Chapter 19 "A Delightsome Land."

Mal. 3:12.

It is generally supposed that “Immanuel’s land” is heaven. But a very cursory reference to the chapter where the expression occurs (Isa. 8:8) will show that it applies not to heaven, but to the land of Israel, as promised to Abraham and to his seed, yet to be inhabited according to the covenant, and now, though downtrodden by the Gentile, and desolate, reserved for the glorious accomplishment of every prophecy regarding it.

Very early did the earth share in the blight that fell on the whole creation through the entrance of sin—” Cursed is the ground for thy sake:… thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee” (Gen. 3:17, 18); and ever since then, only to hard and persevering labour does the ground “yield her strength.” Yet much has been left of fruitfulness and of beauty, not alone for human enjoyment, but also for His delight, for whose “pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:11.) Moreover, there is a witness for God in nature that is often much overlooked; as we read, “Nevertheless He left not Himself without a witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17.) But gladness is one thing and thankfulness is another; and herein does God complain of man, “They glorify Him not as God, neither were they thankful.” (Rom. 1:21.) How often are men, and even Christians, glad because of the gifts of God, whilst the incense of praise and thanksgiving scarce at all ascends. But in the land of Immanuel it shall not be so; for “the Lord 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 the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured: but they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the Lord; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of My holiness?” (Isa. 62:8, 9.)

The abundance of the gifts of God shall not then lead the hearts of Israel from, but to the Giver. Instead of fostering the spirit of independence, as they had before done (see Deut. 8:11-17), they shall lead the soul into joyful communion with Him, who shall then be known as the source of all blessing; Himself better than all His gifts, and His loving-kindness better than life. At the present time the land of Canaan gives but little indication either of its former or its future fruitfulness and beauty. The prophecy of Lev. 26 is under fulfilment: “I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her Sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your Sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.” (vv. 33-35.)

Much of its present barrenness and desolation is owing to the long withdrawal of the “latter rain,” rain that once fell regularly in its appointed season. Because of Israel’s wickedness we read, “Therefore the showers have been withdrawn, and there hath been no latter rain.” (Jer. 3:3.) “Neither said they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: He reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest. Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.” (Jer. 5:24, 25.)

But it shall not be for ever so. “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things.” “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.” “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and My people shall never be ashamed.” (Joel 2:21-27.)

So also we find in Hosea 6. The remnant of Israel, as though seeing that their blessing and restoration is bound up with the death and resurrection of Christ, are represented as saying: “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and the former rain unto the earth.”

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.” (Amos 9:13.) Thua ihall the promises of Leviticus 26:4, 5, be at last fulfilled to Israel in the sovereign grace of God, though for the present they are utterly forfeited, because conditioned upon their obedience to the law.

Most thoroughly has the law proved man’s need of grace. Not a precept left unbroken—and that in full view of both promises and threatenings unexampled—tells too plainly the depth of depravity that is in the revolted heart.

But though man may fail, God has in reserve the right to bless—a dearly-purchased right, acquired through the blood of His Son—a right that He is now exercising abundantly towards us, and which He will yet exercise towards His ancient and beloved people Israel, and not to them only, but through them to the whole world, and to the very creation that has been blighted, and the land that has been desolate because of Israel’s sin.

Truly, then, it will be “a delightsome land.” Even the wild beasts will partake in the universal blessing, owning the second Adam, Lord, and His presence restraining their appetites, they shall not hurt nor destroy. (See Isa. 11:6, 9.)

“No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed of the Lord shall walk there: and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa. 35. See whole chapter.)

At present the Dead Sea is a standing witness to God’s judgment upon sin. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah doubtless being there submerged, and its waters so impregnated with salts, that no living things are to be found in it.

It is like the waters of Marah, so bitter that it cannot be used; but the restoration of this is also in the purpose of God, when He shall restore all things, and efface every trace of what sin had done, excepting only that “dust shall be the serpent’s meat.” The account of this is to be found in detail in Ezek. 47:1-10. It is impossible to spiritualize such, a passage. And is it not wonderful how-God has contrived to connect even this with the blood of atonement? The living stream that shall heal the deadness of those waters shall proceed from under the altar. It deepens and widens as it proceeds, spreading life on all its banks, and at length emptying itself into the Dead Sea, the bitter waters again are healed, and Jehovah-Rophi is known anew, as the fishers stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim, spreading forth their nets, and finding fish according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.