To Isa. 58 and Isa. 59 one might add Isa. 60 as completing the series. This is the opening of the last section of the prophecy (chaps. 58 - 66). The Spirit had closed both His counts against God’s ancient people, their idolatry, and their rejection of the Messiah, with the consequences in the certainty of judgement, and not peace, for the wicked on either side. We have now a sequel or appendix, consisting of moral argument and appeal to the people, with a positive revelation of Jehovah’s intervention and their establishment in glory and blessing. For no prophecy of scripture is of isolated interpretation; each links itself with the kingdom of Jehovah in the last days, however it may apply to lesser and passing circumstances in the prophet’s days, or in the times that succeeded. Prophetic scripture does not interpret itself apart from that day, but forms a united system. Though it may be verified in particulars now and then, here or there, it looks onward to the final scenes, and connects what was wrought in the past with the state of things which will necessitate Jehovah’s appearance on the scene to introduce His own day. The state of the Jews at the time called for this unveiling of their sins. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that doeth righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous ordinances, they delight to draw near unto God. Wherefore have we fasted, [say they,] and thou seest not? [wherefore] have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find [your own] pleasure, and exact all your labours” (vv. 1-3). It is the spirit of Pharisaism.
The notion of some26 that Protestantism is in question is as unfounded as the unbelief of an older day which turned aside the prophecy from Israel because no part of the blessing has as yet been accomplished in them as a nation. The quotation from this prophecy (Isa. 59:20), as employed by the apostle in Romans 11:26, appears clearly to refute both, by giving as the divine key the future salvation of that Israel which is now the most blinded and has stumbled at the Stumbling-stone. The time too is rendered certain; it is unquestionably not present any more than past, but future. For, as the Spirit there interprets the prophecy, we are not to look for its fulfilment in the salvation of all Israel (Isa. 59:20) till after the fullness of the Gentiles is come in; whereas this is only going on now and therefore is not complete. Hence the moment is not arrived even for commencing to apply to Israel. But faith can profit by it at any time.
Jehovah then deals with the exceeding hypocrisy of this people in their holy things. It was not that they failed to approach His temple, not only professing delight in His ordinances, but fasting and afflicting their souls. In vain! “Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness; ye fast not [this] day to cause your voice to be heard on high” (vv. 3, 4). Nothing of the kind could be acceptable to Jehovah, Who will have truth in the inward parts, with things fair and good in the sight of all men. Hollow and sterile religiousness is abominable in His eyes; and compels Him to judge themselves if He cannot sanction their sin. Hence the expostulation in vers. 5-7. “Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul — that he should bow down his head as a rush, and spread sackcloth and ashes [under him]? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Jehovah? [Is] not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? [Is it] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor wanderers to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (vv. 5-7).
Were there a response to His own goodness, in the practice of mercy which became the people of Jehovah to the oppressed and destitute, how would He not bless them! Were they to heed the sabbath, calling it a delight, and honouring Jehovah, how should they not delight themselves in Him, riding in the high places of the earth, and fed with the heritage of their father Jacob! “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of Jehovah shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I [am]. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and the speaking vanity; and [if] thou proffer thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in darkness, and thine obscurity [be] as the noonday: and Jehovah will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make strong thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters deceive not. And [they that shall be] of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called Repairer of the breach, Restorer of paths of habitation. If thou turn back thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy [day] of Jehovah, honourable; and thou honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [idle] words, then shalt thou delight thyself in Jehovah; and I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth; and I will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken” (vv. 8-14).
“Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid [his] face from you, that he doth not hear” (vv. 1, 2). And what a picture follows in verses 3-15! “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips are speaking lies, your tongue muttereth wickedness. None sueth in righteousness, none pleadeth in truthfulness. They trust in vanity, and speak falsehood; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch serpents’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works; their works [are] works of iniquity, and the act of violence [is] in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts [are] thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction [are] in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgement in their goings: they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein knoweth not peace. Therefore is judgement far from us, neither doth righteousness overtake us: we look for light, but behold darkness; for brightness, [but] we walk in obscurity. We grope for the wall like the blind, yea, we grope as having no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the twilight; among the flourishing we [are] as dead [men]. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgement, and there is none; for salvation, [but] it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions [are] with us, and our iniquities, we know them: in transgressing and lying against Jehovah, and turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgement is turned away backward, and righteousness standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and uprightness cannot enter. And truth is lacking; and he [that] departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. And Jehovah saw, and it displeased him that there was no judgement.” Hands and fingers, lips and tongues, all polluted and perverse; justice not called for, truth unpleaded; vanities and lies, mischief and iniquities; subtlety of evil and ever-increasing virulence; active but vain corruption and violence. What sanguinary feet! what iniquitous thoughts! What wasting and destruction in the crooked paths where peace is unknown! Hence, without judgement, they walk in darkness, grope like the blind, and are (? in desolate places) as dead men, whether raging as bears or mourning as doves. Salvation is far off, because of multiplied transgressions and departure from God, with truth fallen in the street, and equity unable to enter, and the godly a prey, so that Jehovah held it evil in His sight that there was no judgement. The Spirit guides into confession and hides nothing.
But such utter moral chaos, hopeless for man, was the call for Jehovah’s intervention. “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; and his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. And he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on garments of vengeance [for] clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to deeds, accordingly he will repay: fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense” (vv. 16-18). It is the picture of the mighty intervention of God for His people in the last days, though not at all resembling what He will do for the heavenly saints. These He will remove from the scene of their pilgrimage to heaven, His earthly people He will deliver from their enemies by judgement in that day. Thereby He will teach the nations wisdom, or at least the beginning of it in His fear. “And they shall fear the name of Jehovah from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the adversary shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of Jehovah shall lift up a standard against him” (v. 19). It is not by the gospel, but by the execution of judgement on the Gentiles. Can any conclusion be plainer? Our translation to heaven is purely of grace.
It is not, on the one hand, a mere outward interference, but the power of the Spirit will accompany it. On the other hand, here is not the action of the Spirit in the absence of the Lord, as now in Christianity. “And the Redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith Jehovah” (v. 20). The apostle (Rom. 11:26) cites it27 as His coming out of Zion. Doubtless both are true and each appropriate in its place. The Redeemer must come to that mountain of royalty in the Holy Land in order to come out thence; and He will come to the righteous remnant, the Israel of God, even to such as turn from transgression in Jacob, as He will also turn away ungodliness from Jacob. There will be conversion of heart before Jehovah appears in the extremity of their distress and to the destruction of their foes; but that appearing will deepen all their feelings toward Himself and bring them into peace and blessing fully and for ever. “And as for me, this [is] my covenant with them, saith Jehovah, My spirit that [is] upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforth and for ever” (v. 21).
Now when the same apostle was opening out to the saints in Rome the gospel of God, he cites weighty and withering words from the early verses of our chapter to convict of sin and ruin, and thus to prove the abject need of grace (Rom. 3:15-17, 19, 20). But this he follows up with God’s justifying freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God set forth as a mercy-seat through faith in His blood. This is truly good news to the sinner, Jew or Gentile. But the prophet follows up his unveiling of the sins of the people with the intervention of Jehovah in garments of vengeance, rendering fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies. This is not what He is doing now, nor is it in any way the gospel of grace. It is His coming in the displayed kingdom. Then indeed will the Redeemer come to Zion, as He will identify Himself with His people Israel; and He will come out of Zion, as manifestly espousing their cause, to tread down their foes.
