The King shall take His Throne. The consequences of that day of
revelation. Democracy not the last form of human government. The
preceding distresses. The precise correspondence between the land and
its people; both today in desolation. The limit. Is there any basis for
the Pentecostal Movement in this outpouring of the Spirit?
The three clear divisions in this chapter are:
1: Verses 1-8: The King reigns.
2: Verses 9-14: The desolations that must precede that reign.
3: Verses 15-20: The latter rain on Israel.
We must not allow the artificial division of the prophecy into chapters to sever the connection of this with what has preceded it. There has been an awe-inspiring interposition of Jehovah on the part of Israel. Her Messiah has appeared as a Lion against her foes, as a bird fluttering over her nest toward the beloved city. The world-power of that day, called "the Assyrian," and by the apostates esteemed to be a "rock," has disappeared, as Revelation 19 tells us (although there the same world-power is called "the Beast from the sea"), in the most awful doom, and the princes of the Assyrian have been terrified. Now his place is taken by another King, and theirs by other princes.
How widespread is the conviction throughout Christendom, that Democracy is to be the final form of earth's government. President Lincoln's speech on the field of Gettysburg has given a world-accepted expression to the conviction that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall never perish from the face of the earth." It is a clear, evident and serious mistake, leading Christendom to an utterly false outlook. We say nothing as to whether it may not be the best practicable form under present conditions—that is outside the Christian's province. Monarchy, absolute in the first case, and then by ever-increasing constitutional limitations, modified in its powers, has been tried and found woefully wanting. Is that failure due to a defect in the form, or to its being in the first man's feeble hands? Scripture is perfectly clear in its answer. We are living in a day in which that last form to be tested, Democracy, is having its trial. It is doomed to speedy and terrible failure, and from the same cause as previous ones. Man, as a race, is still in rebellion against God; and as long as that is the case, whether the government be in the hand of the one or the many, the outcome will be inevitably the same. No great powers of discernment are needed to foresee the terrific cataclysm that shall evidence sooner or later that complete and final failure, to be followed by a brief restoration of a tyranny that shall be the outcome of the Devil's final banishment from the heavenlies and temporary confinement to this earth. Fierce indeed will his wrath then be against every individual composing that witness symbolized by "the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth" (Rev. 11:4). He claims the earth as his—he is its king, he is its god, and he will extinguish all rivalry! But his usurpation is short for,
1: Behold, a King shall in righteousness reign,The "Assyrian" has fallen; nor has it been the hand of any man that has thus brought him to his end. God has done it. Shall that same One leave the throne of the earth thus vacant? Far from it; He will, set upon that Throne the One to whom it justly belongs. It is His by every claim of righteousness, and in righteousness shall He carry out its government. The King is on His own throne at last! The King, so long expected, so long sighed for, is here; and when He takes the sceptre in His Hand, Judgment at last returns to the righteousness (Ps. 94:15) from which it has so long been divorced. The rod, which out of its owner's hand became a serpent (Satanic), again assumes its normal form when its rightful owner re-takes it (Exod. 4). As to the identity of the King there can be no question; nor do I think that we err in seeing in these "princes," those twelve who are to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). To whom could the lovely figures of verse 2 apply but to One! We instinctively feel that such figures of salvation, in its various gracious forms, could not be attributed to any lesser personality than our Lord Himself. Who but He could shelter from the storm-blasts that sweep over our lives here? Who but He in this dry and thirsty land could give refreshing waters to the weary?—as He once did to our poor fellow-sinner at Sychar's well, and as He has since done to myriads, ourselves amongst them. Who but He could afford as grateful a shade from trouble as a huge "Rock" through which no scorching rays could penetrate? None but our risen, living Lord could ever answer to those lovely figures. I am well assured that every Christian heart will say, "That is true!" Our keen delight in the prospect is not lessened that "a Man shall be" all this, thus forcing us to remember, "For unto angels hath He not put in subjection the age to come." Is it not infinitely good, fellow-believer, that we know Him even now as ours? May we grow in that knowledge.
And princes shall rule in just judgment.
2: A man as a shelter from storm-blast shall be,
A shelter that hides from the tempest;
As water-brooks flowing through a dry land,
Or as a mighty rock's shadow,
Cast o'er a land that's heat-weary.
3: The eyes of the seers shall no more be dim;Here we have a picture of the day of revelation, as we may term it. All the veneer that covers the ugly deformities of modern society is removed and everything is "out" and revealed at its true worth, for it is the hour in which the beloved remnant of Israel has turned to the Lord, and no longer is there a veil over their hearts. Truth shall in that day permeate the whole social fabric—everything shall be as it appears. What a change that involves! But if all is exposed, another word from our prophet will come into activity, and "the sinner" though "being a hundred years old shall be accursed" (chap. 60:20).
