but also His hand in judgment of the nations. After this will begin His relationship with Israel for everlasting blessing under Messiah and the new covenant. The mount of Zion is the place God has chosen, in contrast with Sinai, the mountain of the nation’s responsibility and ruin. (See Heb. 12.) At Sinai God gave, not His promises, but His law; and Israel stood afar off and fell under its curse. Zion is quite another thing. Israel failed under Moses and Aaron, the Judges, Eli, Samuel and Saul, under priest, prophet and king. But David is chosen in sovereignty and places the ark of God in Zion, which becomes the display of royal grace on earth, after man in every respect had failed in his relations with God.

The mountain of Zion is for the earth the same thing in principle as heaven is (save royalty) for God’s relations with the church. The majesty of God no more requires righteousness in man. It establishes itself in grace on the earth when man broke down in everything. This will be true in all, though we shall not be there but above. Jehovah of hosts (that is, the God of government here below) will place Israel, not the church, in connection with the mount Zion. The Father will have us with the Son in His house on high as His children, instead of governing us as His subjects on the earth. It is always important to distinguish our part from that of the earthly people; if not, we necessarily lower our calling, our privileges, and our responsibility. God puts Himself in relation with the world as King by means of His people Israel.

Chapters 19, 20.

There is a change to be noticed, in that from this point the Spirit of God does not so much give us the deliverance of Israel as the desolation of the nations in question. Here in chapter 20 it is the burden of Egypt, its judgment and its blessing, when not Israel only but Assyria, their then conqueror, shall be blessed. If ruin befell that land meanwhile, if anarchy followed, if cruel lords after this oppressed, grace will succeed and bless in the end. But how complete the change when the land of Judah shall be a terror to Egypt, etc. (chap. 19:17), a thing never yet fulfilled! On the contrary Egypt dominated the Jews under the Ptolemies, as of old under the Pharaohs. When Israel becomes at length the inheritance of Jehovah, both Egypt and Assyria shall oppress no more, but come into special relationship and blessing from God. Chapter 20 is but the sequel, marking by a sign in the prophet’s person the vanity of hoping in Egypt or Ethiopia against Assyria.

Chapters 21, 22.

These two chapters introduce us to God’s mind by shewing the contrast between Babylon “the desert of the sea,” and Jerusalem “the vision of peace.” The idea of the Holy Spirit speaking of Babylon is that it becomes a “wilderness,” the “sea” in prophetic language signifying the mass of peoples.

It is in Jerusalem that the Holy Spirit sees the glory and the peace of Christ, Salem as is well known meaning “peace.” The confusion is evident historically, if one essays to consider the prophecy as a whole already accomplished, however visibly Babylon’s fall is given. It is plainly here a question of God’s ways in times to come. All the events are brought together here without any reference to the chronological order of the past, but in the relation that they will have among each other to the last days. For Jerusalem falls after Babylon, the inverse of history. We find here also instruction for ourselves now.

In chapter 21 we see God preparing a rod of vengeance for Babylon, as of chastening in the following chapter for Jerusalem, where the power of evil was displaying itself after another way.

How instructive for the soul which like a sentinel pays attention to that which God is going to do in His government of the earth! Men are of no value and know nothing at all: all their wisdom and their prudence only contribute to bring about the result that God has prepared for the manifestation of His glory in the person of Jesus, in the midst of the Jewish people. Prophecy makes us understand that all is judged in the world, and that all the world’s course is but “the desert of the sea.”

In Babylon had the Jews been captive; and there is found the pride and glory of the world. It has been thought that Babylon will be literally re-built by the unbelief which will vaunt itself against God to shew that what has been said of Babylon is not true. But if so, this will draw the final judgment on it.

Verses 11, 12. Dumah, or Edom, has a perpetual hatred against God’s people. His people may be in an extremely poor state, and the world say with insolence against them, Where is your God? Here is the answer of the Spirit of God to this insolence (v. 12): “What of the night?” The Edomites spoke against Jerusalem, not because it was corrupt, but just because it was the city of the great King.

For us the night will soon be past, the morning will come. It is still the night as to the world. For the people of God the morning comes; it is their hope and their consolation. But for the world it is a question of the night. So long as Jesus was in the world He was the light of the world, but the night is there since Jesus is there no longer.

The insolence of enemies serves to exercise and strengthen faith; it recalls to the child of God what his privileges are and his position. If the people of God are unfaithful, God chastises them, and may call them Lo-ammi (Not-my-people); but in the presence of the world one remembers that they are notwithstanding the people of God. Jacob had often been unfaithful and chastised in every way, saying to Pharaoh, “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been “; yet he blessed the king. Jacob as God’s servant and chosen, though wretched and feeble, was in a position superior to that of the king of Egypt. The feeblest child of God is superior to the world in all its glory and strength. The church is unfaithful and has lost the manifestation of the favour of God. This should be a subject of humiliation. But if the world is insolent, we can answer to it, “The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.”

These are the counsels of God, and the character of God who acts in His government according to the conduct of His people. He has manifested His character in shewing an admirable patience till there was no remedy. As to this world, where God manifests His way, the church is responsible and treated according to its responsibility. As to heavenly glory, the church cannot fail any more than the grace of God which calls to it.

The burden of Arabia follows in verses 13-17; all the glory of Kedar shall fail.

In chapter 22 comes the burden of the valley of vision. What is this that happened to Jerusalem? What is it that they expect? “What aileth thee now that thou art wholly gone up to the house-tops?” (v.i). To-day also is the world on the house-tops, looking out; and the church so called no less than the world, for each feels that all is crumbling.

Verse 4. The prophetic Spirit does not hide the evil, but, in place of rejoicing over it like Edom, it is afflicted, and weeps bitterly, as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. This is ever the effect of intelligence in the ways of God. There is no need of prophecy but when things go to wreck. It awakens the affections of the heart. The spirit which is in us answers to the Spirit of prophecy, which is the expression of God’s affection for His people. One loves with God; and there is always a great sweetness in this fellowship of thoughts with God, where the subject of them is painful.

Verse 5. God demolishes the wall, He rejects His house, His altar. It is the judgment of God which leaves Jerusalem a prey to the Gentiles. If there is evil, God cannot manifest His favour. He can restore His people, but He cannot glorify them in the world if they are unfaithful.

Verses 8-11. All that the wisdom of man can suggest to him is to fortify the wall God broke down. They take wise measures, they make a ditch for the water of the old pool. It is very prudent to hinder the water flowing outside the city to refresh their enemies. But with all this wisdom they forgot to look to the Maker and fashioner of it long ago. “And in that day did the Lord Jehovah of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by Jehovah of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts,” v. 12-14. Such is the result. The prophetic Spirit seeing this cannot but weep for the ruin of the daughter of His people. It is a spirit of humiliation. The history of the same acts is presented to us in the Chronicles as a proof of blessing, and it was such on Hezekiah; but the worm was at the heart, and the people did not return to Him who struck them, but all went from bad to worse. In comparing this with the history, there is not a passage which bears more on the heart than the judgment God here pronounces on the efforts of man to re-establish what God would break down.

From verse 15 to the end I do not doubt that one should see in Shebna Antichrist set aside for the Messiah typified by Eliakim (that is, the God of resurrection). All the glory, great or small, attaches to Jesus on the throne of David; and all the power of Antichrist shall be cut off. Till Jehovah speaks, Antichrist looks strong and sure, and he counts on the future; but from the moment God speaks, he falls (v. 25).

We have also the judgment of the city. But we see the fall of Babylon necessary in order that Jerusalem should appear on the scene, though its state be one of perplexity and distress, desiring and undertaking to restore things, but God blowing on all. And all falls with Antichrist, whereon God sets up the throne in Jesus and gives His blessing to all the earth.