The Epistle to the Galatians gives no countenance to the prevalent error that all believers now, the church, are the Israel of God. The apostle does apply the phrase only to such Jews as now confess Jesus to be the Christ. They and they only are now acknowledged as the Israel of God; but they are distinguished in the same verse from the general mass of the saints, “as many as walk according to this rule” — the rule not of circumcision or of uncircumcision, but of a new creation in Christ Jesus. And the Epistle to the Romans adds, to the full assertion of the gospel and its effects, the distinct intimation that, when the fullness of the nations, now being called out, shall have come in, all Israel shall be saved. The teaching of the apostle is largely lost by those who do not see the present indiscriminate grace shown to the Gentiles as well as Jews, and the future recall of Israel which shall be “life from the dead.”
As we have had the failure and guilt of Israel in idolatry and the rejection of the Messiah traced down to their reception of “the king” as well as of idols in the last days, so now we have not a pledge or promise of covenanted blessing under the Redeemer King, but the scene of joy and blessing and honour for Zion, when the hour arrives for His glory to be revealed here below. There is no ground for doubting that, as before we had the dark picture of God’s earthly people, so here we are permitted to behold the sure anticipation of the brightness in store for them. The church is not here in question.
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples: but Jehovah will arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And nations shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons come from far, and thy daughters are nursed upon the side. Then thou shalt see and be brightened, and thy heart shall throb and be enlarged; for the abundance of the sea shall be turned unto thee, the wealth of the nations shall come unto thee. A multitude of camels shall cover thee, dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of Jehovah. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall serve thee; they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will beautify the house of my magnificence” (vv. 1-7).
But there is another picture which sets out the change among men by divine goodness. The ships of the Gentiles play their part now in serving Israel’s sons with honour. “Who [are] these [that] fly as a cloud, and as doves to their dovecotes? Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of Jehovah thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, for he hath glorified thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually (they shall not be shut day nor night); that [men] may bring unto thee the wealth of the nations, and [that] their kings [may be] brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, [those] nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the cypress, the pine (or, plane), and the box-tree together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of Jehovah, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 8-14).
There is no thought here of God’s glory revealed in the face of Christ on high and made known by the Spirit to the heart (2 Cor. 4:6); the earth itself is the theatre of this divine display. Another point to be noticed is that, immediately before the time arrives, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples. Plainly therefore it is a false interpretation of prophecy that light is to be diffused universally when the time of earthly glory for Israel, as well as the heavenly glory of the church, dawns on the world. Zion is to be visited in the mercy of God when the Gentile lands are enveloped in the grossest ignorance of God. So the apostle predicts the apostasy before that day (2 Thess. 2).
Again, in ver. 3 there is a point of striking contradistinction to the present dealings of God. For now the fall of the Jews has been the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:12); but here all is in contrast: the Gentiles are blessed after Israel is restored to Jehovah’s favour, so indeed Rom. 11:15 teaches us that their reception shall be to the world life from the dead. Hence, when Jehovah’s glory shall be seen on Zion, the nations shall come to that light and kings to the brightness of its rising.
The gospel now goes out freely and its light is diffused far and wide, though only as a testimony; for it admits not of the power which binds Satan and changes the face of creation. But in our chapter Jerusalem has its proper central place, as the metropolis of the earth when all shall be settled and governed according to God. Nor is it only sons and daughters that thus come to Zion from far, but strangers too. For there is then to be no such state of things on earth as the church of God, one body, Christ’s body. On the contrary Gentiles and Israel, though both blessed by Jehovah, will be distinct and kept so, however harmonious in their relations. So too it is the day when outward things are to be no unmeet offering to Jehovah: camels and dromedaries, flocks and herds, land and sea, shall pour their tribute before His feet. To think now of serving God thus would be to go back to beggarly elements from the revelation of heavenly and eternal things in Christ; whereas gold and incense will be in season, and sacrifices will be then acceptable for His altar and the house of His glory. But no such joy shall be for the isles and the nations and creation generally, till the Holy One of Israel glorifies Zion, rescuing her from the stranger that now treads her down to her sorrow and his own loss. But He shall arise and have mercy on that royal hill, and His servants take pleasure in her stones and favour her dust. Not till then shall the heathen fear His name, and the kings of the earth His glory, as is here described so variously.
But when Jehovah builds up Zion, all shall be turned to Him. God will make this favour to Jerusalem felt universally in due time, after punishing those who think to gain all by the overthrow of His people. All nature will join to adorn the sanctuary of Jehovah; and those who by-and-by represent the nations that once afflicted Israel will then be abject in their homage and prostration when Zion is exalted. Many images here used to mark the glory of the earthly Jerusalem are employed in a more glorious way for the new Jerusalem of Rev. 21-22. But the attentive reader will not fail to mark the essential differences also. Take this one in particular. The nation and kingdom that will not serve the restored earthly Jerusalem shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted (ver. 12). The glorified church, the heavenly Jerusalem, on the contrary, is true to her mission of grace even in the day of glory. For as to her not only is there no word of this judicial character, but there is the witness of beneficent and unfailing grace. The tree of life is there, on either side of the river of life. No other tree is seen to threaten death. But the tree of life, while it bears its full and varied yet constant fruits for those within, affords its gracious succour also to the need of those without: its leaves are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).
For anything like such heavenly grace as this, Babylon (proud, corrupt, cruel) had no eyes, ears, or heart; she, the false church, did and does arrogate the claims which are alone true of Jerusalem by-and-by. She even ignored and hated the reality of grace which the bride of Christ is called to show. And no wonder; for she is a harlot, and detests Him that is Holy, Him that is True, indulging in lusts and lies and blood, till divine judgement fall.
But the prophet says of Zion, “Instead of thy being forsaken and hated, so that no man went through [thee], I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the nations, and shalt suck the breast of kings; and thou shalt know that I Jehovah [am] thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. For bronze I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood bronze, and for stones iron; I will also make thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but Jehovah shall be unto thee an everlasting light; and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for Jehovah shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended” (vv. 15-20).
Here is evidence overwhelming, were more wanted, that the church on earth or in heaven is not represented here, but the ancient people of God blessed according to His promise and prophecy. For righteousness dealing according to an earthly measure is the rule; and it is the day also not for an elect witness, but “thy people also [shall be] all righteous,” and this in prosperous power, instead of knowing the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, being made conformable to His death. “They shall possess the land for ever — the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. The little one shall become a thousand, and the smallest a strong nation: I Jehovah will hasten it in its time” (vv. 21, 22).
The main source of erroneous interpretation among the orthodox is the obliteration of Israel to bring the church into their place of promised earthly glory. Therefore minds at all spiritual revolted from these visions of worldly honour, material prosperity, long life, and the like, and sought to make them figures of higher things. But the Christian and the church have their spiritual blessings in heavenly places, as is distinctly set forth in the New Testament; while the Old Testament predicts these wondrous changes in the land and the earth for Israel and the nations, when the kingdom is set up in visible power and glory. There is therefore not only no justification for getting rid of the plain meaning of the prophets, but we wrong God’s ancient people, to say nothing of the nations, of that bright prospect which is revealed for the earth. And good men are guilty of bad reasoning and worse exegesis who dislike to admit the glorious state predicted as a simple literal fact in honour of the Second man, the last Adam. Far be it to accuse such unbelieving believers of Manicheeism; but their speculations deprive them of entering into that immense counsel of God which will put the entire universe under Christ’s headship, and bind the earth beneath and the heavens above in united blessedness to His own glory, as we may read in Eph. 1:10; of which Rev. 21 - 22 is the New Testament display prophetically.
