The Prophet Series: Isaiah part 28 Chapters 33-35; Victory, judgment, proclamation, and pilgrimage.
This is the final of the six woes in this section (chapters 28-37). The emphasis is on a transformation of Zion, which in turn becomes a universal message for the history of mankind. God puts His spotlight on the children of Israel, and by that teaches all of us the reality of Him.
As usual, I will include the text in this article, and although it makes it seem very long. It is no good learning this book without actually reading it, which is true of the entire Bible.
Zion will be saved.
Woe to you, O destroyer,
While you were not destroyed;
And he who is treacherous, while others did not deal treacherously with him.
As soon as you shall finish destroying, you shall be destroyed;
As soon as you shall cease to deal treacherously, others shall deal treacherously with you.
2 O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for Thee.
Be Thou their strength every morning,
Our salvation also in the time of distress.
3 At the sound of the tumult peoples flee;
At the lifting up of Thyself nations disperse.
4 And your spoil is gathered as the caterpillar gathers;
As locusts rushing about, men rush about on it.
5 The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high;
He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
6 And He shall be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
The fear of the Lord is his treasure.
The destroyer is Assyria, the tool in God’s hand used to show Israel the weakness caused within her when the Lord is not followed. The city will be spared, but only after God miraculously destroys the Assyrian army. This deliverance is but a foreshadow of the ultimate deliverance of Israel at the Second Coming of Christ and beyond into eternity, “He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.” This occasion is also something else. It is a final call to the population of Judah to join the only winning side by faith.
As for the people within the city at the time of the Assyrian invasion, they are a microcosm of the world’s population. Some will be like Isaiah, at peace knowing God has all things under control and knowing they possess eternal life in Him. Some will be filled with fear of the approaching enemy. Calamity always overwhelms with fear those who have no trust in God, and it results in deep-seated selfishness and self-preservation. The fearful are seen in vv. 7-12.
Behold, their brave men cry in the streets,
The ambassadors of peace weep bitterly.
8 The highways are desolate, the traveler has ceased,
He has broken the covenant, he has despised the cities,
He has no regard for man.
9 The land mourns and pines away,
Lebanon is shamed and withers;
Sharon is like a desert plain,
And Bashan and Carmel lose their foliage.
10 "Now I will arise," says the Lord,
"Now I will be exalted, now I will be lifted up.
11 "You have conceived chaff, you will give birth to stubble;
My breath will consume you like a fire.
12 "And the peoples will be burned to lime,
Like cut thorns which are burned in the fire.
How beautifully ironic to be writing of this chapter at this time of our own current “crisis.” The streets of Jerusalem are “desolate” as are our own.
The cause is fear: ISA 33:14
Sinners in Zion are terrified;
Trembling has seized the godless.
"Who among us can live with the consuming fire?
Who among us can live with continual burning?"
Many outside of Jerusalem will be killed by the advancing Assyrian army, but the city of Jerusalem will be completely spared, nonetheless, many within her walls are terrified by the knowledge of the approaching hungry menace.
The world has always been hostile towards the people God has chosen, not because of the inherent people, but because of God’s law, promises, and claims to them.
“He has broken the covenant” does not refer to God but to Assyria. King Hezekiah paid them tribute in return for peace and Assyria broke their promise to the king (2KI 18:13-17). This is also why the “destroyer” in vs. 1 is also called treacherous. Assyria did not keep her word. And from this the prophet makes the point yet again, “Do not trust in mankind. Trust in God alone,” (JER 17:5-8).
God has orchestrated an 11th hour divine rescue. Despair takes hold of some who only view the world around them as a wasteland (33:7-9). When people order their lives ignoring God, their lives and their societies become desolate. It’s not as if Jerusalem has changed its appearance from a year ago, but the minds of the people have become filled with despair, making everything around them look grey and dead. Indeed, this eventually happens to every life that removes God from itself. Motyer states of this viewed desolation, “This is the climax of what began as [the curse of] thorns [on the earth] in GEN 3:18. The start of sinful people’s corruption of God’s fair earth was as small as the first weed, but its end is a withered world.” [Motyer]
“Now I will arise,” says the Lord (vs. 10), and what do we see? Three “now”s; Now … Now … Now. The result of plans made without the Lord conceives only chaff and gives birth to stubble. The people were faced with life and death and they still turned inward, hoping to find within themselves the solution, the victory, the deliverance while they refused to look to God in faith. And although all in Jerusalem will be delivered, during their time of fear in expectation their inner selves are “burned to lime, Like cut thorns which are burned in the fire,” vs. 12.
Have you not heard? Have you not seen?
"You who are far away, hear what I have done;
And you who are near, acknowledge My might."
14 Sinners in Zion are terrified;
Trembling has seized the godless.
"Who among us can live with the consuming fire?
Who among us can live with continual burning?"
