Isaiah 66, in Depth

The Principles of the Prophets are the themes of the Bible.

Isaiah 66, Verse by Verse

In this study we will go verse by verse, as opposed to an overview by color, which we did here. If you are not yet aware of the colors of the Principles of the Prophets, take a look at that study.

God continues speaking from Isaiah 65. But as the last chapter of Isaiah, the message is compacted and summarized. This is why all of the Principles glow in this section.

We begin with a reference to Heavens Declare. And then he refers to the House David desired to build for him, reminding them again that it was man’s idea to have a Temple made of stone. God’s plan was always to dwell with his people in the New Heavens and the New Earth. And that House is established, made of those who are humble, contrite, and tremble at his word.

As opposed to the people who have gone DOWN then UP, we see those whose sacrifices and offerings are disgusting to him. Those who have Chosen their own ways, whose Pleasure are abominations to God. The Suffering (Fears) they had experienced in this life–perhaps the fears they sought to waylay by offering heartless and pagan offerings–will come upon them.

Why? Why does God promise them fearful suffering?

Because when he spoke, they didn’t care. They kept going along the way they wanted, following the ways of the world and the Wisdom of the Wise. Their choices were categorized by unpleasing to God. On the other hand, there is another group of people. This group fears God in the right way. They tremble at God’s word. They have gone DOWN in repentance and worship, so they have found forgiveness (in Christ) and are walking with God in Covenant.

But the ones who are in a Covenant with God, have now become a target for the Haters. They are mocked for their trust in God, which should be expected. But those who hope in God are reminded that God’s vengeance is coming, from within the Temple. Recompense in due measure. The Measuring God who is building his Kingdom is also measuring the deeds of the wicked.

Wisdom tells us that timing is everything. Heavens Declare as well that labor leads to birth and that without labor a birth will not come about. The timing and rhythm of life tells us that even though it seems God is not bringing vengeance, it will indeed come. “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?” This is not Wisdom of the Wise. It’s something very different that interferes with the recompense.

The delivery of a SON right here, at the end of Isaiah, brings to remembrance the prophecies of the boy-who-would-be-born.** The last chance for them.

The Incarnation and Atonement of the new Jerusalem, God’s heavenly kingdom (Gal 4:26, Heb 12:22) is reflected in mother-love terminology.

Purple, remember, is the big PLAN of the Ancient of Days. He is bringing it about. In one day the Incarnation came to earth, and in one day, the Incarnate Son bore the sins of God’s People. Here the Church is being referred to, the initiation of the Church Age that burst-forth on Pentecost.

The children being brought forth is yellow, a Separation Filter. “Her children” refers to all that are members of the New Jerusalem. Christ said he would lose “not a one,” so ultimately, those who are her children will be separated out from those who are not. And likewise, no one will be shut out who must be a part of the Kingdom: “Shall I…not cause to bring forth? Shall I…shut the womb?”

“Drinking deeply with delight from her glorious abundance” is the true joy of every member of Zion.

Peace like a river, an overflowing stream…Heavens Declare again the truths of God. Being carried upon the hip and bounced upon her knees, being comforted. These are the Plan and the Covenant love of God, in spite of the troubles we have that we need comforting from. True Joy comes from the hand of the Lord. But his enemies, likewise, will get something different from his hand.

So after the Incarnation and Atonement, we are looking again at God’s enemies. Fire is coming. The warning is here. Anger, fury, rebuke and fire. The Measuring God will enter into judgment, he will look at the books upon which were written all of the deeds of every man. It will not go well for many people.

We have one group, those who disregard the Law of God, who go forward doing their own thing, following the Wise ideas of pagan nations, abominations eating pigs and mice. They are in one group together. In spite of this, in spite of their works and thoughts being like this, because judgment is coming, he says “I will set a sign among them.”

They get another chance! They are clumped in a group, they’re on the path for doom, but that New Jerusalem that’s being built, those who have survived the bullies, will be sent to them. The nations far and near, will meet with the Survivors–those who are declaring his glory. God’s Covenant people will be found all around the world declaring his glory among the nations.

And what do we see? We see people “all your brothers” coming with them to God. They are bringing people to the New Jerusalem. “On horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries” is reminiscent of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. God’s people have gone and brought them.