This forms the beginning of a section (Isa. 61 — Isa. 63:1-6 which embraces Jehovah-Messiah in His first advent as well as His second for the blessing and glory of Israel and the destruction of their enemies. We have the Lord’s own warrant in Luke 4. for declaring that the early portion He read applies to His then presence in grace here below. It has been often and justly observed how He stopped after the first clause of verse 2, closing the book, and in due time saying, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. He cites what portrays His character as it was (or about to be) displayed on earth at that time in ways of divine mercy, but forbears even to finish the sentence where the part following alludes to His exercise of judicial wrath. Such was in no way the object of His first coming; and so, if strangely in appearance, with divine wisdom He read no more. “The day of vengeance of our God” awaits the epoch of His appearing in power and glory. “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah [is] upon me, because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek. He hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and opening of the prison to the bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, that beauty be given them instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness” (vv. 1-3).
The richest mercy will then indeed be the spring of God’s way with Israel. For Jehovah, while He executes earthly judgement, will comfort those that mourn, especially mourners in Zion, giving them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, “that they might be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and aliens’ sons [shall be] your ploughmen and your vine dressers. But ye shall be named Priests of Jehovah: they shall call you Ministers of our God. Ye shall eat the wealth of the nations, and into their glory shall ye enter. Instead of your shame [ye shall have] double; [instead of] confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double; everlasting joy shall be unto them. For I Jehovah love judgement, I hate robbery with iniquity; and I will give their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they [are] a seed Jehovah hath blessed” (vv. 3-9). Restoration of past decayed places shall go forward; strangers shall serve Israel, who shall themselves be called priests of Jehovah. For their shame they should have not merely reinstatement of what had lapsed but double, like Job; and Jehovah, Who as fully loves judgement as He hates robbery with wrong, will make an everlasting covenant with them; so that all who see them will acknowledge that they are indeed the blessed of Jehovah.
Nay more, Jehovah Himself becomes the centre of all joy and the giver of all beauty, causing righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. “I will greatly rejoice in Jehovah, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with the turban, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord Jehovah will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (vv. 10, 11).
We see how the Holy Spirit, having testified to the Messiah and His character which was of the utmost value for souls at His first advent, passes by His rejection and going on high which brought in the church, and hastens on to His establishment of the kingdom in Zion at the latter day. So it is here, as with prophecy in general. They look on to Israel restored in the land when Christ reigns publicly. The fundamental principle of neology, that we have no more than a forecast of what was at the door, is a daring lie against inspired prophecy, the great body of which is on the magnificent and holy reign of the Messiah not yet begun. Hence the desire to treat it as “ideal”; hence indifference to the bright and assured prospects of Israel under Him and the new covenant, not in principle only, but in its fulfilled terms to the joy and blessing of all the nations and of the earth itself.
Theodoret in his comment, like others, saw the church, not the future restoration of Israel and the Lord reigning in Zion after receiving those that now believe to heavenly glory. And such is the prevalent view of Christendom still. They overlook the plain testimony which the New Testament renders to the setting aside, as of the Jew in the past, so of the Gentile in the future, because of failure to continue in the goodness of God. Yet that failure is a fact over which every God-fearing soul mourns; and the apostolic warning of it is set forth beyond doubt in Romans 11, while the judgement of Christendom and the habitable earth is declared in many scriptures from Matthew to the Revelation. When that judgement of the quick is executed, Israel shall be saved, and these bright promises for the earth fulfilled, not before nor otherwise.
The Spirit of Christ in the prophet is importunate in intercession for Zion, as we see in the beginning of this chapter. For He it is that praises Jehovah in the name of the people and their capital. He speaks for the Bridegroom and for the earthly bride, so perfectly now in the expression of joy, as once in that of unfathomable grief and infinitely gracious suffering for sin. But it is not now in view of sin and weakness and unworthiness, but that Zion may henceforth shine brightly in her light of righteousness and salvation before the nations and all kings. “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp [that] burneth. And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of Jehovah, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah; for Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married” (vv. 14). Land and people are bound up in the plans and affections of Jehovah the latter called, My delight is in her; the former, Married. And this mark of favour will prove a divine ground of patriotism for Israel. “For [as] a young man marrieth a virgin, shall thy sons marry thee; and with the joy of the bridegroom over the bride shall thy God rejoice over thee” (v. 1), a still higher source of joy.
The Spirit of Christ working in the prophet also bears witness of the unceasing cry to Jehovah to effect His glorious counsels as to Jerusalem. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace all day and all night: ye that put Jehovah in remembrance, take ye no rest, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make, Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (vv. 6, 7). at is of great interest to observe the place of watchmen here. And blessed the day when it will be not so much their warning men against evil in treachery or violence, as their loudly reminding Jehovah of the mercy that endures and of the reversal of all past sin and shame in Jerusalem established and made a praise in the earth. “Jehovah” on His part “hath sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn [to be] meat for thine enemies; and sons of the alien shall not drink thy wine, for which thou hast laboured; for they that have garnered it shall eat it, and praise Jehovah; and they that have gathered it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness” (vv. 8, 9). Assuredly this oath infallibly secures Israel on the earth.
Hence the animation of verse 10: “Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones, lift up a standard for the peoples” (v. 10). The day of Jehovah is there; He the Messiah is there for the salvation of Zion’s daughter — His reward with Him, and His work before Him. So Jehovah proclaims to the end of the world as His message to her. “Behold, Jehovah hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward [is] with him, and his recompense before him” (v. 11). “And,” on the other hand, “they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of Jehovah: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken” (v. 12).
“Happy people that is in such a case; happy people whose God is Jehovah.” He will rejoice over Jerusalem, as a bridegroom over a bride. No more shall His people be called Azubah (Forsaken), no more the land be called Shemamah (Desolate), but Hephzibah (My delight is in her) the one, and Beulah (Married) the other. The blessing henceforward rests on Jehovah-Messiah, Who never did nor can fail; not on the worm Jacob who neither could be, nor ought to have been, relied on. Henceforward it is not the first covenant which claimed but could not find fulfilment fit for Jehovah from sinful Israel. It will be for ever the new covenant, founded on an infinitely better sacrifice which brings the remission of sins, and Jehovah’s putting His law in their inwards and writing it in their hearts, Himself their God, and they His people. Messiah’s prime interest then will be Israel and Jerusalem, but all the nations and the earth shall be blessed in divine goodness.
Some find a difficulty, because the Revelation (Rev. 19:21, 22) clearly teaches that the church is the bride, the Lamb’s wife; whereas Isaiah says it of Israel, and of their land with Jehovah. But there is really none; for the one speaks of what is for heaven, the other for the earth. And what hinders there being an object especially dear on high, and another here below in that day? But there is no confusion of the two in scripture; still less room for that truly carnal method of interpretation which by a strange hallucination the divines call spiritualizing, the essence of which system is to identify the Jew with the Christian, to metamorphose the land into heaven, to swamp long-suffering grace into the reign of righteousness, and imagine a kingdom of the Spirit to the denial of Christ’s world-kingdom, heralded by prophets of old, sung by psalmists, and sealed by the Saviour and the apostles. Both are true, but their spheres are as distinct as the objects themselves, as the character of the relation which Christ bears to each, and even as the languages in which they are respectively revealed. To confound them is to deny the future hopes of Israel, and to lose the heavenly place of the church.
