Isaiah part 21: The end to the third cycle, chapter 27.
Chapter 27 is not only the end to the third cycle but also to the section (13-27) devoted to the universal kingdom. In our next installment we will summarize what we have done so far in this great and vast book. Remember, Isaiah is like a Bible within the Bible, both having 66 parts. If we want to know the Bible, it is going to take some time, and so it is with the Book of Isaiah. If we are in a rush to ‘get-er done’ we have to ask ourselves why we are learning in the first place. Every time you are learning the Bible you are drawing close to your Lord to see His mind, to see Him, as He reveals Himself. Would we want to rush that? Would we want our times with Him to end as soon as possible? We should really want Him to go slow so that every day of our entire life would be spent learning from Him, spending time with Him, coming to know Him.
Chapter 27: The final gathering - the universal Israel.
Verse one describes the Lord’s victory over His great opponent, representing all opponents.
In that day the Lord will punish
Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.
There is no need to get cute about who Leviathan is. Is it an actual serpent in the depths of the sea, is it Satan, or does it represent Satan and all his dark forces? Leviathan is used various ways in the Old Testament. He is a water-beast in JOB 41:1; PSA 104:26; in PSA 74:14 it is used figuratively of Egypt; and in JOB 3:8 it is a picture of the truly horrific. One way to look at him is as a chaos monster, representing Satan and all that he does in the world to deceive, confuse, corrupt, and destroy. ‘In that day’ it’s all going down.
Reading carefully, we find three enemies; a fleeing serpent, a twisted serpent, and the dragon (monster). These are met by three words describing our Lord’s one sword: fierce, great, and mighty - every power is met by our Lord’s superior power. It is He who fights for us and destroys our “monsters.”
“Fleeing” refers to swiftness. The attacks from Leviathan are swift, and he flees just as swiftly before he can be identified. People blame the problems hovering around them on others (“we wrestle not against flesh and blood”) - “It’s those damn democrats … it’s my wife … it’s my husband … it’s my job …” when Christ has supplied us with all solutions for a joyful and tranquil life (GAL 5:22, 23). The serpent sweeps in, does whatever he does to cause division through deceit, and then as soon as he appears, he’s gone, leaving behind evidence that points to another perpetrator. He’s good at this.
“Twisted” refers to coiling. The serpent coils beneath some brush or a rock, hidden, ready to strike. Satan and the kingdom of darkness are deceitful. They will never stop deceiving and they will never want for victims who believe their lies. Don’t wait for the world to be fair before you’re happy. It will not happen while the church lives here, for only the Second Coming of Christ will imprint justice upon the whole world (ISA 9:7). Don’t let the news media pull you into the frenzy it desires to create. Frenzied people just want to read more about their perceived enemies from whatever wing of the media that looks toward that direction. Leaders will always be corrupt and media will always lie or “twist” reality. And while we’re at each other’s throats, Satan laughs as he coils under his rock. Rather, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, and do good to them,” for great is your Father’s love toward the world, and it is love that might soften a heart, but certainly not winning an argument (if you have actually won anything).
No need to fret or seek vengeance. 27:1 “In that day the Lord will punish” the fleeing, twisted monster.
Verses 2-6 is a vineyard song which is complementary to 5:1-7.
In that day, "A vineyard of wine [chemed: delightful, lovely], sing of it!
3 "I, the Lord, am its keeper;
I water it every moment.
Lest anyone damage it,
I guard it night and day.
4 "I have no wrath.
Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle,
Then I would step on them, I would burn them completely.
5 "Or let him rely on My protection,
Let him make peace with Me,
Let him make peace with Me."
6 In the days to come Jacob will take root,
Israel will blossom and sprout;
And they will fill the whole world with fruit.
In 5:1-7 the emphasis was on what Israel-Judah made of the vineyard. There are similarities between them based on the character of the Lord.
A lovely vineyard
ISA 5:1 My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
ISA 27:2 In that day, “A vineyard of wine [chemed: delightful, lovely], sing of it!”
Total commitment by God
ISA 5:2 And He dug it all around, removed its stones,
ISA 27:3 “I, the Lord, am its keeper; I water it every moment.”
There are also contrasts, wonderful contrasts …
Removal of protection and rain vs. protectiveness and abundant water
ISA 5:5 I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
ISA 5:6 I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it."
ISA 27:3 I water it every moment. Lest anyone damage it, I guard it night and day.
Unfruitful vs. fruit filling the whole world
ISA 5:7 And the men of Judah His delightful plant.,
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;,
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
ISA 27:6 Israel will blossom and sprout; And they will fill the whole world with fruit.
It is a delightful picture of the faithfulness of God. What Israel-Judah had done to the vineyard, producing worthless grapes, bloodshed, and cruelty, God reversed due to His covenant promise. The believers in Israel will be gathered and they, by the faithfulness, power, and grace of God will, ‘In that day,’ produce the fruit of righteousness throughout the world and God will forever protect and water them.