We see in these chapters how God destroys the insolence of man and judges the unfaithfulness of His people. The world’s insolence as to God’s children ought not to shake their confidence, but on the contrary to strengthen it. For God takes knowledge of everything; and their cause is that of God, who will be glorified in them at the end.

Chapter 23.

In chapter 23 we see the burden of Tyre. The immediate aim was the capture of this great seat of ancient commerce by Nebuchadnezzar; but the Spirit of prophecy does not stop with Jehovah’s purpose then against its merchant princes, when the honourable of the earth were brought into contempt, and the pride of all glory stained, and the ships of Tarshish smitten in their strength. Whatever the re-appearance of Tyre after the overthrow of the Chaldean, the prophecy looks onward to a brighter day when her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to Jehovah.

Chapter 24.

Since chanter 13 we have in general judgments on the nations, and have seen the Jews given up for the Gentiles, the beasts of the earth, to winter upon them. Here we see judgment on Israel, and from verse 13 extending to all the earth and the isles of the sea. At that time the resurrection will be, and after the judgment blessing. How many Christians walk as if the coming of the Lord were a fable, without a thought that the present age is an evil one! It is sad that through lack of spirituality so it should be with saints. If their affections were only set on heavenly things, things here below would no longer act on them.

The counsels of God are manifested in the ways of God. One may begin to retire from the world by the precepts of the gospel; but prophecy confirms these precepts by the light it casts on the world, when these precepts yet more separate us, shewing their practical value.

It is a question at first of the men of Judea. But all nations of the earth will be occupied with Jerusalem and gathered there where the judgment of God is to fall. From the land the transition is to the prophetic earth, and then to all the world (v. 3, 4, etc.)

It is a frightful character in the joy of the world that it cannot subsist before God. His presence puts an end to all that the world loves and desires. How terrible the thought if realised by faith! Bring in the manifestation of God, and the world’s joy, gaiety, pleasure is all destroyed (v. 7-12). The Christian ought to abide in complete separation from all that. It is important that the testimony borne against (not the world only, but) worldly Christians should be distinct and positive. With a worldly person, not bearing Christ’s name, one thinks at least of speaking to him of grace. But to a Christian who, knowing his privileges, walks with the world, it is hard to speak of grace, because he abuses it. Love does not consist in walking with such, but in warning them. That which gives intelligence is the unction from the Holy One. It is not possible to walk in the light and in worldliness. One must shew oneself more decided with the Christian who is worldly than with the worldly man: “If any man that is called a brother be … with such an one, no not to eat,” 1 Cor. 5:11. There is love. If we believe that God is going to judge Sodom, how could we be at ease in Sodom with Lot? This is of all importance to-day.

The latter portion shews the consequence of the vintage for a little remnant. If one passes across the world, one sees how God is forgotten. Before executing judgment, God separates from the perverse generation which is about to be judged, those who are going to be saved.

If a Christian passes through the world, there is nothing to find there which speaks of Christ; and he is called to confess Christ where no one thinks of Him. Do you believe that, when the judgment shall have fallen, what will remain will be only as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done? The Holy Spirit reveals to us beforehand what the reality will manifest, the glory of Christ, the ruin of the world, the blessing of the remnant. It is evident that the judgment of God will effect a total separation between the righteous and the wicked. If the Holy Spirit acts with power, that is realised beforehand in us. The effect of judgment is to give a glory and a joy without mixture.

From the moment that judgment is executed, God appears as the Jehovah-God of Israel (v. 15). Verses 16-18 shew the state of the Jewish people. Man may vaunt himself long against God, but he will not escape judgment when the Eternal is manifested. “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again,” v. 19, 20. Such is the end of all that surrounds us.

But there is more: “And it shall come to pass in that day that Jehovah shall punish the hosts of the high ones on high, and die kings of the earth upon the earth.” The high ones are spiritual wickedness on high, or in the heavenlies, the source of the evil; the kings of the earth are the chief instruments here below. “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when Jehovah of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously,” v. 22, 23. The glory of Jehovah replaces all the false glitter of the world.

Chapter 25.

This is the song of Israel which corresponds with the subject. We have need of long patience. The counsels were of old, and they are faithfulness and truth; they are not yet accomplished, but they will be manifested in all their precision and solidity according to God. 2 Peter 3 shews us the world clinging to visible things: the sun rose to-day, as it did yesterday and will to-morrow, and with more prosperity still in hope. Let us eat and drink say they: the things that are have ever been, and nothing is so permanent; the earth, the world, goes on for ever. So men speak and act. The child of God, on the contrary, rests on the firmness of God’s word. By His word the world was made; by His word it has been judged and will be destroyed. If we judge by the events before us, as incredulity does, we shall attach ourselves till the last moment to the things about to pass away. If I conclude from experience, I try to make the best of things around me, instead of adhering to the word of God. It is a principle of all importance. Faith separates from evil, because it is evil; but it is quite a different thing to separate from a thing because God is going to judge it. One sees Christians who do not recognise evil until they are injured by it. But one ought to recognise evil beforehand by the word of God, in order not to be in the midst of evil when it shall be judged. It is not the man entangled by evil who can put his brethren on their guard.

In verses 2-8 we have the things that God does in that day. Not only will He put down wickedness and pride, but He will make unto all people a feast of fat things, that is, a full blessing; and He will destroy in the mountain of Israel the covering that covers over all people—an expression very applicable to the day when judicially God will send men strong delusion that they should believe a lie. Moreover He will swallow up death in victory, wiping away every tear and taking away the rebuke of His people from off all the earth. This is applied in 1 Corinthians 15:54 to the first resurrection, of which the apostle treats throughout. All is presented together in a general way. We may so, for the Eternal has spoken, and it is our blessedness to believe God when there is only the word of God for our faith. The world will think only of what it likes; man believes Satan and despises God, who demands faith in His word; and we believe God in the midst of all the illusions, and the wiles of the devil by which we are surrounded in this world. We must believe God though encompassed with the effects of sin. Adam believed Satan though encompassed with the effects of the goodness of God. Faith gains the victory over the world, and acts in fact of that which is not as if it already existed.

Comparing verse 8 of our chapter with 1 Corinthians 15:54 we see something different in tone from the resurrection of the wicked, who are to be by rising again plunged into the lake of fire, the second death. We clearly see here Israel restored at the time of the first resurrection. All the brightness of the sun will be as nothing in comparison with the glory of Jehovah, when the covering of darkness shall be removed from the nations. For God will have delivered the Gentiles to blindness (Rom. 1; 2 Thess. 2). In the two chapters that follow are given the blessing of Judah, and the destruction of Satan or leviathan.

“In that day” (v. 1) is an expression of frequent recurrence which marks the time of accomplishment. “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah.” Israel becomes again the centre of God’s government for the earth (Deut. 32:8). At present the nations have the upper hand; these are the “times of the Gentiles”; but at length Judah re-appears on the scene as the object of God’s counsels.

Though Israel has been for a time delivered to the nations as to fierce beasts of prey, nevertheless the nations are not the direct object of the government of God, whilst providence directs everything. From Psalm 67 and many other scriptures we learn that the face of God must shine on Israel in order that His way may be known in the earth. When God strikes the nations, they are set aside, and He resumes the course of His government toward Israel. God overthrows the power of the Gentiles, and as to Israel shews Himself to be Jehovah, the Eternal.

