The Prophet Series: Isaiah part 19: Third Cycle Continued.
The King shall reign (24:21-23)
So it will happen in that day,
That the Lord will punish the host of heaven, on high,
And the kings of the earth, on earth.
22 And they will be gathered together
Like prisoners in the dungeon,
And will be confined in prison;
And after many days they will be punished.
23 Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,
For the Lord of hosts will reign on
Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
And His glory will be before His elders.
“In that day” is tied to the waiting, “after many days” (vs. 22). The waiting is the “maranatha” cry as well as the “come Lord Jesus” cry, and in these verses, Isaiah sees their fulfillment, the Second Coming of the Lord. There will be an overthrow and the Lord is its agent. In the first two oracles the nations strove for glory, power, and security without God. The promise was that God’s promises would still come to pass. The punishment or judgment of the nations will finally arrive and one nation will stand in the end, Zion, because of the One who makes it stand. Indicated as well is the punishment of the “host of heaven,” which is an illusion to spiritual forces of wickedness, which forces are imprisoned for His thousand-year reign.
The One who comes, flashing forth from east to west, shines so bright that the sun and the moon will be ashamed in comparison (vs. 23), hanging their heads in shame at being such poor things by comparison. His city, Zion, is the goal of the world-wide pilgrimage of vv. 13-16a who arise from the rubble of destruction, and this will become more explicit in chapter 25.
“And before His elders, glory!” (vs. 23d is exclamatory in the Hebrew). In EXO 24:9-11, the Sinai covenant was consummated by a theophany; the Lord appeared among the elders of Israel on the mountain, but on this bright day, the Second Coming of Christ, the elders will see Him in all His glory.
The world rejoicing in salvation (25:1-12) - Come home!
The world-wide song “Glory to the Righteous One” (24:16a), is now heard in detail as the world pilgrimage arrives in Zion. As opposed to a troubled world bent on self-reliance and human pride, the remnant arrives in the Lord’s city in peace and security, marveling that the Lord could save them from themselves and from such a dark and sinful world. Zion awaits them, the banquet is prepared, and the glory of the resurrected Christ is displayed. Mankind is provided with what he could never give to himself - salvation to a glorious, eternal home.
O Lord, Thou art my God;
I will exalt Thee, I will give thanks to Thy name;
For Thou hast worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
2 For Thou hast made a city into a heap,
A fortified city into a ruin;
A palace of strangers is a city no more,
It will never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore a strong people will glorify Thee;
Cities of ruthless nations will revere Thee.
4 For Thou hast been a defense for the helpless,
A defense for the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat;
For the breath of the ruthless
Is like a rain storm against a wall.
5 Like heat in drought, Thou dost subdue the uproar of aliens;
Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced.
There is a strong sense of being “saved from” disaster. In other words, salvation is not possible without victory over the taskmasters who usurped God’s world. We might initially conclude that Satan is the usurper or our parents Adam and Eve, but really it is sin, which arose inside Satan and eventually in the first two humans. Sin manifests itself in those who refuse the salvation of the Lord, and being responsible to their own will, they must be judged.
In Isaiah’s imagery, the pilgrims to Zion move through a ruined world, and in their song, they marvel at the magnitude of their rescue and the power of the Lord who accomplished it.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold
[Hymn - Jesus I Come]
The first thing we witness about the remnant in vs. 1 is that they know the Lord. They know His works, wonders, and plans from long ago, and they understand that they were all done with “perfect faithfulness”. They come to the One they know.
In vs. 2, self-salvation only ends in destruction and permanent weakness. All through history, this nation or that nation was feared, but in the final day, all discover that it was the Lord alone who should have been truly feared.
In vs. 3, “people” and “city” are in the singular (NASB has “cities”). This refers back to the city of meaninglessness in 24:10; the city which represents the world structured without reference to God. They are one people though they are composed of many nations throughout many ages. They all think and behave in the same way. The fact that they come to ‘revere’ the Lord at the end of the verse does not imply that they become saved through faith. Rather, they come to revere, fear, and respect God when He judges them and overthrows them.
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth
In vv. 4-5 we find the two sides of salvation: the overwhelming threat that He delivered them from; and the complete ease He then brings them into. The images of storm and heat are common in prophecy. They are things before which frail man, despite his boisterous pride, is defenseless. God alone possesses the power to provide refuge and shade from sin and death, and from His own judgment.
God is actually promising protection from His own wrath. One might ask, why not just eighty-six the wrath and then all would be protected. But if God did not have wrath upon sin, then He’s not perfectly holy and totally pure. Asking why God must judge sin is like asking why you breathe. In vs. 5, the shadow of the cloud stands next to the heat. The line is sharp. Faith in the salvation of the Lord moves the man into the cool shadow, while standing next to him, suffering and baking in blistering heat, is the man who refuses salvation.
Blessings in Zion (25:6-8)
And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah again looks back to Sinai where the covenant was sealed with a meal.
Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11 Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
The people (ethnic groups), the nations (political entities), and faces (individuals) do not bring offerings to the Lord or sacrifices or to serve Him. They all come to enjoy what the Lord has provided. In the oracle of Arabia (21:13-17) the afflicted people have only meager sustenance, which is but bread and water, while in contrast, the pilgrims come to the table of the Lord overflowing with choice pieces (Hebrew literally says “rich food”), buttery marrow, and fine, aged wine. Coming home to their King, the peoples, nations, and faces all become His people.