O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech Thee;
Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,
15 Even the shoot which Thy right hand has planted,
And on the son whom Thou hast strengthened for Thyself.
There is a great lesson here for each of us who are in the body of Christ. Every one of us has a calling upon our lives to be holy and blameless, EPH 1:4. “Briars and thorns” (vs. 4) or “weeds” are the enemy of the vineyard. God says that He will trample and burn them. We don’t have to wait for the Lord’s Millennium for this to be true about us. Through the blood of Christ, the serpent of old has been trampled under His foot. Christ has overcome the world and given us His peace (JOH 14:27; 16:33) - “Let him make peace with Me” (vs. 5). We are free to obey our Lord and lay aside the flesh and the world which He crucified and overcame as we enjoy His kingdom, even before it is a visible reality on earth. How can we let such an opportunity go unfulfilled for some feeble rewards from the world’s idols?
“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
God’s word is true. His promises unshakeable. Knowing His holiness, made new men by God through the death and resurrection of Christ, equipped for holiness, we simply do what is holy and God promises that He will work in us and through us to make that holiness a living reality. There are no gimmicks, no rituals, no prayers or confessions that make a holy life, or rather, force a holy life upon us. The holy life is Christ Himself, and we are equipped by God to live Christlike. Just do it, and know by faith that God will empower you in that way. He will not empower us in any other way, and certainly not in any compromise between holy living and the flesh. Some, like Israel in her history, are too afraid to give up the puny rewards that idol worship ekes out (sensuality, wealth, power, ease) while failing to recognize that the kingdom of heaven is the valuable treasure and pearl that is worth selling everything.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,
Verses 7-11 are a historical glance at the Lord’s dealings with ‘Jacob’. Israel had to be purged of her rebellion and apostasy, and then she would be regathered.
Like the striking of Him who has struck them, has He struck them?
Or like the slaughter of His slain, have they been slain?
8 Thou didst contend with them by banishing them, by driving them away.
With His fierce wind He has expelled them on the day of the east wind.
9 Therefore through this Jacob's iniquity will be forgiven;
And this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin:
When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones;
When Asherim and incense altars will not stand.
10 For the fortified city is isolated,
A homestead forlorn and forsaken like the desert;
There the calf will graze,
And there it will lie down and feed on its branches.
11 When its limbs are dry, they are broken off;
Women come and make a fire with them.
For they are not a people of discernment,
Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them.
And their Creator will not be gracious to them.
Finally, verses 12-13 are the ingathering of Israel as well as the world community of saints to Jerusalem.
In vs. 7, God punished Israel, but never to the extent that He punished her enemies and captors. Israel was never crushed like Egypt at the Red Sea, or like Assyria, or Babylon. “Have they [Israel] been slain?” No Lord, You are faithful.
In vs. 8, Israel was shooed away, but always did they have the promise of return (vs. 9 - Jacob will be forgiven). Literally it says that Jacob’s sin will be taken away. The Lord will redeem him. And the beauty of redemption is further illustrated by the removal of alters. Certainly, the altars made to false gods (Asherim) are torn down, but the meaning might also contain the idea of smashing God’s altar, i.e. when the blood of Christ makes full atonement, the worship of God will no longer demand sacrifice, and this we see beautifully depicted in Heb 10.
Vv. 10-11 returns to the “world city” which has been the theme of chapters 24-27. This city represents the efforts of man to build a world for himself that is void of God - there will be nothing left of it, not even a few bits of ruins that may kindle its history or memory. The Lord’s future act is suitably seen as a work of conquest, bringing the whole world under His appointed King.
"But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain."
7 "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son,
Today I have begotten Thee.
8 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.
9 'Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron,
Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.'"
In spite of the people’s best efforts to make themselves secure in their “world city,” all hope is lost. “For they are not a people of discernment” (vs. 11) and the discernment they lack is their need for God. Do not fret over the world’s politico-socio-economic climate. Soon enough (“Come Lord Jesus”), our King will sit upon Zion.
The Lord’s harvested people.
And it will come about in that day, that the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. 13 It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
The sequence ends, as it started, with two “In that day” oracles. “In that day” of vs. 12 we find sowing and reaping similar to vv. 2-6. “In that day” of vs. 13 we have the Jubilee trumpet whose sound lifts and turns the heads of His people to know that they are to gather to Him. In the first of vs. 12, the Lord gathers His harvest one by one, and in the second of vs. 13 the Lord fulfills His promise of supply to them all. For the Jubilee year, celebrated after the seventh Sabbath year (on the 50th year), was a year in which there had been no human preparation for the harvest, making it is year of total dependence upon God’s supply. This brings us back to the promise of our Lord’s luscious banquet in 25:6 in which He provides everything. The Jubilee year also demanded that all property lost be returned to their original owners and all slaves be set free. The Lord Himself will bring His people into the land and the life that He has always desired for them.