The church has never been forsaken of God; while Zion unquestionably has; nor have we as members of the glorified Christ another fatherland but heaven, which cannot be termed desolate. Apply the language to Israel, and all is clear and unequivocal, without doing violence to a single expression.
These verses connect themselves with the close of Isa. 62, following up the coming of the Messiah (as the Deliverer of Zion no longer forsaken but sought out, and all her dispersed children now gathered in) with a most vivid sight, as it were, of His return from executing vengeance on their Gentile foes. The scene of the slaughter is laid in the land of Edom and the city of Bozrah. Horsley seems inconsistent in denying any mention of these places here, while admitting them in Isa. 34:5, 6. He would translate the proper names as appellatives thus: “Who [is] this that approacheth all in scarlet, with garments stained from the vintage? This [that is] glorious,” etc. But that able man had overlooked the chapter just referred to, where the scene demands the proper names. This consideration, in my judgement, gives conclusive support to the ordinary translation.
But commentators in general contradict each other without being able to discern the divine light in the words of the prophet. Thus Origen and Theodoret, Tertullian and Jerome, may illustrate views which have too long prevailed, so far as to lead the compilers of the English Common Prayer Book to read it for the Epistle on the Monday before Easter. They actually regard the scene as prophetic of the Saviour suffering for our sins, instead of seeing in it the Avenger of His long-oppressed Israel; as a pledge of mercy, not as a threat of judgement. Hence the good Bishop of Cyrrhus thinks the prophet here points out Jehovah’s ascent to heaven, lays stress on Edom as the red land, connects the pierced side and blood and water with the blood-stained garments, and sees the destruction of the devil and all his host in the treading of the winepress.
Calvin justly objects to such a perversion of the prophecy; but he is quite as far from the true mark as any when he proceeds to apply it not to Christ, but simply to God Himself as such in His dealings of old with the Edomites, and other enemies of His people, when He broke them by the Assyrians of old. This is to make the word of private or isolated interpretation, dislocating it from its true aim and scope in the illustration of the glory of the Lord Jesus, not at His first advent, but when He comes again.
Luther’s notion is strange enough: he regards it as a prediction of the punishment of the Jews or Synagogue, not an infliction on their enemies for their rescue in the latter day. The Jew, as is commonly known, conceives that the divine wrath which impends over Rome, as the full meaning of the enemy here named Edom, is the real thought. Bishop Lowth rightly combats Grotius’ hypothesis that Judas Maccabeus and his victories make the subject of it; or the subsequent exploits of John Hyreanus, his brother Simon’s son. “It may be asked [he adds], to whom, and to what event, does it relate? I can only answer, that I know of no event in history to which, from its importance and circumstances, it can be applied, unless perhaps to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish polity; which in the Gospel is called the coming of Christ and the days of vengeance. Matt. 16:28; Luke 21:22.”
This suffices to prove the bewilderment of Christian writers down to our times, which is yet more confessed by some, like the last, owning that “there is no necessity of supposing that it has been already accomplished.”
Vitringa, as usual, is more erudite than the mass; but there seems to be no good reason for treating, as he does, the local references as mystical. For when the great day arrives, the world will behold a wonderful reappearance, not of Israel only, but of their ancient rivals and enemies, whom, like the ten tribes, men of the world assume to be for ever extinct. It will be the day of reckoning for the nations, and the end will righteously answer to the beginning. At any rate there is nothing valid enough to set aside the plain mention of these localities, nor the fact of an utter overthrow of the Gentile enemies of Israel there.
But the great fact, overlooked by almost all, is that it is here no question of the heavenly church, but of the earthly people, Israel. The church is removed from the scene by grace to meet the Lord, and be with Him in the Father’s house, though surely also to appear with Him in glory and to reign with Him over the earth. But not such is the character of the deliverance of Israel; and of this Isaiah treats, like the Old Testament in general. It is by the execution on earth of judgements, which have for their object the salvation of the Jews and the destruction of their enemies. This object accordingly accounts for terms, which are hard indeed to be explained when men think of the church in these verses. Believe that Israel is there, and what more proper than such a description of their Deliverer, as “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save,” or “The day of vengeance is in my heart”? Is this the way we think of His love to us, or His attitude even to the world while we are passing through? How can vers. 5, 6 apply to Him as Head of the church? Bring in the question of Israel delivered for His kingdom here below, and all is consistent and clear.
It is then the Lord, Jehovah-Messiah, Who is here seen in the prophetic vision, returning victorious from the spot which more than one prophecy declares to be the theatre of the wrath which shall be poured out unsparingly on the foes of His people. “Who [is] this,” asks the prophet identifying himself with the people, “that cometh from Edom, with deep-red garments from Bozrah, this [that is] glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?” His answer (for it assumes the form of a dialogue) is, “I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” “Wherefore,” asks Isaiah again, “[art thou] red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat?” “I have trodden,” answers He, “the wine-press alone: and of the peoples not a man was with me; and I have trodden them in mine anger, and trampled them in my fury; and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my raiment. For the day of vengeance [is] in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: and mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I have trodden down the peoples in mine anger, and made them drunk in my fury, and I have brought down their strength (lit. juice) to the earth” (vv. 1-6).
Manifestly it is no picture of Christ forsaken of God nor even rejected of man, but of His treading down the opposed nations, as grapes in a wine-press. It is not infinite love suffering infinitely that sin might be judged, and God glorified about it, and thence able to justify the believer from all things. It is One trampling down in wrath, and the blood of His enemies sprinkling His garments, not His blood washing them in divine grace. It is not the day of grace but of vengeance, though along with it the year of His redeemed is come when the scattered and peeled people shall be brought to Zion with everlasting joy on their heads. Now it is the day of salvation for the Gentiles who believe, while wrath to the uttermost is come on the Jews who believe not.
The reference is plain to Isa. 61:2 with the notable difference that here “the day of vengeance” precedes “the year of my redeemed”; whereas in the previous chapter “the acceptable year of Jehovah” takes precedence of “the day of vengeance of our God.” And this latter order had a beautiful propriety in the Lord’s own application of that part only which illustrated His first advent. For if we have eyes to see according to God, we shall not fail to discern the admirable way in which the Holy Spirit, while looking onward to the day of manifested glory even for Israel and the earth, does not omit to prepare for the grace and humiliation on which that glory is based, that it should have the deepest moral grounds, not mere power or even wisdom. God must intervene for the heart to know Him; and man, believing man, must be cleansed from every sin and all unrighteousness.
Here however it is Jehovah-Messiah executing unsparing judgement on earth, treading the peoples in His anger and trampling them in His wrath. Those who cavil at this as inconsistent with His holy goodness betray their own rebelliousness and the bad conscience which dreads His day at length, when He summarily puts down the iniquity which has so long destroyed the earth. When divine vengeance has done its necessary and righteous work with the peoples and enemies of Israel, the ways of God succeed in goodness, and the godly remnant, His people, testify to them with praise, as we shall next hear.