“The way of the just is uprightness” (v. 7)—of him who walks faithfully. The immediate government of God takes place only in the midst of His people. Them God judges; and when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord that we should not be condemned with the world. Every act in the life of the Christian has its consequence. God judges immediately, and the unfaithful Christian has not a path of uprightness. This is what Israel has already proved, as it will prove more. God smooths the way of him who is faithful.

The remnant of the Jewish people will have waited for Jehovah, spite of Antichrist and all the difficulties. Psalm 44 shews the anguish of the remnant at this time. God has to chasten them; nevertheless they are watched tenderly by God. Jesus perfectly realised this waiting of the faithful which counts on God, whatever the anguish to which obedience might bring Him. Never did He turn aside from the path of obedience, although it led Him on to drink “the cup.”

“The inhabitants of the world” will only learn righteousness (v. 9) by the divine judgment which strikes the earth. The Christian ought to take his part in suffering; if he walks with the world, he does not understand the interests of Christ and is weakened, he has not the desire for the glory of Christ and does not suffer for Christ. “The inhabitants of the world” are not of God; their portion is on the earth, they enjoy this world. We (Christians) are the dwellers in the heavens, or at least belong to heaven (1 Cor. 15:48; Phil. 3:20), though too often Christians learn the ways of the dwellers on earth. God waits till iniquity reaches its height before striking; meanwhile the wicked will deal unjustly still.

“The land of uprightness” (v. 10) is what is promised to Israel, Canaan under the Messiah.

The wicked fail to see the uplifted hand of Jehovah (v. 11) until it falls upon them, when they shall see. As to the result here below, grace does not accomplish the conversion of the world. Every hope of the world’s conversion by the gospel is without ground in the word of God; and it is even worse with Christendom, hardened as it is against the truth, than with pagans. Christendom as it refuses the love of the truth will receive a spirit of error.

The Jewish remnant (v. 12, 13), have nothing but the name of Jehovah to boast. There are moments in life for the saint where nothing but that remains for the soul.

The nations which ill-treated Israel shall not live longer; their day is over. Not chosen of God for this world, they have failed in their responsibility; their day of visitation comes, and all their memory is made to perish.

Verses 15-19. Israel ends by renouncing all hope in itself; whilst now-a-days we see the Jews in their unbelief full of hope in their re-establishment. Yet they shall live. (Compare Ezek. 37.) They shall rise as a nation.

The remnant (v. 20, 21) are called to hide themselves during the time of indignation or the day of vengeance. It is the time when the lawlessness of Antichrist will draw down the consuming wrath of God. The sole testimony will then be His judgment.

Chapter 27.

We have here another fact of all importance. The power of Satan in the world is destroyed, a power which governs and deceives the nations. Israel becomes the vineyard of red wine that Jehovah keeps, waters, and guards: whoever would harm it must face His judgment; but He offers peace with Him, and His strength to make it good. Israel became the centre of earthly blessing. To this the church has not been destined; and the moment it is her pretension, it is nothing but pride. In fact the church has failed in the mission she received of announcing the gospel and of being the witness of Christ’s heavenly glory; and if she would after that pretend to it and count on it as a right, is this any more than pride? Even things which at one time are of faith are in other circumstances only pride. For instance Isaiah tells the king in chapter 38 to count on the deliverance of Judah from the Assyrian; whereas Jeremiah tells the king at a later day to save himself by submission to the Chaldean. In Isaiah 51 God tells His people to look to Abraham, and as He called their father when he was alone and blessed and increased him; whereas when the Jew boasted of Abraham in pride, God confounded them, as in Ezekiel 33:24; Matthew 3:9; John 8:39.

In verses 7, 8 we see Israel chastened, not destroyed. It is a purifying dealing. “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin” (v. 9) in the very day when judgment takes its course on the wicked who have no understanding (v. 10,11).

From verses 12, 13 we see that there will be among the nations a remnant of Israel to be recalled one by one (Matt. 24:31). Such is the unravelling of the history of this poor world. All should bid us now stand entirely aloof from its course. The pride of Israel transfers itself to Christendom which arrogates to itself what God never gave it. Worldly-mindedness and the hope of gaining over the world always go together now. When the church thinks of converting the world (instead of gathering out of it to Christ in heaven), it allies itself to the powers of the world. They begin, it is true, by sincerely desiring the conversion of souls; then to arrive at this they join the world and fall into spiritual feebleness. When we rest on the world, we own and affirm its power. Rightly viewed, the conversion of three thousand in one day in Jerusalem was the precursor, not even of the conversion of the city, but of the judgment which was about to fall on it. God abides sovereign, and the Christian admires His sovereignty, and rejoices in it.

Thus from chapter 13 to chapter 27 we have seen judgments falling on the Gentiles, the Jews being found there. From chapter 28 to chapter 35 we shall see the details of what is to happen to the Jews, etc., in the last days of this age. Each revelation closes with a testimony borne to God’s glory in Israel.

Chapter 28.

In this division chapters 28, 29 shew the judgments on Ephraim and Jerusalem (Ariel, that is, lion of God). We see there what God thinks of that which inspires most confidence in man, His judgment condemning it all, and the deliverance of the meek, the remnant of His people.

The first thing judged is the crown of pride, the carelessness of luxury, which leaves man intoxicated and blind. God raises up the Assyrian a mighty and strong one against those who had abandoned themselves to pride and excess. “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: and the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.” After this judgment there is a change, and Jehovah becomes a crown of glory, and a spirit of strength for the remnant (v. 5, 6). Pride, ease, luxury, and the world’s vain glory hinder the word from striking the conscience; but for the poor, despised, afflicted remnant, God is their resource and strength, and becomes a crown of glory. It is very possible that the people of God should be despised till then.

As to the church there is this difference, that from the beginning it is a remnant. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” The ways of God were not such in the Jewish economy. The nation was the people of God, and the remnant remained hidden. Elijah believed himself alone, the remnant was not manifested, though God knew seven thousand. When the church began, the Lord added together such as should be saved, the remnant from among the Jews. The actual principle for the present time is the gathering together in one of the scattered children of God. Among the Jews God did not thus gather His children: they were the elect people that He owned.

It is a mistake that some Christians make of the church an invisible thing. Such was the case with God’s children in Judaism, but it is not the principle in Christianity. For the Jews there was only individual faithfulness, besides their common national privileges. But to-day; that is, since Pentecost, the presence of the Holy Spirit is a power that gathers the children of God and produces a corporate testimony in the world. It is a city that cannot be hid. When Israel departs from God, God sends, as to children, precept upon precept, line upon line. “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean. Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of Jehovah was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line: here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken,” v. 7-13. God cannot cease to bear testimony till He has exhausted all the means to bring back to Himself.

The result of resistance is to bring upon those that resist a blindness so much the greater as it is proportionate to the light refused. If the first testimony is received, more is always added, for it is given to him that hath, and he shall have more abundance. Those who bowed to the witness of John the Baptist received also Jesus; those who rejected it rejected also the Messiah, and the testimony of John was withdrawn, and the people blinded. Jesus bears a greater testimony, the remnant attach to Him. The Holy Spirit bears afterwards testimony and gathers the church; but the Jews rejected Him, and were rejected. These testimonies bring on their judgment. The more God manifests Himself, the more does the heart’s natural opposition shew itself. Those who receive the first grace receive the rest until glory, and go from strength to strength. God did not let judgment fall on Jerusalem till Jerusalem rejected the Holy Spirit. When grace is exhausted God sends judgment. The flesh seeks ever to keep the enjoyment of its lusts and would harden the conscience against the testimony that God sends.

The Jews would not have their kingdom and their holy place destroyed; but their unbelief led to a complete blinding, and Satan pushed them on to destruction, going so far as to make them say of Jesus, that He cast out demons by Beelzebub. There is no blindness like that which results from resisting the light, and in presence of the light not renouncing one’s own will.