15 He who walks righteously, and speaks with sincerity,
He who rejects unjust gain,
And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe;
He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed,
And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;
16 He will dwell on the heights;
His refuge will be the impregnable rock;
His bread will be given him;
His water will be sure.
The call to Jerusalem becomes a call to the world. God screams to the world, “What have I done? Have you seen My power?” But who is listening? Who is turning up the volume of their distractions in the hope of drowning out the voice of God?
The tragedy of sin is that it ruins the life of the sinner; the danger of sin is that it excites the wrath of God.
The people fear. They know in their hearts that sin/sinners cannot coexist with holy God. Therefore, who can live before Him? “Who among us can live with the consuming fire?” The consuming fire is the fire upon the altar in the Temple. It is a fire that represents grace and judgment. Grace to those who believe the message of the sacrifice who obtain the judgment fallen upon the Lamb of God, but judgment to those who reject it, obtaining judgment upon themselves.
It is better to the sinners to ignore Him or to explain Him away, or even to make Him human, that is - unholy. But God continues to spread His good news, His gospel. Only the righteous can live before Him. God is just, holy, and will not even lend an ear or an eye to anything evil (vs. 15, “stops His ears … shuts His eyes”). How can I be righteous? By works? No. By faith. Faith trusts Him to deliver. The redeemed are transformed by God to those who see through His eyes and so walk uprightly as in His kingdom. They are not sinless, but they see, and continue to gain more sight into the righteous One (vv. 15-16).
Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will behold a far-distant land.
18 Your heart will meditate on terror:
"Where is he who counts?
Where is he who weighs?
Where is he who counts the towers?"
19 You will no longer see a fierce people,
A people of unintelligible speech which no one comprehends,
Of a stammering tongue which no one understands.
20 Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes shall see Jerusalem an undisturbed habitation,
A tent which shall not be folded,
Its stakes shall never be pulled up
Nor any of its cords be torn apart.
The King is the Lord, and the people with faith will see His beauty. The longer I strive in Christianity the more I anticipate this - seeing Him through resurrected eyes. The crown of righteousness is given to all who love His appearing, 2TI 4:8.
It is significant that Isaiah doesn’t use a definite article. He doesn’t write “the King” but “a King.” This is Isaiah’s tongue in cheek way of saying, “You know who He is.” Your eyes will see a King (You know who!).
With the King is a land or a kingdom that has no threat (“Where is he who counts the towers?”) as far as the eye can see. It is up to us to live as this is presently our reality. We are surrounded by enemies, but our destiny is so sure that it is treated as a prophetic perfect tense, meaning, it is a reality now.
made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus
Also, there is no “unintelligible speech” or stammering tongue. The foreign tongue is the language of the Assyrian, and so this means that the enemy will be no more. This is also true of our future in the King’s kingdom. Christ told us not to fear anyone or anything on this earth, LUK 12:4-5.
The stammering tongue also represents division as it did at the Tower of Babel. In Christ’s kingdom there will be no division. We will all speak the same language. And so again, our certain future is to be a present reality now. Can you see yourself and your present environment as the threshold of heaven, the new heavens, the new earth, and the New Jerusalem upon that earth? Can you look upon your Christian brethren with unifying love? We are actually commanded to live this way, and not as a dream, but as a very actual reality. At Pentecost the Jews who were divided by many different languages, all heard the same gospel. Despite our many personal, earthly differences, the body of Christ is to be unified in love due to our far more important similarities, PHI 2:2.
But there the majestic One, the Lord, shall be for us
A place of rivers and wide canals,
On which no boat with oars shall go,
And on which no mighty ship shall pass —
22 For the Lord is our judge,
The Lord is our lawgiver,
The Lord is our king;
He will save us —
23 Your tackle hangs slack;
It cannot hold the base of its mast firmly,
Nor spread out the sail.
Then the prey of an abundant spoil will be divided;
The lame will take the plunder.
24 And no resident will say, "I am sick";
The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.
No mighty ships (vs. 21) means that Zion is self-sufficient, i.e. not depending upon trade. The Lord is the One that provides all things, vs. 22.
In vs. 23 we have wonderful imagery of a limping barge (tackle slack, flimsy mast, small sails) yet it takes the abundant spoil. The limping barge is Israel. She has not strength in herself. The spoil is the victory, which belongs to another, the Lord. No one would look at the shoddy ship and predict its victory over far superior enemies, and that’s just how the Lord likes it. We are each weak vessels, “earthen vessels” to use Paul’s analogy. But as Paul says, “we have this treasure” within us, which is the glory of the Lord, so that:
the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
Finally in vs. 24, there is no sickness and all sin is forgiven. Remember believer, you and I are to live now as though all of this was our present reality, because it is!
Chapter 34, returning to the theme of judgment: the final overthrow.
Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, O peoples!
Let the earth and all it contains hear, and the world and all that springs from it.