Far different is the gospel era. It is truly a time of acceptance, and a day of salvation, quite apart from judgements on either Jew or Gentile. It is based on an incomparably deeper and more mysterious judgement, when God availed Himself of the rejection of the Messiah by both Jews and Gentiles, and wrought the amazing work of His grace toward ungodly and lost man in the sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus, for our sins, and for the redemption of all who believe. In the gospel there is no difference: all sinned; and the same Lord of all is rich toward all that call upon Him (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 10:12). In the kingdom there will be a difference, at least in honour; Zion and Israel shall have a position beyond every other place and people under their King, Jehovah of hosts. The church glorified has at that very time a still higher and nearer relationship beyond question; as we are now called to walk in faith and hope. For it is always the special and proper revelation for any given time which is intended of God to act on souls, not merely the general principles of divine truth which apply necessarily from first to last. The coming of our Lord brought this out in the strongest relief as He personally was the truth in all its fullness, His finished work removed all impediments and led to the revelation of the light of God’s glory in His face, and the Holy Spirit was thereon sent forth to be in the believer and in the church a spirit of communion, such as never could be before, and never is nor can be again.
The last section brought together at its beginning the Lord’s first advent, at its end His second advent, with Jerusalem as the special object here contemplated in His earthly plans. We now enter on the closing part of this great and varied prophecy. There are two divisions in it. The first, that which affords us our present theme (from Isa. 63:7 to the end of chapter Isa. 64), consists of a most urgent intercession by the Spirit in the mouth of the prophet on behalf of Israel with Jehovah, after recalling His grace toward them. The second is His answer, which carries us to the end of the book.
Even the least enlightened of modern commentators admits that we open with what seems designed as a formulary of grateful recognition of Jehovah’s loving-kindness and tender mercy, but also of humiliation for the Israelites in order to their restoration. “I will record the loving-kindnesses of Jehovah, the praises of Jehovah, according to all that Jehovah hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses. And he said, Surely they [are] my people, children [that] will not lie; and he became their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted and the Angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bore them and carried them all the days of old” (vv. 7-9).
Nothing is more suitable than this exordium, whether one thinks of Jehovah first or of His people next. Mercies acknowledged lead to fresh mercy. He was not changed in His loving-kindness, nor they in their deep need of it, as only He could show it to them. Hitherto His love had received no return, nothing but bitter disappointment.28 Yet what could exceed His tender care? “But they rebelled and vexed his holy Spirit: and he turned to be their enemy, himself, he fought against them. But he remembered the days of old, Moses [and] his people, [saying], Where [is] he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? where [is] he that put his holy Spirit in the midst of him, his glorious arm leading [them] by the hand of Moses, dividing the waters before them, to make himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths; as a horse in the wilderness [that] they stumbled not? As cattle go down into the valley, the Spirit of Jehovah gave them rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a name of glory” (vv. 10-14)
It is evident then that God will work morally in Israel. No external deliverances for themselves nor execution of vengeance on His and their foes will suffice for His great purposes, any more than for His own glory or their real good. Hence the Spirit will exercise them in confession and in supplication before Him. As the verses already looked at set out their ingratitude and self-will in presence of His unmerited goodness, so the next take the form of prayer. “Look down from the heavens, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory. Where [is] thy zeal and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels and of thy mercies? Are they restrained toward me? For thou [art] our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Jehovah, [art] our father; our Redeemer, from everlasting [is] thy name. O Jehovah, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways — hast thou hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. The people of thy holiness have possessed [it] but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. We have become of old [like those] thou never ruledst, those not called by thy name” (vv.15-19).
They are broken in heart and turn in affiance or trustfulness of spirit to Jehovah. Had He of old said, Surely they are My people, children that will not lie? Now they say, Surely Thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not. Yet do they own that there had been judicial hardening over them as erst over Pharaoh and his people.
How deep and persevering the sins that could turn Jehovah against His own people as against their enemies of old! and this too how long! for Israel had enjoyed their inheritance but a little while. Long, long had their adversaries trodden down Jehovah’s sanctuary, and Israel had been as those on whom His name was not called, who knew not His rule.
This leads out the heart in still more earnestness. “Look down from heaven” suffices no more. “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down — that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as fire kindleth brushwood, [as] fire causeth the waters to boil — to make thy name known to thine adversaries, [that] the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things we looked not for, thou tamest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. Ever since the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, a God besides thee, who will act for him that waiteth for him” (vv. 1-4).
It is interesting here to note the great difference for which the accomplishment of redemption gives occasion by the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Cp. 1 Cor. 2:7-10) We see that God now does reveal the things He has prepared for them that love Him. We do not wait for the emergence of the great High Priest to know our blessedness; for while He is still in the holiest, the Holy Spirit, as the gospel teaches, has come out and given us to enter in as anointed of God and made free to go boldly within the veil. Indeed for us the veil is rent, and all things hidden are revealed. But Israel (and the prophet speaks of Israel) must wait till they see Him Whom their fathers so guiltily pierced, though undoubtedly their heart will be then converted to Jehovah-Messiah. They are born again but not in peace till they actually behold Him, and even then what searchings of heart, what self-reproach!
Hence we have in what follows the language of true repentance. “Thou meetest him that rejoiceth to work righteousness, [those that] remember thee in thy ways (behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned): in those is perpetuity, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and made us melt away through our iniquities But, now O Jehovah, thou [art] our father; we [are] the clay, and thou our potter; and we all [are] the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Jehovah, neither remember iniquity for ever. Behold, see, we beseech thee, we [are] all thy people. Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire; and all our pleasant things are laid waste. Wilt thou refrain thyself for these [things], O Jehovah? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?” (vv. 5-12).
The truth is that we must leave room in our faith for others to be blessed in the grace of God, when the saints called to a distinctively heavenly portion are no longer on earth. God will prepare Israel, His firstborn son here below, to be His destined chief among all the families of the earth, whom He will surely bless according to promise, and in honour of His Only-begotten Son. And thus it is that the Jew must, after his long and varied failure, undergo so searching a spiritual process to fit him for his assigned post as the most honoured nation. For this he is kept now, the standing witness (in spite of his present heart-unbelief) of divine chastening, in order to obtain mercy in “that day,” when he renounces self-confidence, confesses his sins unreservedly in truth, and hails in Jehovah’s name Him Whom heretofore he slew by the hand of lawless men. It was a grand discovery for faith, that Jehovah’s honour was concerned in their blessing; and that the desolation touched Him at least as much as them, though the sins were theirs and the grace was His.
There is a remarkable form of expression in the Hebrew of ver. 9, where the substantive verb occurs and is repeated, contrary to the well-known Hebrew usage which ordinarily omits it. As its insertion cannot be without a sufficient reason, we are entitled to infer that the revealing Spirit had in His mind by the preterite form employed a continuous state of desolation from a past act of judgement. This entirely agrees with the facts, not so much of the Babylonian infliction but of the more permanent ruin which followed the destruction by the Romans. For God was marking His sense, not only of the national defection of His people in idolatry, but of the returned remnant’s still more heinous and fatal rejection of the Messiah. All hope therefore turns on His mercy and faithfulness to His gifts and calling. All must be vain, unless Jehovah rent the heavens and came down in the person of Him Who had already come to suffer for all their iniquities and all their transgressions in all their sins, banishing and effacing their guilt for ever. This, we know from other scriptures, He will assuredly do for His own great name, and in virtue of the atonement already effected.