When Jerusalem sees the judgment on Ephraim, to escape it they unite more firmly with the power of evil. “Wherefore hear the word of Jehovah, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hid ourselves,” v. 14, 15. In the close it will be Antichrist in alliance with Satan and his instruments. But God gives the remnant a sure foundation-stone in Zion. “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it,” v. 16-18.

In the judgments of God, the question one sees debated is between the rights of Satan because of sin, and those of God. It is necessary that the people of God should be judged on the one hand and on the other, that in the midst of the judgment salvation should be found, as Noah in the ark was carried over the waters of the deluge. It is in the cross of Christ that faith sees the judgment of God against our sins, and for ourselves; we are thus saved righteously. So here also judgment will Jehovah lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, when He lays in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone. The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, the waters overflowing the hiding place; but the Stone abides sure and stedfast. The very same thing—God’s judgment—which destroys the wicked guarantees the believer against all evil, for he is made God’s righteousness in Christ.

The foundation Stone has long been laid at Jerusalem. The blood of the new covenant with His people is carried within the holiest of all. The church is already laid on this Stone meanwhile, because it has owned the Stone which later on is to become the confidence of the Jewish remnant. The church profits by it beforehand, as Israel will doubtless at a later day. The passages where it is a question of this Stone are cited in the New Testament, in the past generally applicable. One often sees passages thus half cited, because as a whole they do not apply to the present. Judgment is not yet laid to the hne and righteousness to the plummet. To-day is the time of grace, and not that of judgment.

But judgment will surely come for the earth. “From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. For Jehovah shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord Jehovah of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth,” v. 19-22. What is Jehovah’s “strange work” and “act”? It is the judgment of His people towards whom His goodness has no bounds. This “act “strange to the heart of God, which made the Lord Jesus weep, is the execution of judgment on His people, then apostate. It is a thing God does only when He is forced to it by their extreme iniquity. The Jews have rejected the Christ, and they will have the Antichrist. The consumption, even determined upon the whole earth, will be much more terrible on them. It is the same principle, but even worse, for Christendom which had the light but rejected it. The more truly one is in the light, the more is one necessarily allied to Satan if one rejects the light. Nothing more terrible than a conscience hardened by a perverse will, which commences by the most ordinary lusts. Judas is not the only man fond of money.

The end of the chapter (v. 23-29) shews the wisdom of God in the smallest things. He gives to man wisdom in cultivating the earth, in sowing, reaping, and dealing with the crops. And will He not know what to do best for His people?

Chapter 29.

As chapter 28 gave us Ephraim and Jerusalem, spite of its evil alliance, taken; chapter 29 shews that a second attack against Jerusalem, brought to the utmost distress, will fail through divine power which will destroy its adversaries (v. 1-8).

If Jerusalem is a lion of God, when God speaks of the judgments He says, “I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee,” v. 3. The Assyrians were but instruments in His hand. He would Himself strike, but not exterminate His guilty people. He docs not destroy, but chastens them. This humbles but it comforts; for love is there. See the case of Job: there are the instruments of judgment, and Satan behind them, but God above who directs all for the good of Job, who at the end is more blessed of Jehovah than at the beginning, bright as it was. Psalm 118 shews us these three things clearly. (See v. 10, 13, 18.) The nations surround in enmity, Satan seeks to destroy, but above them all Jehovah chastises and sorely, but does not deliver to death. All the nations of the earth shall be round Jerusalem and opposed to her, but they shall pass as a dream before Jehovah. See also Zech. 12:2-4; 14:2,3; Ps. 108; Micah 4:11, 12.

But we see here that the most ancient relations with God serve no good purpose when man lays his trust in them. When he is far from God, he attaches himself to the old things that God instituted, to reject what God may be actually giving. But one cannot deceive God as to right and wrong. “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year: let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel,” v. 1, 2. He says elsewhere, He would destroy His house, His altar; as He did to Shiloh, so to the temple, whatever the presumption of His people, because He will have righteousness and holiness, not the things He established. God had established the altar, temple, sacrifices, feasts, and priests; but when iniquity is there, judgment must begin with His house, and its judgment is only the more terrible if the effects of the Holy Spirit are not there; the sole consequence of being near to God outwardly is the more unsparing judgment. Again, the more Christendom departs from truth and righteousness, the more it rests on institutions as being of God. It is not those who are occupied with the Lord of the temple that say, “The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah are these.” The more evil the conscience is, the more it attaches itself to forms.

No doubt sovereign mercy and faithfulness will work in a remnant, and God will deliver for His own name at the end. But we see in verses 9-14 at the side of these forms, that God despises the incapacity of His people judicially blinded of God: learned or ignorant alike reject the word of God. To the one the book is as sealed, and the other pleads that he is not learned: the revelation of God by prophecy they cannot seize. Yet He reveals all for the blessing of His people, not that aught should be covered. He has not given the Bible that it should not be understood. If Christians say that they cannot take it in, they say just what the Jews do here, the proof of their state of ruin. They thus evade the testimony which would save them from the consequences of the judgment. But in vain. “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from Jehovah, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay; for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?” v. 15-17.

But babes receive God’s testimony. “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in Jehovah, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel,” v. 18, 19.

The Lord does not present us here with the detailed history of His people in the last days. He takes cognisance of all that will happen to them; He has measured the force of the enemy; He has not only foreseen all, but makes us see that light behind all these means.

The state of the people in the time that precedes destruction is a voluntary ignorance, after which God closes intelligence and sheds profound slumber. This will happen to Christendom also. There will be “strong delusion” because they wished not the truth. It is the same here in verses 8-11. This iniquity will be like the bowing of a wall about to fall. They wish to hear no more vision threatening them with the terrible things that are to happen. It had been similar with the heathen who had not kept the knowledge of God, and were given over to a state of blindness (Rom. 1:22-24). God had already said of Israel, “Make the heart of this people fat,” a word applied for the last time in Acts 28. It is the case then for the heathen, the Jews, and Christendom, and it will be yet again true for the Jews. They have said to the seers, See not (chap. 30:10). It is frightful to know the people at such a pitch that they can no more be extricated. This obstinacy assumes an appearance of reason, because it is a strong delusion.

Verses 13, 14. This is not an avowed infidelity which brings on the judgment. The people draw near to God with a shew of piety: they have a fear taught by the precept of men. It will be the same with Christendom: there will be a form of godliness; yes, and men will be lovers of themselves rather than of God. Such is what characterises the perilous times, the show of piety, but no conscience before God (v. 15). Then God turns all upside down. Lebanon is turned into Carmel. The fruitful field is esteemed a forest, and the forest a fruitful field. This is always what characterises such a state; but when God turns all upside down, verses 18-24 will be seen accomplished. All that is yet to come.

Chapter 30.

Woe is pronounced on the rebellious children who act according to their prudence, but not counselled of Jehovah (v. 1-7). This is found too often even with the Christian. It is folly, even with the best intentions, to take counsel of oneself. It characterises the evil in the last times. For the Christian, is it not to take counsel of God, if one forms a plan, and then pray for a blessing? Often it is necessary for us to run back the road so as to return to the place which one had quitted. All that is time lost.

Israel sought an ally in Egypt strong as the Assyrians (v. 2). It is to seek strength in the flesh. God would make this prudence vain; He would have His people confide in Himself. So Abram went down into Egypt without consulting God (Gen. 12), and found himself the worse for it. What things have we, dear friends, done to-day without consulting God? It has been all lost time thus to act without God. Man would always act; though on many occasions God would have one keep quietly waiting (1 Sam. 15). Whatever be the appearances of reason and prudence, it is always folly for man to wish to go before God’s time. God does not slumber, He tries our hearts and intervenes at last in a suitable time.