2 For the Lord's indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter.
3 So their slain will be thrown out,
And their corpses will give off their stench,
And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.
5 For My sword is satiated in heaven,
Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom,
And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.
6 The sword of the Lord is filled with blood,
It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats,
With the fat of the kidneys of rams.
For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
Not much commentary is necessary for this section. God summons the entire earth to hear (vs. 1) that He will bring judgment upon all the nations. Only one kingdom will remain forever, the kingdom of the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, DAN 7:13-14. Read it well so that you may see the world for what it really is and that you may pity and have love for those who are enslaved to it that you may have passion to set them free by means of the gospel.
Why Edom (vs. 5,6)? Edom was the kingdom of Esau. Esau had strong enmity against Jacob, and his kingdom became a constant thorn in the side of Israel. Edom therefore represents the final hostile power that stands against God, JER 49:7-22; Oba 8-14; PSA 60:8; 83:6.
David was the only king to subdue Edom. David was a significant type of Christ, and in this he is also - Christ alone can defeat all hostile powers in the final days, EZE 35:1-15. It is also significant that when the Lord returns at His second coming, He will first land at Bozrah, the capital of Edom, and make war against the army of the Beast.
Who is this who comes from Edom,
With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah,
This One who is majestic in His apparel,
Marching in the greatness of His strength?
"It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save."
2 Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?
3 "I have trodden the wine trough alone,
And from the peoples there was no man with Me.
I also trod them in My anger,
And trampled them in My wrath;
And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments,
And I stained all My raiment.
4 "For the day of vengeance was in My heart,
And My year of redemption has come.
5 "And I looked, and there was no one to help,
And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold;
So My own arm brought salvation to Me;
And My wrath upheld Me.
6 "And I trod down the peoples in My anger,
And made them drunk in My wrath,
And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth."
All that is hostile to God will be overthrown. God summons the whole world to hear that there will be a final judgment and no amount of human reasoning or ingenuity can stop it.
The Lord’s judgment is: anger, sword, sacrifice, and vengeance.
Wild oxen shall also fall with them,
And young bulls with strong ones;
Thus their land shall be soaked with blood,
And their dust become greasy with fat.
8 For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9 And its streams shall be turned into pitch,
And its loose earth into brimstone,
And its land shall become burning pitch.
The imagery used is striking and disturbing. Read it slowly and picture it well.
The great nations of the earth are going to end up as desolation.
It shall not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke shall go up forever;
From generation to generation it shall be desolate;
None shall pass through it forever and ever.
11 But pelican and hedgehog shall possess it,
And owl and raven shall dwell in it;
And He shall stretch over it the line of desolation
And the plumb line of emptiness.
12 Its nobles — there is no one there
Whom they may proclaim king —
And all its princes shall be nothing.
13 And thorns shall come up in its fortified towers,
Nettles and thistles in its fortified cities;
It shall also be a haunt of jackals
And an abode of ostriches.
14 And the desert creatures shall meet with the wolves,
The hairy goat also shall cry to its kind;
Yes, the night monster shall settle there
And shall find herself a resting place.
15 The tree snake shall make its nest and lay eggs there,
And it will hatch and gather them under its protection.
Yes, the hawks shall be gathered there,
Every one with its kind.
The Lord summons all to go to His book and read of its certainty.
Seek from the book of the Lord, and read:
Not one of these will be missing;
None will lack its mate.
For His mouth has commanded,
And His Spirit has gathered them.
17 And He has cast the lot for them,
And His hand has divided it to them by line.
They shall possess it forever;
From generation to generation they shall dwell in it.
Everything has happened the way that God said it would and everything is going to happen the way that God said it would.
The call to come home has special meaning to believers of all generations, but never more so than in the church because we are viewed as already being home. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, EPH 2:6.
The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah [desert wilderness then and now] will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
2 It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
3 Encourage the exhausted,
and strengthen the feeble.
4 Say to those with anxious heart,
"Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you."
5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
7 And the scorched land will become a pool,
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.
8 And a highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it.
9 No lion will be there,
Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;
These will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk there,
10 And the ransomed of the Lord will return,
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
We are pilgrims in this world. This final poem to the final “woe” has the motif of the Exodus, but in this case the journey is made by the hopeful and the faithful. Imagine an Exodus of faithful people who put all their trust in God.
Vv. 1-6 the people (including us) are encouraged by the sure hope that is set before them. For the believer, hope is the constant draught that keeps us going through all sorts of situations. We drink from it and are refreshed by it every day.
In vv. 6-10 the pilgrims are assured of a safe road and a joyful arrival. The people of God are a pilgrim people.
The poem begins with “rejoice” in vs. 1 and ends with “joyful shouting” in vs. 10. Determine in your heart if your destiny is a present reality in hope, and then “be strong and courageous.” (vv. 3-4; JOS 1:6)
To Him be all glory and honor,
Pastor Joe Sugrue