This chapter begins the answer of Jehovah to the appeal of His people, in which He explains not only what is now an accomplished fact, but also what still goes on. “I am sought out of [them that] asked not [for me]; I am found of [them that] sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation [that] was not called by my name. I have stretched out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, who walk in a way [that was] not good, after their own thoughts” (vv. 1, 2). The last two verses of Rom. 10. leave no ground for hesitation as to their bearing. They furnish an inspired comment on our opening verses, and prove beyond controversy that the first intimates the call of the Gentiles which is now proceeding, as the second is the aggrieved witness on God’s part of that which gave occasion to their call — the rebelliousness of His ancient people Israel. It is an enemy’s work to slight the New Testament use of the passage, as is done by rationalists in order to limit the prophecy to the Jews of the times before and after the Babylonish captivity. Besides, what can be more inconsistent with the evident contrast at the same epoch between verses 1 and 2? The inspired application we might never, unaided, have discovered; but, once made, it approves itself to the spiritual understanding as exactly tallying with notorious facts.
Grace is sovereign and goes out now to those who never so much as looked for it — to the ungodly Gentiles who had till now stood in no recognised relationship with God. But in turning from Israel God was entirely justified by their iniquities: after all their advantages, His name had been blasphemed among the Gentiles through the chosen people. Most gracious was He then in calling from among the Gentiles; most righteous in discarding the Jew. This Jehovah proceeds to prove by a detail of Israel’s insulting wickedness in verses 3-5: “The people that provoke me to anger continually to my face; that sacrifice in gardens, and burn incense upon the bricks; who sit down among the graves, and lodge in the secret places, who eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable [things is in] their vessels; who say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These [are] a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.”
It has been objected by some that these idolatries and superstitions, covered over with hypocritical affectation of holiness, did not occur after the return from Babylon. But we must not forget that the Holy Ghost in prophecy deals with the evils then existing or in progress, the judgement of which was not met by providential chastisement, such as the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar. Just as the idolatry of the wilderness was only checked from time to time, but not judged duly till the nation was carried into captivity beyond Damascus (Amos 5:27); so these evil ways which Isaiah describes did not meet with adequate condemnation till God turned the stream of His calling into other channels. The principle indeed is fully confirmed by the use our Lord (Matt. 13:14, 15) and the Spirit (Acts 28:25-27) make of Isa. 6:9, 10. The judicial sentence so long suspended from the days of the prophet only fell adequately in gospel times. It is just so here. Also we must bear in mind what we have seen already, that idolatry is to revive in the latter days, when the Jews settle themselves in their land before the Lord appears, judging the evil and establishing the good in order to His millennial reign.
One cannot but think too that the closing words of this divine censure intimate the long patience of God; so that, flatter themselves as they might that He like themselves did not heed the character of their misdeeds, judgement would at length demonstrate that, however loath to break silence, He will recompense the iniquities of both fathers and children. “Behold, [it is] written before me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom, your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith Jehovah, who have burned incense upon the mountains, and outraged me upon the hills: I will measure their former work into their bosom” (vv. 6, 7).
Thus might seem to threaten total and hopeless ruin to the ancient people. But no: God had promised; and the unfaithfulness of the people, however surely judged, cannot make void the promises of grace. Hence in verses 8-10 God proceeds to make known, not the bringing in of the Gentiles during Israel’s temporary excision from the olive-tree of promise and testimony on earth, but the reservation of a portion, the germ of a nation, blessed and a blessing, from Jacob and Judah, according to His early pledges to their fathers. “Thus saith Jehovah, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and it is said, Destroy it not; for a blessing [is] in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy [them] all. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah a possessor of my mountains; and my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. And the Sharon shall be for a fold of flocks and the valley of Achor a couching-place of herds, for my people that have sought me.” His chosen, the remnant, are here definitely distinguished from the rest of the people, or “the many” as Daniel describes them in speaking of the same time.
Then in vers. 11-16 Jehovah contrasts the apostates and the elect of the people, the idol-worshippers and His own servants, with their respective destinies. “But ye that forsake Jehovah, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for Gad,29 and fill up mixed wine unto Meni, I will even number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down in the slaughter: because I called and ye did not answer; I spoke, and ye did not hear; but ye did the evil in mine eyes, and [that] wherein I delight not ye chose. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen; for the Lord Jehovah will slay thee, and call his servants by another name: so that he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles shall be forgotten, and because they shall be hid from mine eyes” (vv. 11-16). The old evil will be judged at the close; just as inquisition for all righteous blood shed will then be made. It is a time of judgement which ushers in days of unparalleled enjoyment for this earth: that is, it is the end of this age and the dawn of a new one when former troubles are forgotten. Yet in ver. 16 “the land” may be meant rather than the wider sense of “earth.”
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever [in that] which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice over Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (vv. 17-19). The true key to this is that the predicted change from present things begins at the commencement of the day of the Lord, and is only complete before that day gives place to eternity. This alone, as is plainly revealed, will be found to reconcile all the scriptures which treat of the subject. So in Christ the Christian can even now say that “old things are passed away: behold all things are become new”; while in fact this will only be literally verified when he is changed into His image at His coming. Just so the beginning of the day of the Lord will be an incipient accomplishment of “new heavens and a new earthy when Jehovah creates Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy; but the absolute fulfilment awaits the close of the millennial day, when to the fullest all things shall be made new, the earth and heavens that are now being not shaken only but dissolved, the sea for ever gone, and a new heaven and a new earth appearing, wherein righteousness shall dwell, and God shall be all in all. The New Testament naturally dwells on the full issue ultimately involved in the prophecy, as we may see in 2 Peter 3:12, 13, and in Rev. 21:1-8. But the Jewish prophet, as naturally, was led of the Spirit to dwell on the earliest pledge of this blessing in its dawn on the land and capital and people of Israel.
That Isaiah does embrace this earlier phase as bearing on the Jews and Jerusalem will be manifest to every attentive reader. For the entire description here suits the millennium rather than eternity. The special place of Jerusalem and her people has been already pointed out. Now this of itself suffices to prove it; for though the new Jerusalem possesses an abiding character of special glory, the New Testament is explicit that on the new earth all such distinctions as an earthly city or people melt away for eternity.
Next, ver. 20 is decisive against the notion. “There shall be no more thenceforth an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not completed his days; for the youth shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner [being] a hundred years old shall be accursed.” Thus death is not wholly extinct in the state of things prominently before our prophet. It is exceptional, but still exists as an instrument of judicial infliction. Man will then fill his days, which he has never yet done — not even before the flood — no, not even Methuselah himself. Not one as yet has stretched across ten centuries. This will be the rule for the righteous who are found alive on earth when the Lord reigns for the thousand years. So thoroughly will death be not the rule but the exception, that one dying a hundred years old will be but a youth; and even so he that dies at a hundred years will be a sinner under some express curse. In eternity death does not exist.
Again, it is written here, “And they shall build houses, and inhabit [them]; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree [shall be] the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they [are] the seed of the blessed of Jehovah, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed as one, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and dust [shall be] the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith Jehovah” (vv. 21-25).