Nothing is more despicable than the people of God in alliance with the world. They can but add their misery to that of the world, and the world profits them in nothing (chap. 31:3). Ruin will come on all that the deceivers do (v. 8-14). There is no people like God’s when He abandons them: the evil reaches them, the good escapes them; there is neither force nor intelligence (v. 15-17).

Nevertheless Jehovah waits that He may be gracious unto them (v. 18). The Pharisees, who would have made a heap of the adulteress, disappear; whilst Jesus stays to shew grace, of which they felt no need. (See John 8:9-11.)

“For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee,” v. 19. This is given also in Joel 2:12-14. From the moment the remnant take the place where God put them, He listens to their cry. Faith takes the place of the sinner and humbles itself, and then God answers. If the church is in a sad state, faith has the consciousness of the state the church is found in; owns it, humbles itself, and God can answer. It is what Christ has done for us; He has owned fully before God the state of sin in which He put Himself for us, and He has wrought redemption. The remnant will feel the ruin of Jerusalem, and will cry according to the misery and the ruin of Jerusalem. Faith gives the consciousness of the state of ruin in which sin has placed us.

“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left,” v. 20, 21. This is consoling. The remnant will be in the utmost distress, but they shall see their teachers, and hear the word of guidance. Misery may be deep, but God will shew the way. Once they are brought down to the point where God sees things, He has always a way for His people, and as they depart from all iniquity, so He will bless with every blessing on the earth (v. 22-26). The nations are to assemble in the power of their will, but God will sift and scatter them in devouring judgment (v. 27-30), while the remnant rejoice in their place.

The Assyrian is always presented here as the one with whose destruction ends “the indignation.” (See chaps. 10:24; 14; Dan. 8.) When the Assyrian is destroyed the indignation will be closed. (Compare Micah 5:5, 6.) Jesus “shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall come into our land.” “For through the voice of Jehovah shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which Jehovah shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it. For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it,” v. 31-33. The staff of Jehovah shall fall on the Assyrian. One sees the aim of this judgment of God. He is full of patience and long-suffering. His people meanwhile are in alarm at the power of the enemy. When God strikes the enemies, it is always the deliverance of His people. Tophet, the place of the Assyrian’s judgment, is already prepared, not for him only, but also for “the king,” the Antichrist who shall do according to his will. (See Dan. 11:36-45.) Antichrist will be cast with the Assyrian into Tophet. “The breath of Jehovah like a stream of brimstone doth kindle it.” (Compare 2 Thess. 2:8.) He will destroy the wicked with the breath of His mouth.

If we listen to our own will, it would put us in movement according to the strength of man against the evil which surrounds us. But we have nothing else to do but wait on God, abiding faithful to Him who will not let us fall into ruin through the adversary. May God give us grace to receive His word that this rebellious people would not receive. For God waits to be gracious to those that receive His word. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell on the earth,” Rev. 3:10.

Chapter 31.

The Lord warns His people against the tendency to seek aid in Egypt. It is not any longer only taking counsel without God, but leaning on the flesh. It is the tendency of us all not to have recourse to God unless forced to it. The prodigal son ate the husks of swine before he thought of his father’s house. To lean on God one must be in the truth, having the consciousness of what we are; one cannot bring lies before God. What often hinders conversion, or at least retards it, is that one misunderstands what one is by nature, that is, without strength and ungodly. It is the same in all our ways, seeking to lean on any rather than on God. Israel had been taken out of Egypt and carried to Babylon. Called out of the world one falls into corruption. Egypt typifies the natural strength of the world, Babylon of the world’s corruption. Israel seeks support in the natural strength of man. That does not irritate pride nor unveil what we are. One cannot lean on God without the beating down of flesh’s pride and the learning that we are nothing. The tendency of sin is to veil sin from our eyes. Far from God we cannot know what is the power of God, though we might have known it at other times. Far from God we forget what He is. It is not a question only for us of God in heaven, but of His manifestation in the midst of His people, mixing Himself with all their affairs, and accompanying them in all their journeyings (Ex. 29:45, 46).

What is true for the joy of God’s people is also true for their strength; it comes from the presence of God. It is also the case with the church which is God’s habitation through the Spirit. It is true of each Christian individually. God does not manifest His power in the activity of the flesh. If one acts in the flesh, one loses the consciousness of what God can do. When we see that God acts, one does not even think of seeking the resources of the flesh. In the activity of the flesh, one feels that one has no right to count on God.

The flesh seeks to hide the thing from itself, or to take its side of going with the world, or to find somewhere a resource to hinder chastening. The consequence of this is that one does not at all perceive when good comes (Jer. 17). Israel set themselves outside the way, and when the Lord acts, they do not at all see it; they will then be overthrown with those from whom they sought succour.

Often the Lord makes one wait long as if He did not trouble Himself with the lot of His people. But when they are in the greatest distress, God acts. The extremity of man is the opportunity of God, the moment favourable and suited for Him to manifest Himself. It is difficult to convince man of this—that God loves him enough to think of him and deliver him. Faith has only God, and God alone is the resource of the people in the resurrection.

We have already seen that the Assyrian is the last enemy of the people (v. 8, 9).

Chapter 32.

The moment that God acts, Christ appears. This chapter is the one God used to open my understanding to the coming of Christ. We see, first, Christ coming to reign in righteousness on the earth; second, an entire change in the economy, a new Pentecost for the Jews and also for the Gentiles. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit cannot be repeated in the present economy. There are but two outpourings of the Spirit, the rain of the former season and that of the latter. The Jews must necessarily have returned to their own land in order to receive the rain of the latter season which has been promised them. Thus there must be the presence of Christ on earth, and a second effusion of the Holy Spirit. But this will be a testimony rendered to the glory of Christ, and no longer a manifestation of grace. We see in Zechariah 2:8 that it is “after the glory” the Jews become a blessing to the nations. The testimony to the glory of Christ thus manifested is not in this economy.

We see here then the return of Christ (v. 1), and the Spirit poured out from on high on the Jews (v. 15), entirely new events. All that has taken place before in Christendom will be counted only as a forest and not a fruitful field, or a Carmel; the hail shall fall on the forest (of the Gentiles), and “the city “Babylon shall be utterly abased.

Verses 1, 2. The first thing is a king who is to reign on earth in righteousness. The church on the contrary ought during the actual economy to follow Jesus, righteous indeed but suffering, put to death by a judge who owned His innocence. The righteous man suffers, and injustice the most flagrant is committed against such. Such is the position of the Christian and the church. It is not yet a king reigning in righteousness. In the age to come righteousness shall reign. Even then it will not be the eternal state where righteousness dwells in the new earth. During the millennium there will be the need of a reign to repress evil. The principle of the present economy is the suffering of the saints though walking righteously: in the future age “judgment will return to righteousness,” whilst at the present time it is opposed to righteousness.

Verses 9-14. Judgment must go on, Zion even be a wilderness, until (v. 15) the Spirit be poured upon us (the Jews) from on high: then all should be changed for good, the wilderness be a Carmel, and what was a Carmel be counted for a forest.