The ears of the hearers shall hearken,
4: The heart of the hasty shall ponder and know,
The tongue of the stammerers, loosened,
Shall speak with ease and refinement.1
5: The fool shall no longer be counted a lord,
The churl shall not be called gentle.
6: For the fool shall proclaim his folly in speech,
His heart shall still work at its evil,
To practice indeed all impious work,
Speak error regarding Jehovah;
Thus leaving the soul of the hungry all void,
Withholding the drink from the thirsty.
7: Craft is the tool that the crafty will use,
Devising his wicked devices,
By which to destroy the poor by his lies,
E'en when the meek speaks but justice.
8: But the true noble man will noble things plan,
And, noble, will cleave to them closely.
One of the difficulties in these verses is their apparent tameness; in some cases they appear to be the veriest platitudes, little in accord with the fiery style of Isaiah; for if anything is foreign to him it is tameness. To tell us that "the craft of a crafty man is evil," as Delitzsch renders verse 7, would appear hardly necessary or worthy of any, let alone an inspired, writer. The key to all lies in "the King" being revealed, and as He is thus revealed, so is everything in His kingdom exposed in its true colors. Those eyes that were in the prophet's commission to be closed (chap. 6), shall then discern that truth to which they have been so long dark, that "God was in Christ," and that Christ was and is to be found only in Jesus of Nazareth. "He that hath ears to hear" shall then hear a Voice never heard by the impenitent and unbelieving; Whilst, thus hearing, the lips no longer stammer with uncertainty, but pour out from that fulness of heart true eloquence, the outcome of simplicity, sincerity and deep conviction.
The "rash" or "hasty," of verse 4, are those who think it a waste of time to meditate, ponder, consider; but rush to conclusions justified only by their ignorance, prejudice and conceit. In that day even these shall "consider," and as by a divine law, this leads to true intelligence as our apostle's counsel to Timothy: "Consider these things, and the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things" (2 Tim. 2:7).
The accident of mere social position shall then no longer command deference; so that one who is but a fool,2 if born in that position, is called what he is not, noble, for many a present-day nobleman is anything but a noble man. No longer shall wealth, whether inherited or acquired (too often by the shadiest methods), be able to purchase honors, but everything then shall be seen to be exactly what it is.
Verses 7 and 8 in sharp contrast throw their light on one another. The earlier one deals with the man who is termed a "success" in this world, for he attains his end, although by very evil means. But what does that matter? He has, it is true, crushed the poor who stood in his way, but he has attained to the wealth that has been his magnet; now the ruin of those poorer rivals is forgotten, and by the very wealth that he has thus obtained he is able to purchase the name of "philanthropist" or "noble."
By a subtle change of ideas this spurious noble becomes a symbol of the one in another sphere, who would also rob the spiritually poor of truth, and bring him to ruin by speaking falsely against the Lord, denying His essential deity, or the value of His blood, and in so doing take away true food from the hungry, and true refreshment from those perishing with thirst. Have we not seen all this in our day?
In that happy day the "noble" man will be truly that, and as regenerate will be ever devising noble, unselfish deeds, in accord with his divine begetting. Nor will he stay with planning, but will carry those plans into effect, as a poet has expressed it, will "do noble deeds, not dream them all day long."
The foreview of the King and His kingdom is finished at verse 8. With verse 9 we are taken back chronologically to the sorrows that precede that scene, and even while the joyous notes of an earth at peace under the sceptre of its true King are lingering in our ears, we hear a very different note, even such a solemn swell telling still of judgment that it appears to overcome the sweet music that has just refreshed us.
9: Rise up, ye women who are at your ease,The women are here addressed because of the peculiar sensitiveness of the feminine temperament, quick to catch the first sight of coming danger and to take alarm. Even these see no cause for anything but confidence and pleasure. Soon they shall be mourning for the lack of all those bountiful supplies that nature gives from her breasts, which are here found in the fertile field and the fruitful vine. Desolation shall take the place of the abundance that marked the land of Israel, for the condition of that land must always be in accord with the condition of its people. Desolate still is the nation and desolate still is the land. But there is a limit, as we shall see.
To my voice give careful attention;
Ye daughters who're living without any care,
To my speech attentively hearken:
10: In a year and few days shall ye troubled be,
Ye women carelessly living;
For the fruit of the vine shall utterly fail,
The harvest shall too come to nothing.
11: Tremble, ye women that are at your ease,
Quake, ye falsely confiding,
Strip ye, and make ye all naked and bare,
Your loins with sackcloth be girded;
12: Be mourners, in sorrow beating the breasts,
Lamenting the fields once delightful,
Lamenting the choice vine so fruitful.