Now, sweet and worthy of God as all this is, it is not heavenly nor eternal in the full sense, though an earnest of final blessedness. It is God’s vindication of His character on earth and of His faithful promises to Israel there, when power shall be on the side of righteousness, and the works of the devil shall be manifestly destroyed here below. Not even disappointment shall be known for before men call, Jehovah will answer and will hear while they speak. And the long-groaning earthy freed from its travail, shall yield her increase. The very beasts shall share the general joy, with one solemn and marked exception. Did the enemy of God and man choose one animal to be the vehicle of his temptation with the mother of all men? Even in the otherwise universal joy God cannot forget this, and would have men also to remember it when that active spirit of evil is debarred from his ravages. So if “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together,” and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, none the less shall dust be the serpent’s meat. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith Jehovah.” There emphatically, and not there only, is the power of evil broken to the glory of God.
In a Christian effort to defend the Messianic interpretation of these prophecies (with the aim of which one cordially agrees), it is sad to read such incredulity as could say, “The lion could not eat straw like the bullock, and continue to be a lion . . . And even were this change possible, nothing would be gained by it. A lion so transformed would be a defect in creation” (R. P. Smith’s At6th. and Mess. Interp., 260, Oxford, 1862). What is the value of such reasoning against the positive word of God?
The New Testament is even more distinct than the Old with regard to the new creation; because apostolic doctrine lays down what the prophets present in the elevated style of poetic prose. Not the Holy Spirit but the Lord Jesus is the revealed Restorer of fallen creation. For He is the Heir of all. As the heavens have now received Him, He will surely come again, not for the destruction but for the restitution of all things. It was on earth that the grace of God appeared in Him; here was accomplished redemption, here will the glory of God be manifested, though on high it will shine more brightly in the glorified. On the cross Satan was defeated before God, though seemingly he defeated the Saviour; and what the believer knows by faith will be manifested to every eye when the Lord appears again in glory. Meanwhile the dead and risen Christ is received up in glory, and all the angels of God worship Him. But the day comes when the earth shall be full of His glory, though this cannot be without a judgement of the living ungodly, in the most marked contrast with the gospel of His grace which now goes forth to all the world. Those who fail to believe this immense change, being most defective in their apprehensions of the revealed future, set up to prophesy smooth things of man and his progress. Who can wonder that they prophesy falsely? Scripture is direct and express that creation is to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of glory (Rom. 8:20, 21); and the Lord Jesus, Who will make it all good in its season, is worthy to receive all “glory and honour and power.”
The concluding chapter of our prophet pursues what was begun in Isa. 65. — the answer of Jehovah to the supplication which precedes them both.
“Thus saith Jehovah, the heavens [are] my throne, and the earth [is] my footstool: what [is] the house that ye will build unto me? and where [is] the place of my rest? Even all those [things] hath my hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith Jehovah” (vv. 1, 2). It is not that God did not accept the house which king David desired, and his son Solomon was given, to erect for His glory. It is not that He will not have a sanctuary in the midst of Israel in the glorious land; for He has revealed it minutely, with the feasts, sacrifices, priests, and appurtenances, by Ezekiel (Ezek. 40 - 48).
But it is another thing when His people, despising the only Saviour and Lord, their own Messiah, rest in the sanctuary, as of old in the ark to their own shame and discomfiture before their enemies. So it was when the Lord left the temple — no longer God’s house but theirs, and left to them desolate, Himself its true glory being despised and rejected. So Stephen charged home on them these very words (Acts 7:48-50). It was not he nor Luke, but Isaiah who declared that the Most High dwells not in temples made with hands: and this in full view of the “exceeding magnifical” temple which Solomon built. Heaven is His throne, earth is His footstool. What can man do worthily for Him to rest in? He needs nothing of human resources. His own hand has made all these things, in comparison with which man’s greatest exertions are puny indeed.
Once more among the Jews at the end of the age shall be the state of things which draws out this rebuke of their own prophet. Trusting in the house that they are at length allowed to build in Jerusalem, they must prove afresh that an unbelieving idolatrous heart desecrates a temple, and that not thus can sin be settled between God and the sinner. Earthly splendour in such circumstances is but gilding over iniquity. It is real hypocrisy. They may seek in unbelief to restore “all these things that have been”; but God has a controversy with the people about idolatry and the rejected Messiah not yet judged; and His elect own their sins and look for the new estate He will create in honour of Messiah. The heart must be purified by faith in order to worship acceptably.
“But to this [man] will I look, to the afflicted and contrite in spirit, and trembling at my word” (v. 2). Thus the line is drawn here as before between a godly remnant, and the people apostate as a whole. Hence their oblations are vain. “He that killeth an ox slayeth a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb breaketh a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation [is as] swine’s blood; he that burneth incense [is as] he that blesseth an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations, I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did the evil in mine eyes, and chose [that] wherein I delight not” (vv. 3, 4).
The English Bible follows the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic, as well as the Chaldee paraphrase. Houbigant, Bishop Lowth, Horsley, De Wette, etc., omit the terms of comparison (inserted in italics in the A. 5), which in their judgement mar the true sense. Their translation makes the verse to intimate the combination of ritual observance with open wickedness and Gentile abominations. Otherwise the statement is that their impiety made their acts of worship to be so many horrors.
In either view the people of Israel had chosen their own path of self-will and disregard of God for the evils they loved; but God’s retribution would not be wanting. No delusions among the nations were more complete than Israel’s have been and are yet to be; and the evils they dreaded, and sacrificed all to avoid, were just what befell them, and must till the end come. Did they refuse the Messiah? They have been a prey to false Messiahs, and shall yet bow down to the Antichrist. Did they own no king but Caesar? In Caesar they found a destroyer. Did they fear the Romans would come and take away their place and nation? All the world knows how punctually their fear was accomplished; and yet the end is not. Greater abominations shall be seen in them; greater delusions, greater fears, and a greater fulfilment. The abomination of desolation of which the Saviour spoke in Matt. 24:15 (citing not Dan. 11:31, which was then past, but Dan. 12:11, which is still future) must yet be set where it ought not, in the sanctuary at Jerusalem; and then there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
It is impossible to interpret of the past Roman siege either Matthew 24, or Daniel 12, or our chapter; but the days for the due fulfilment of all these prophecies are at hand, and the effect of every vision. “Hear the word of Jehovah, ye that tremble at his word, Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let Jehovah be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed” (v. 5).
But hark, what is this that breaks on the ear? “A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of Jehovah that rendereth recompense to his enemies. Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall a land be made to bring forth in one day? shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut [the womb]? saith thy God. Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn over her; because ye shall suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations, because ye shall drink out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like a flowing stream and ye shall suck, ye shall be borne upon the side, and be dandled upon the knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And ye shall see [this], and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like the grass: and the hand of Jehovah shall be known toward his servants, and indignation toward his enemies” (vv. 6-14).