Vv. 7 and 8 both begin with the same verb - swallow up. The ‘coverings’ or shroud over the peoples and the veil over the nations shall both be swallowed up by the Lord. We can get creative with what they represent, but to be too creative is to allow the danger of fanciful interpretation. I would think the shroud refers to anything that weighs down man (a mantle on his shoulders) like his responsibilities in a fallen world, or deceives him (blocks his vision). Peoples likely represents ethnic groups, each of which possess their own culture interwoven with religion, morality, and accepted behavior containing certain biases and outright falsities that hang like a mantle on everyone born into the “tribe.” It is difficult to find one’s way out from under this heavy blanket of human bias, but the Lord swallows it up and leads His people to the deep well of truth. We would likely equate the veil with the barrier between man and God as in the Holy of Holies. Nations, like ethnic groups, are places of rulers and their laws. Power corrupts, and all nations become corrupt with power and wealth. It is difficult for a citizen to find his way out from under the power of the state. The Lord swallows this up as well and leads His own to His own Kingdom, the only one truly righteous and just, and to Him as King, the only true Ruler who is fit to be worshipped and adored.
In vs. 8, He will swallow up death. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that His people, born into this world, will not die, but that the curse of death that sin brought upon man will be consumed by Him.
Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
“Lord God” (vs. 8) is Adonai Yavah, referring to Him as Master and Sovereign. It is Divine Sovereignty (He chooses as King) that goes to each one of us and wipes away every tear from our faces. Faces refers to each of us as individuals, and individuals all have different reasons for weeping. Our Lord doesn’t admonish us for weeping, demanding that we grow up and act like men, though there are legitimate times when God does so, but not all the time. There are legitimate tears, and the Sovereign Master lovingly and compassionately wipes them from our faces. The pressure, the heartache, the losses, the pains of life are now over, never to return. He puts one hand gently on one side of your face and clears away your tears with His other hand, and bids us to be joyful with Him at his covenant banquet.
He removes the “reproach” from His people. Immediately comes to mind the reproach of Egypt; meaning slavery, bondage, and misery (bricks without straw). So also, as long as life in this world endures, there are innumerable ways (circumstances and sins) in which the people of God are under reproach and hindered from living according to their true dignity, the holiness of God. All this will be taken away. The new nature will be given full and glorious expression in an environment where everything conduces to holiness. Covenant promise will have become covenant reality.
Joy in the Lord (25:9-12)
The conclusion to this oracle is the joy of salvation, but alongside it is a darkness, which is the pride of those who reject Jesus’ offer to come. It is as if God does not want us to forget them, even as we rejoice in our own salvation.
And it will be said in that day,
"Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."
10 For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain,
And Moab will be trodden down in his place
As straw is trodden down in the water of a manure pile.
11 And he will spread out his hands in the middle of it
As a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim,
But the Lord will lay low his pride together with the trickery of his hands.
12 And the unassailable fortifications of your walls He will bring down,
Lay low, and cast to the ground, even to the dust.
“It will be said in that day” is better translated “Each will say in that day.” The testimony of all is the same for each one. They are, at last, each in the presence of the One they have so long waited for - they are face to face with Him saying (vs. 9), “Surely, look, this is our God! This is Yavah!” The work of salvation is all His. No human hand has helped Him.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
The God who is our salvation.
20 God is to us a God of deliverances;
And to God the Lord belong escapes from death.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Verse 10a belongs with vv. 1-9. “For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.” “Rest” is in Hebrew a simple active (qal), which never expresses violent action. The divine hand rests upon His mountain. His hand is blessing, power, and protection.
The introduction of the proud ones comes after vs. 10a. Still teaming with pride is Moab, who refuses to come.
Moab - the world that refuses the Gospel.
While God’s hand rests upon His mountain, His foot is trodding down Moab. In these lines God opposes the pride and cleverness of mankind, destroys their self-made security, and puts an end to them.
If we remember, Moab had her own oracle in chapters 15-16 in the first series (of three). She is mentioned by name in order to remind us that these things, though eschatological in nature, happen to real people. In that oracle, Moab was offered security behind the walls of Jerusalem.
My [the Lord] heart cries out for Moab;
"Let the outcasts of Moab stay with you [Jerusalem];
Be a hiding place to them from the destroyer."
A throne will even be established in lovingkindness,
And a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David;
However, Moab rejected the offer, instead thinking that she could deliver herself from the invaders from Assyria. But the Lord foretold a different future.
We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride;
Even of his arrogance, pride, and fury; His idle boasts are false.
7 Therefore Moab shall wail; everyone of Moab shall wail.
In Isa 25, while the remnant of pilgrims rejoice and sing as they finally behold the face of God, which they have long waited for, while they feast with Him and rejoice with Him, we find Moab outside, and like the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal, filled with pride. There is a tyranny that comes from bad choices, the worst choice of all being the rejection of the Lord’s Gospel.
Instead of the rich food and wine of the Lord, Moab is trodden down in the water of a manure pile. It is meant to disgust us - the rottenness and corruption of the world without God. But yet, we see Moab looking to swim (vs. 11). It is the ultimate in self-reliance and self-effort. Swimming is a go-it-alone activity. Though in a pool of manure-water, Moab still thinks she can get somewhere on her own. But the Lord is not deceived by Moab’s cleverness (Hebrew: arbot, translated “trickery”) of hands. The contrast is between the pure hand of God who is always true and the hand of the world that rejects God, only possessing clever tricks that may dazzle, but will always be laid low.
In the last verse, there are three nouns of height that are matched by three verbs of bringing down. High fortified walls are met by bring down, lay low, and cast to the ground. There will be nothing left, not even ruins that might stimulate a memory - just level ground, the very dust.
Love in Him,
Pastor Joe Sugrue