God, having put man near Himself, above by resurrection and ascension, pours out from on high the Holy Spirit upon those who believe, as a Spirit of power, which it is needful to distinguish from His work in conversion or the new birth. At the time of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down on the converted only. We see that not only does the Holy Spirit act on us to make us believe, but moreover when we believe He is therein given to us as a Spirit of power. All this got blotted out little by little in its effects by the unfaithfulness of the church, which grieved the Holy Spirit who dwells there. When the church is caught up to meet the Lord, the Holy Spirit goes along with it; but after the Lord returns in power and glory, the Spirit is poured out afresh as the rain of the latter season, and the world recommences as a thing quite new. “Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,” etc. (v. 16-18). But it is the moment of the world’s judgment (v. 19), followed by the blessedness of peace on earth (v. 20).

The chapter thus presents us with the complete change of the economy. It is not here a question of the church. The relationships and the state of the faithful will be then quite opposite in character. To-day it is a question of conformity to the grace of Jesus in suffering, then to His glory and power on earth. The earth cursed because of sinful man will be blessed; flesh and unrighteousness will be uprooted. The vile person will no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. Peace and righteousness shall flourish; and the Holy Spirit will no more have to resist the power or wiles of Satan who will then be consigned to the abyss. We see the later history of the Jewish remnant in Psalms 42-49, especially in the three earliest of these psalms. Then Psalm 45 introduces the Messiah, and joy comes. We have here this instruction to sustain us on the Lord when He does not manifest Himself. Those who have believed without seeing are to be specially blessed. This is the church’s portion; and it applies also to all the circumstances of details. Moreover the presence of the Holy Spirit is all our strength. It is when put to the proof that we are tempted to lean on the flesh, and then faith manifests itself in leaning only on God. But we must be in the truth before Him, and it will be manifest that the remnant seek not help in Egypt.

Chapter 33.

We have seen from chapter 28 the special circumstances of the Jews in the last days, terminating as always in the introduction of the Messiah. Here in chapter 33 we see judgment fall on the last enemy of Israel (it would seem the Gog of Ezekiel); then in chapter 34 on all nations of which Edom is the scene, followed by the unparalleled sketch of the earth’s blessing, and joy, and prosperity under Messiah’s reign in Zion, when “the last end of the indignation” is closed. Therefore in the midst of the prophecy is found introduced the history of Hezekiah menaced by the Assyrian and his deadly sickness turned, as a type of Messiah and the power of resurrection, and the destruction of the last mighty foe of Israel in the last days, but not without the captivity of Judah and its royal line to Babylon meanwhile.

Edom is another bitter enemy that ever put obstacles in the way of Israel, and yet to be judged in a particular way, when his destruction will be so complete as to leave no remnant. See Obadiah.

We have then in this chapter the judgment of the last great enemy of Israel, typified by the Assyrian, then of Edom and the nations gathered there, to introduce the blessing of Israel and the earth, the land especially when every curse shall be removed.

The invasion of the Assyrian into Judea was groundless; he dealt treacherously (v. 1), deceived Hezekiah and, after receiving his treasure, broke the covenant and besieged Jerusalem; but the effect of the distress of Israel at the coming of the Assyrian was that Jehovah rose, was exalted, and lifted Himself up (v. 2-10). One may remark the spirit of intercession in Christ for His people, and how He identifies Himself with them: “Be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” We see it also very often in the Psalms when He speaks of “mine iniquities” in speaking of those of His people.

Verse 5. “Jehovah is exalted,” etc. The circumstances indicated in verses 7-9 shew the power of the enemy unlimited. It is thus faith regards all the power of the world. From the moment it sees neither fear of God in the world nor deliverance for itself, it gives itself up to wait on God. Faith judges justly of all. Unbelief judges the circumstances correctly, and the consequences of things visible; it forgets but one thing, God, who comes in and upsets all these combinations, be they ever so wise. Faith pierces even to God across all circumstances and all difficulties. It does not stop to consider, it does not reason on the possibility of things because it only stops at God, and when man despairs, faith is perfectly calm and happy. Faith has no need either of human reasoning or of human prudence. Hezekiah puts before Jehovah the letter of Sennacherib. The wisdom of faith is looking to God, doing His will, and troubling about nothing. When Christ comes, one then sees that the fear of God is wisdom and treasure (v. 6).

The circumstances which are too strong for us ought to have no other effect upon us than to make us realise the presence of God. We see in Psalm 18 how God answers to the distress of His people. He rises, and all crumbles in His presence: the full accomplishment of this Psalm will manifest it.

Verse 14. It is a terrible thing to be found without faith between the power of the enemies of God and the manifestation of the power of God when He descends with devouring fire. The hypocrite cannot dwell there between the two, nor is any one so wretched as a merely professing Christian or a sinful Jew in those times. It is the position of the foolish virgins; the Bridegroom comes, and they have no oil. It is the position in which all Christendom will then be found, all that which has but the form of godliness; and therefore during the judgments in the last days they will be as men giving up the ghost through fear, and saying to the mountains, Cover us. Conscience foresees those everlasting burnings, and that the judgment of God will rise against every power of Satan.

Verses 15, 16. The remnant will be kept; the devouring fire does not touch them. But further (v. 17) their eye shall see the King in His beauty. The thunderbolt that falls on the wicked passes them harmlessly, for Messiah is there. Peace is established; and men look round freely even to the most distant quarters of the land, and reflect on the terror which no longer fills them: so overwhelming the danger! so sudden and complete the deliverance! (v. 18,19). All that was dreaded is vanished away.

From verse 20 we see what Zion will be for the faithful people. It is a peace God has made and given for ever, not an atom to be disturbed any more. Even in the last revolt when Satan masters the distant nations at the end of the thousand years’ reign, the enemies may compass the beloved city and the camp of the saints, but they touch nothing. It is a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down. “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken,” v. 20.

Verses 21, 22. The confidence of Israel is in Jehovah, the source of all blessing, and withal their unfailing security. “For Jehovah our Judge, Jehovah our Lawgiver, Jehovah our King, He will save us.”

The strongest of their enemies was foiled and prostrate, and a prey to the feeblest in Israel (v. 23), who will then be enabled to enjoy the blessing, the curse being gone, all their iniquities forgiven, and all their diseases healed (v. 24).

Chapter 34.

All the earth is called to hear (v. 1); it is very far now from being willing to answer such an appeal.

The nations will be assembled in Idumea, and there will be judged. (Obad. 13-15; Ps. 137:7; Isa. 63:1-4.) The sword of Jehovah shall come down on Idumea, and on the people of His curse to judgment (v. 5). Edom is marked out as a centre of judgment for the quick. He has chastened His people to sanctify them; but He will judge the nations. His indignation against idolatrous and apostate Jerusalem closes with the judgment of the Assyrian, and the destruction of the nations in the land of Edom. In chapter 63 we see what will happen to them at this time; Jesus will judge and trample them down in His fury: a scene which has no reference to the cross where Jesus was Himself trampled down.

“The sword of Jehovah is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for Jehovah hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.” This terrible judgment of the living is lost for Christendom. The Jews had no adequate idea of a judgment of the dead; they were familiar with judgments on the living by the direct government of God which exercised visible judgment on the living, as we see in Korah, Achan, etc. All has been changed in relationship with God for the church by the resurrection; and Christians have in great measure lost sight of the judgment of the living, because they are used only to expect judgment after death. But there will be a judgment of the living as well as a judgment of the dead. They like to forget it because the judgment of the dead, being more distant, does not touch so directly the course in which one walks on the earth. It will fall on the neighbourhood of Jerusalem as well as on Bozrah.

The rest of the chapter is the detail of the judgment in Edom.

Chapter 35.

We see the full blessing of the land, of which Zion will be the centre. All will be blessed. God does not despise this earth, nor any creature, though the curse is fallen on all because of Adam’s sin.