13: On the land of My people thorns, briers, shall grow,
E'en the houses of merriment cov'ring,
In all of the jubilant city!
14: Emptied the palace! Silent the noise
Of the city, once filled with its tumult!
Its forts and its towers forever are dens,
The wild-asses' joy and flocks' pasture.
15: Until that upon us the Spirit be poured
From on high, and the desert be changed,
Becoming a field all covered with fruit,
And the now fruitful field counted forest.
16: Then in the desert shall judgment abide,
And righteousness dwell in the garden,
17: The outcome of righteousness then shall be peace,
With rest and assurance forever!
18: My people shall dwell in a dwelling of peace,
Their very abode shall be safety,
Their resting-place never disturbed.
19: But hail is outpoured—the forest falls down,
And brought very low is the city.
20: Blessed are ye who by all waters sow,
Whose ox and whose ass roam in freedom.
Verse 15 tells of the limit to that desolation, and that shows there is also a limit to Israel's scattering. As the Land flourished under a twofold blessing of rain, the early and the latter, so there shall be a corresponding twofold pouring-out of the Holy Spirit upon its people. The first, or the early, rain fell at Pentecost. This had a double character, being first a sample of what Joel had foretold, and Peter so used it in his address that day, saying, "This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel." It portended "the great and notable day of the Lord," with but, one way of escape from its wrath, the "calling on the Name of the Lord" (Acts 2:16-21). That "early rain" at Pentecost resulted in 3,000 souls turning to the Lord, but the representatives of the nation were far from so doing, and so "wrath has come, upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess. 2:16). This still awaits its climax when they have returned to the land; it shall cease with the outpouring of the Spirit as the "latter rain." During that long time the land is as desolate as its people.
Poor Israel awaits that "latter rain," they alone are its object. God, the Holy Spirit, came to this earth at Pentecost, nor has He ever returned to the Heaven whence He came, nor will He return till, the mystic Body of Christ completed by its last member, He no longer shall hinder the heading up of wickedness, but go with all the heavenly redeemed to the Heaven whence He came. There can therefore be no second effusion during this dispensation, for He is already here. Thus, if this be justified, then what is termed the Pentecostal Movement can only be a delusion, nor is it needful to specify its true author. The Spirit cannot be poured out from on high as long as He is here. He cannot be poured out on Israel whilst they are scattered. When Israel is restored to her land, and her remnant to her Jehovah, then shall there be a second effusion of the Spirit as here told, and the land shall bloom in accord with it: "The barren shall become the beautiful, and the beautiful the majestic" (Birks). I cannot leave this subject of the condition of their land ever changing to accord with that of its people, without enjoying its application to ourselves. What is our Land? What is our Inheritance? It is Christ and His unsearchable riches! Does the condition of that Land of ours ever change? Is His condition as variable as was that of Canaan? Far from it. It varies not one shade. The sun of God's smile is ever upon it and the very poorest and feeblest of us—aye, even the chief of sinners—are, as in that dear Land, accepted without the slightest variation forever. Does not Scripture assure us that we are "accepted in the Beloved"? Our state, alas, varies constantly and greatly, but look above, and in His unchanging acceptance see with unspeakable joy that since there is no variation in that of our Lord, so is there none with ours. This is the second result of that first—that early rain. It was the birthday of that greatest of all marvels, that hidden mystery, the Church.
In verses 16 and 17 we have another feature of beauty to be seen in the cross. There was the full expression of inflexible righteousness. There on our Lord fell the full penalty of our guilt, and "righteousness" was seen in its perfection in the sufferings He voluntarily bore. But for such service shall "righteousness" have no reward? Surely it shall. Who shall enjoy that reward? The very people whose many sins He bore! And what is that reward that they enjoy? Peace and assured rest forever (verses 18, 19).
The last verse is so constantly used of the sowing of the word of the gospel, that it is difficult to admit any other thought. Yet Isaiah's Jewish readers would understand a sowing in the land, as literal as the land itself in which the literal sowing would take place. What in that day will be material in accord with the character of that age, is spiritual today, in accord with the spiritual character of this; but we must not deny the direct and primary application to Israel. Their land shall "laugh with abundance," and careless shall they be as to their asses or oxen straying into cultivated fields; the extreme fertility of the well-watered land shall take away all such care. O happy earth with such a King ! O wretched earth without Him!
1 "Refinement," lit., "clear" (as chap. 18:4), and, as applied to speech, both intelligible and refined.
2 The word "fool" does not here predicate the lack of mental powers, but a misuse of them, as in 1 Cor. 15:36.