Thus no longer by testimony to the heart, but by manifest judgement will Jehovah decide between cattle and cattle. The infidel scoff, which so long harassed the heavenly people, will then be put to shame before the poor in spirit of the earthly people. It is not the gospel that is here described, but the effect of the Lord’s taking His great power and reigning, according to Rev. 11:15 18. It is the world-kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ actually come. Hence judgement is executed on the living destroyers of the earth. Jehovah will be glorified to the joy of such as trembled at His word before He appears and to the eternal infamy of those who knew Him not and doubted His interest in His despised confessors here below. For Christ and for the church, they were raised or changed and taken on high, leaving the world without a blow or even a notice. But it will not be so for the Jew by-and-by: “A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of Jehovah that rendereth recompense to his enemies.” The Roman destruction of Jerusalem was no adequate fulfilment of this: but it shall be fulfilled to the letter of many prophecies. (Cp. Isa. 9:3-5; Isa. 18:3-7; Isa. 29; Zech. 14:1-4) And then shall follow the new birth or ingathering of Zion’s children, no longer to be Abraham’s seed nominally but his children in deed and in truth. As nothing of the kind followed the capture by Nebuchadnezzar, no more did it ensue when Titus took Jerusalem. No outpouring of vengeance on the guilty city followed by blessing unexampled for fullness and without sorrow has as yet appeared to satisfy the terms of the prediction. Sudden as it will be, it will also be permanent.
It will be the day of Jehovah when man’s and Israel’s sad history is to be reversed; and those who loved and mourned for Jerusalem shall rejoice for her and share the rich results of her blessedness. Yet is it in no way the character of gospel joy which blends inward comfort by the Spirit’s power with shame and sorrow and rejection in the world. Here contrariwise, “And ye shall see this, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of Jehovah shall be known toward his servants, and indignation toward his enemies” (ver. 14). It is the future day, not of grace and salvation only as it is to-day, but of vengeance also, when Jehovah will not stop short as once He did on earth (Luke 4:20). Then He was proclaiming the acceptable year of Jehovah, and this only. By-and-by He will proclaim and accomplish both that year and the day of vengeance. For this is in His heart, and the year of His redeemed is come. Both will be fulfilled then without let or delay. It will be the introduction of His day, and of the millennial reign.
“For, behold, Jehovah will come with fire, and his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will Jehovah plead with all flesh: and the slain of Jehovah shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one in the midst, eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse, shall perish together, saith Jehovah. And I [know] their works and their thoughts: it cometh, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, [to] Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, [to] Tubal, and Javan, [to] the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brethren [for] an offering unto Jehovah out of all the nations upon horses and in chariots, and in covered wagons, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain, to Jerusalem, saith Jehovah, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of Jehovah. And of them also will I take for priests, for Levites, saith Jehovah” (vv.15-21). The efforts of ancient and modern commentators to apply this passage, like the rest, to gospel times are desperate but vain. How unequivocally is it a day of judgement, not the glad tidings of salvation by His grace, but His revelation from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the gospel! Evidently the Jews in that day will not only set up their ritual again, but be addicted to heathen abominations. The day of divine recompense shall be when old evils revive and amalgamate with novel iniquities, that all may come before Jehovah in judgement, and a new era dawn on both Jew and Gentile over the earth now purged. It will be a question then not of believing the grace of God, but of seeing the glory of Jehovah that is to be revealed. Jewish worship with its priests and Levites is restored in that day.
Vitringa’s argument on verse 19 that no future call of Gentiles can be here intended, because those named have long since known the God of Israel, seems to be of no real force. For even Christendom will then be in a state of apostasy (2 Thess. 2); and, besides, the hearing of Jehovah’s fame and seeing His glory refers to the manifestation of Himself that will then be made here below. How little is the future looked for according to God’s word!
Thus an unsparing divine judgement will be executed on all the gathered nations when the Jews are dealt with in their pollutions; and those that “escape of them” will be sent of God to the distant nations ignorant of what He has wrought, and Gentiles will bring back all the Jews remaining outside the Holy Land. It appears to be the detail of the prediction in Isa. 18:7. From all nations shall this offering to Jehovah be brought, and by every means of conveyance. Before this, it will have been only the Jews and not all Israel.
All this is evidently not the same as the gospel or its effects, but in the most certain and evident contrast with it. The offering now is characteristically of the Gentiles, as we see in Rom. 15:16, and as experience shows. Jews are no doubt now as ever converted, but they are comparatively rare. The prophet contemplates the day when “all Israel shall be saved,” the apostates having been surprised by the divine judgement.
And any supposed difficulty of reconciling with John 4:21 Jerusalem becoming a centre for all nations is imaginary, or rather arises from the confusion of “the hour that now is” with the day that shall be. Our Lord was contemplating the time of His rejection and His approaching absence in heaven; the prophet had in view the day of His glory for the earth, which is still future. Distinguish the times, and the objection vanishes. Jerusalem has no place in the Christian system; in the coming day of Jehovah it will have a greater and holier place than it ever had of old; and no wonder with the name of Jehovah Shammah!
Hence it is obvious that the ordinary strain of argument and interpretation, popular from the days of Origen and Jerome down to the present, is founded on a total confusion of things that differ. Christianity no doubt is very distinct; but that the new age must be a repetition of the same aims, principles, and ways, is an error quite as great as that which fancies the gospel to be only a continuation of the law with a great accession of better privileges. Israel shall be established for ever before Jehovah. “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, [that] from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah” (vv. 22, 23). There is no solid reason for doubting the literal bearing of the prediction. New moons and sabbaths shall once more figure in the worship of Jehovah; but it will be no more in the letter so hiding Christ or in its range so contracted as of old. For “all flesh” shall share in it, though (from other scriptures we may gather) on no such exalted ground or such dispensed nearness to the King as His chosen people. He is Sovereign, and disposes as He pleases; and our eye should not be evil, because He is good, alike in what is special and in what is common. His house shall be literally a house of prayer for all the peoples, which will in no way hinder the greatness of His name among the nations, or the offering of incense to it or a pure offering in every place.
And as His honour is thus maintained, so is His fear. Not only shall there be an awful outpouring of wrath on His adversaries at the end of this age, but Jehovah will keep up, nigh the very spot where His glory dwells, a salutary warning against transgressors. “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence unto all flesh” (v. 24). There is nothing really obscure in this, save to those who, from regarding the passage only in a Christian point of view, deny its full accomplishment in judgement at the end of the age. In its own connection it is most simple, solemn, and expressive. No doubt by Rev. 20:11 — Rev. 21:8 we are shown the still more awful sight of eternal punishment for all the wicked in its full force, when they shall be raised up from death for the second death. Annihilation is a wicked imposture, and an impossibility for all but God, Who, far from intimating any such end, declares that He will judge by His Son Jesus Christ the Lord those that shall come forth from their graves. Universalism is the still more audacious lie of the enemy.
“THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOR EVER”
26 Vitringa, Horsley and Fry in modern times.
27 In the LXX it is different again from both the Hebrew and the apostle, and runs thus: And the deliverer will come on account of Zion. This also appears to be correct enough. The Holy Spirit in modifying the words by the apostle, seems to have had in view Ps. 14:7; Ps. 53:6, so that it is absolutely true. Comp Ps. 110:2.
28 It may be well to remark that verse 9 is by no means certain for the reading or sense. Our translation followed the Keri, others (as the Vulgate, the Syriac, the Targum of Jonathan, etc., and of moderns, Houbigant, Rosenmüller, Horsley, De Wette, etc.) follow the Ketib. This would give properly, one may suppose, “in all their straits he was not straitened.” The Septuagint, followed by the Arabic, contrasts His personal interest and action. “It was not an ambassador nor an angel, but He Himself saved them,” etc.
29 These idolatrous objects have been contested not a little, some arguing for Baal and Ashtoreth, or Sun and Moon, others for the planets Jupiter and Venus as others again for Chance and Fate. Gad means troop, and Meni number.