The miracles of Jesus working every sort of cure were a sample of what His redemption will do for all creation, and hence called powers of the world to come (Rom. 8:19-22; Heb. 6). There will be deliverance when He appears; the evil will be taken away. Hence also when the disciples rejoiced over the demons cast out in His name, He predicts the fall of Satan from heaven. His death breaks Satan’s power for the believer’s conscience: but though thus emancipated, we groan and suffer in the body still. But the Son of man’s victory goes much farther than to cast Satan from the conscience. By His word He takes away every evil, all suffering, for faith. But here it is no question of conscience; it is a marvellous manifestation of God’s intervention into all the miseries of man. Jesus will exercise this power fully when He returns, but on quite a different plan from that which He exercised in Judea during His ministry. It will be no more by the Holy Spirit awakening souls for spiritual joys, but delivering creation from the slavery of corruption.

“Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you,” v. 4. The faithful remnant is restored by this announcement. Is it also for us the greatest source of joy? or would His coming be a sort of tearing us away from the earth, instead of lifting us up to set us where our treasure is? The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Do we?

Chapters 36-39.

These chapters are the history of the Assyrian invading and overthrown, of the sickness of Hezekiah and of the embassy from Babylon with the captivity foreshewn. There is the outward deliverance (chaps. 36, 37), and the inward (chap. 38), resurrection power being applied to the sickness of the son of David, type of a greater who actually died and rose to bring in the sure mercies of David.

Verse 16 above all explains why God wished Hezekiah to pass through this trial. It was needful that flesh should be judged as nought, and that the power which opposes the people of God should be destroyed solely by God’s power. So will it yet be made good spiritually in the Jew, the principle of death for the destruction of the flesh, that the nation, deprived of all confidence in self, may be delivered by the power and grace of God. Yet was it but a type now: Hezekiah was a saint, but not the Messiah; nor had he learnt the lesson of death and resurrection adequately; but lifted up with pride after his recovery and the destruction of the Assyrian, he displayed the rich stores of his house and dominion to the ambassadors of Merodach-baladan, and hears from the prophet the solemn word of Jehovah that all should be swept away to Babylon, not only all that had been laid up for generations by the royal house, but of his issue to be eunuchs in the palace of the conqueror (chap. 39). The historical portion is of the utmost weight for the elucidation of this prophecy, which it divides into two very distinct sections, both of which it illustrates, the earlier being external, as the latter is more internal and consequently viewing Israel not merely as a people among hostile nations, but as witnesses to Jehovah as the one true God and awaiting the Messiah, the elect Servant, which they were not, while they failed in both respects, but finally, when bowing to the Messiah in detestation of their idolatry, they become and are owned as His servants when His glory appears, and all ends in the blessing of the faithful and the judgment of the rebellious. Christ will defend Israel by His power when the Assyrian shall come into their land: “This man shall be the peace,” Micah 5. “And they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” Till then it is vain to expect it.

Chapter 40.

After this historical parenthesis we have henceforth in one prophecy a more intimate and detailed revelation of the relationships of God as to His people and of His ways toward them.

It is a question of the counsels of God as to Israel in grace, but in this point of view, Israel is a witness of God, the only true God, and His servant Christ, comes, and Israel will not acknowledge Him. For this reason the remnant alone is recognised and the people condemned by the judgment which is coming, and the remnant glorified with Christ.

He speaks of comfort, notwithstanding the many iniquities of which Israel has been guilty, and He manifests His positive will to be glorified by His people upon the earth. The church glorifies God before principalities and powers in heavenly places (Eph. 3). The church is the means of making known the wisdom of God in heaven; Israel is the means of making it known in this world to powers upon the earth. Until the church, the ways of God had always been in connection with the earth; God’s king had been seen on the earth; His wisdom on the earth, with regard to His earthly people. But in looking at the church, the principalities and powers see a wisdom which is entirely new, the glory of Christ in a people which God strengthens by His Spirit, to whom everything is promised for heaven at least, and which does not consider its own life, in order to be manifested in the glory of Christ. That is why we see in Ephesians that the wisdom of God is different in every way. When this purpose of God is accomplished in the church, He takes up again His ways with the Jews, and He says as a summary of all that is to follow, “Comfort ye my people.”

In the preceding chapters, He reasons with His people, in order to prove to them their sin.- Here it is the proclamation of a new way, and of His positive will to comfort His people. But in order to do this, He must enter with more detail into the miseries of His people. He makes an appeal to their conscience, then an explanation of the thoughts of His heart. He enters into these special purposes with His people and shews that He has not always been able to do so. He desires that the conscience of the people should acknowledge the justice of His ways, and enters into the delicacy of their new relations with God. God makes manifest His way of dealing, and all the manner of His people’s acting, in order that everything may be acknowledged, and that the people may understand that in God all is love. It is continually a question in this latter part of the book of Isaiah, not only of the ways of God with His people in regard to the nations, but chiefly of the coming and the rejection of Jesus—a sin which was the crowning point of all the sins of Israel.

God had an object, whether it was in calling Israel or in calling the church. If God wished to glorify Israel on the earth, He presents His people according to the intention of God regarding them. He might have said, This is my will, and have left to man the task of doing it: that is law. He could produce and accomplish in man what He desired, and shew the resources there are in God for doing it; that is grace. God did this with Israel. Israel was a people in relation with the eternal God, in order that the eternal and only true God might be manifested to the world in all His ways. This will happen also at the close.

There are two things true, with regard to the power of Satan. He got possession of the. earth as being the theatre of the government of God, and he got possession of man and his affections. Therefore does the Holy Spirit say, that the friendship of the world is enmity against God. He therefore who would be a friend of the world is an enemy of God; as also the mind of the flesh is enmity against God.

The church has been formed and maintained here below to manifest to the world the victory of the second Man over Satan and the glory of the second Man seated on the throne of God the Father, infinitely greater than that of the first man Adam in Eden. Israel and the church should have been witnesses of God, one for the earth, the other for heaven, and this in putting aside the power of Satan.

Before the flood there was no government; since then a new principle of evil manifested itself, man entering into direct relation with Satan by idolatry. Man does not confine himself only to being wicked and rebellious against God; he replaces God by Satan. “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons.” Then it is that God calls Abram in order that His name should be known on the earth, and His called be witness to His glory. It is grace that acted; for Abram had been an idolater, like others. He is chosen, called, and made heir of the promises: grace acted thus. Later on the Israelites, Abram’s posterity, were placed as God’s witnesses in Canaan under the law—law which could not annul the promise. God manifests in Israel the principle of His government. Israel having not only failed but apostatised, God had to chase them thence. How could He tolerate a people which compromised His glory, having ceased to be a witness against idolatry, Satan’s direct power in the world? The greatest part of the world is still under this direct power of Satan besides his influence on the heart, for this moral influence of Satan is quite another thing. In idolatry the demon is adored to get his protection or escape his malice; they attribute to him all that God does. Israel having become idolatrous totally failed in its responsibility, the ten tribes first, afterwards Judah who has been yet worse. Then God carries them successively away from the land. With Nebuchadnezzar begin the times of the Gentiles (Dan. 2:31-34, 37-43).

There is a particular circumstance to remark. We see in Isaiah 41-48 Cyrus, conqueror of Babylon, marked out as about to close the captivity by executing judgment on idolatry. The temple is rebuilt, and Israel enters on a new trial. For Jehovah comes Himself in the person of Jesus to present Himself to His people as king; and thus there is a new responsibility for Israel, or at least the Jew. Cyrus was but a type of a greater; and the return from Babylon only a partial deliverance. Much more was coming. Hence with chapter 49 God enters into a new controversy with His people, on the ground not of idolatry but of the rejected Messiah. It is not only that Israel announces to the nations that God had called the seed of Abraham to be His servant, witnesses of Jehovah against idols, and that then they utterly failed and came under judgment, but that after this they were actually to refuse their own Messiah, the divine king, the Lord Jesus Christ, who takes the place of His people Israel, and Himself becomes “Servant” of God, a title which serves to open the latter half of the prophecy. In chapter 42 at the beginning He is just characterised in humiliation till the end come; but the people are immediately turned to in their failure, though with wonderful expression of sovereign goodness to Israel spite of all. So it is in the second controversy, from chapter 49 to chapter 57, whereas before, God’s love to Israel is fully set out before the proof of their sin and ruin. Then when Messiah’s humiliation and atoning death but exaltation have been fully set out in chapter 53, the result is added for Jerusalem at the close in chapter 54, and suited exhortations follow in the three chapters which conclude the sections: free grace even to the nations (chap 55); the indispensable character formed and requisite even for Israel (chap. 56); and, whether Israel or not, no peace to the wicked (chap. 57).

Then, in view of divine intervention and glory with its consequences morally and in every other way, which forms the closing part (chaps. 58-66), the Holy Spirit opens with the most extreme denunciation of form and hypocrisy in Israel, obedience being due to Jehovah. Only He could meet all, and will by coming as Redeemer to Zion (chap. 59); for whatever the glory in judgment which will invest Jerusalem (chap. 60), He must first suit Himself to their need in grace (chap. 61) in order to secure peace and blessing (chap. 62), though none the less in unsparing judgment (chap. 63). Lastly the Spirit in the prophet speaking for the remnant reasons on this, chapter 63:7 to the end of chapter 64, and Jehovah answers in chapters 65 and 66, which concludes the book.

In this chapter Jehovah intervenes and announces that He is come to comfort His people. Verse 2 is the expression of His heart which will have it that Jerusalem has received double for all her sins at His hand. Verse 3 opens the preparatory warning, but it is of Jehovah’s manifestation. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it,” v. 4, 5. The Eternal presents Himself to His people and the remnant is manifested by this means. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of Jehovah bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever,” v. 6-8. The answer is a sentence on all Israel. The passage is cited by the apostle of the circumcision to prove that all is rejected save the remnant. It is also a sentence pronounced on all that which is “flesh.” For all flesh is grass. The power of the Spirit discovers to our souls that in the flesh no good dwells, it will not submit to God’s law, nor does it love Jesus, nor is it led by the Holy Spirit. And man who is not of Christ is “flesh.”

There must be submission to the righteousness of God in order to walk in the Spirit. Otherwise it is just the flesh and worth nothing, whatever the appearance. But at that time Israel according to the flesh was but vanity. Also, because they were flesh, the resurrection was needful to secure the mercies of David, even to Israel here below, namely the godly remnant who will own the risen Christ. Man torments himself vainly by seeking in himself wisdom, strength, righteousness. All is vanity and vexation of spirit. God’s word alone abides. The consequence is that the promises to Israel stand for ever, that He will comfort His people even according to His earthly promises.

The rest of the chapter points out God’s glory in creation for His people, the sole and true God in contrast with an idol. If on the one side all flesh is withered, on the other after the ages of sorrow Israel must know that God is always the same and wearies not. The state of the people has in no way been unknown to Him during this long interval. Those who wait on Jehovah renew their strength, He faints not, but He gives power to the faint. This is a hard lesson to learn; but it is necessary to believe that the flesh is nothing, its wisdom, good plans, etc., nothing but vanity. What God does and says abides; man perishes. How important to let God act, knowing that we are nothing.

Thus the people of God are to be comforted. Prepare ye the way of Jehovah; all flesh is as grass, but the word of God endures for ever. He takes the people of God for a witness against idols; the people which He made for His glory. He takes Cyrus as a type of the deliverance of the people captive in Babylon, also being a witness to the Gentiles, and Jehovah, who is to be glorified in Israel. What has just been said is from chapters 40-48.

Chapter 41 is full of the righteous man from the earth, not merely as the destined conqueror, but as the avenger, to call on Jehovah’s name and execute judgment on idolatry. But a greater than Cyrus is beheld at the beginning of chapter 62, who, meek and lowly, shall not fail nor be discouraged till He has set judgment in the earth: and the isles of the Gentiles shall wait for His law. At the end of the chapter Israel are the deaf and blind, perfect in privilege as Jehovah’s earthly people, but alas! blind. Self-will and disobedience had darkened their eyes. But grace will intervene and save them from the ends of the earth (chap. 43) though they be the blind people that have eyes and the deaf that have ears. The dealings with Babylon, which prefigure the judgments at the end of the age, shew that Israel are His witnesses, and that He notwithstanding their iniquities, will blot out all for His own sake. In chapter 44 He promises the full positive blessings of grace, while exposing the folly of idols and pointing out the coming conqueror by name; and this is followed up in chapter 45 with plain predictions of Babylon’s fall, and Israel’s salvation. Chapter 46 declares how the idols of Babylon must come to nothing through the “ravenous bird from the east,” the man to execute Jehovah’s counsel from a far country, as we see from chapter 47 that the virgin daughter of Babylon must sit in the dust. Then chapter 48 closes the section by an appeal to Israel, though to those sprung of Judah, because these would alone represent the people in those days. We know from the Lord’s word in Matthew 12 that the unclean spirit will return with worse for the closing scenes of “this wicked generation.”

Chapter 49 begins the second charge, the rejection of Christ, not idolatry, and it goes on to the end of chapter 57. (Compare the end of chap. 48.) Israel, having rejected the Messiah, it is said that it is to be of little value. He is put as a light to the Gentiles, and Zion is to be re-established.

Chapter 50. Manifestation to all flesh: indication of the rejection of Jerusalem (the Jews) because they have despised the Lord in His humiliation. The remnant hearken to the voice of the servant and will be in darkness.

Chapter 51 till the end of verse 12 of chapter 52: three addresses on God’s part to the people; verse 4, His people; verse 7, in whom is the law; verse 9, the people being awakened; verse 17, Jehovah.

Chapter 52:13, begins with the revelation of this servant.

Chapter 53. The Jews (the remnant) who recognise the rejection of Christ, and God who bears witness to Him.

Chapter 54. Jerusalem, barren, is acknowledged, and Jehovah becomes her husband.

Chapter 55. It is not only Jerusalem, it is such as are athirst—grace, the great principle.

Chapter 56 continues the same part; the end is in chapter 57.

In chapter 58 He begins, as the third part unto the end, to reason concerning righteousness, Israel, etc.; redemption comes in at the end of chapter 59, and the promise that the Spirit shall remain with Israel.

Chapter 60. The terrestrial glory of Jerusalem; the same thing is said of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Chapter 61. Christ come in blessing, and rejected.

Chapter 62. For the blessing of the earth by His people.

Chapter 63 is the day of vengeance.

Chapters 63 to 64. All this excites in the prophet the spirit of intercession.

Chapter 65 is the reply to the intercession of the prophet; God distinguishes between the nation and the remnant; He condemns the nation and saves the remnant, who own Christ the Servant, and become Jehovah’s servants throughout.

Chapter 66. He condemns the outward form of religion, and comes to deliver the remnant and to bless Jerusalem.

In Isaiah the Holy Spirit does not speak of Antichrist but of the judgments of Christ against the Assyrian, etc. The Assyrian will come rather pushed forward by Gog; but he comes the first—Gog will come after (with the power of the Assyrian, it is true); Antichrist, in his character of beast, head of the Roman empire, will make war with the nations.

10 Seraphim in itself means burners that fly, and is found combined with serpents in Numbers 21:6, 8; Deuteronomy 8:15.