From the perspective of God’s people each will say, “I was only doing my duty,” (Luke 17:10). The deeds of obedience, the following of the Great Commission, was an offering to the Lord.

Here we see again the Architect’s plan to build Jerusalem, we see the house of the Lord and the vessels in the house. God’s new system is being set up, using the Survivors and the Brothers from the Nations. God’s New Jerusalem is being built upon the promise of the Son that would be born, and the Nation-from-all-nations that happened in a day.

He begun this section by mentioning heaven and earth, he ends by reminding us of the New Heavens and the New Earth. But the new one is eternal. The one not built by human hands, the one Abraham was looking forward to (Hebrews 11). And the never-ending Name.

The next verse shows that we have already entered into this Kingdom. Every month and every week we come and worship before him. The Sabbath was a sign of the Covenant, it was a reflection of commitment to keeping the Covenant. Likewise, the Ten Commandments, as a reflection of natural law, required the weekly day of devotion. Sabbath, not sacrifice, was the sign of devotion. (And the same expectation carried into the New Covenant).

The ending verse of Isaiah is a horror to Christians in particular.

Jesus himself referred to this verse, clearly showing this was about hell awaiting those who had not taken all the chances they had been given.

The idea of going out to look at the rebels, who are an abhorrence to all flesh, repels us.

For one of the functions of hell, and this verse in particular, is to propel God’s people to go into the nations to “compel” our friends to Christ.

This last verse of Isaiah also warns those who are waiting for judgment that there still is time.
As long as it is called today. Repent. Come to Christ, as long as there’s time.


Click to download a Free Rainbow Scaffold Chart of ISAIAH 65 and 66.

**(See Separation Filters in Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9).


All quotes from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.

Isaiah 66 reveals Principles of the Prophets

It was in Isaiah that I first noted the repeated themes I’ve been showing here on my blog. The message God burdened Isaiah with was the same one every other prophet spoke, and the same message given by Christ and his apostles. The Principles of the Prophets are the themes of the Bible.

Isaiah by Colored Highlight

Take a look at Isaiah 66. Skimming down below, look at all the colors. Each verse tags one or more of the themes we’ve been discussing, and each color is addressed!


What Does This Mean?

While Isaiah’s message in this chapter is HUGE, and goes into depth on each of the Principles, we will discuss a verse or two under each category to show you how it works. (For a more advanced study, CLICK HERE.)

But as the Book of Isaiah touches on the theme, it builds the concept, giving facets uniquely apropros for the time it was delivered to the world.

The Who of God

Dark Blue: The Character of God

Who God is and how God is are shown by his self-declarations and his deeds, especially understood through the Bible.

Ex:  Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the LORD.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word (vv1-2).

The whole Bible is filled with a self-revelation of God, and as you see above, while it is substantially telling us the Character of God, it simultaneously taps into Grey/Light Green/Green/Light Blue. This is what makes Isaiah 66 so fundamental for understanding the Principles of the Prophets. The interwoven truths of Scripture: This is who God is and what he requires of man.

 

Purple: The Purpose of God

The Eternal Plan of the Ancient of Days is found in time words in the Bible: terms like “everlasting,” “for generations,” “age to age” reflect this plan from the beginning.

Ex: For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (vv.12-13)

“For behold, the LORD will come in fire,
and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to render his anger in fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire” (v 15).

God’s purpose is single-fold, yet it has many facets. He intends to bring about a New Heavens and a New Earth populated with his people. This world, and all the good and bad we face, is all for this one purpose: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10), see Temple below.

In Isaiah we see God bringing comfort and peace to those who have become His People, and we see him dealing righteously and justly with those who continued in this life to reject Him and his offer of peace.

 

Green: Architect God

He weighs and measures our deeds and sets forth the plumb line in conscience and his Word. Green is for the Temple he is building, and the measuring methods he uses to test humanity for membership in that Temple.

Ex: The sound of an uproar from the city!
A sound from the temple!
The sound of the LORD,
rendering recompense to his enemies!” (v 6).

“For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the LORD,
so shall your offspring and your name remain” (v 22).

“For behold, the LORD will come in fire,
and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to render his anger in fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire.
For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment,
and by his sword, with all flesh;
and those slain by the LORD shall be many” (v 15-16).

Temple: The OT Temple was a shadow of the Temple God would build in his body and the body of Christ. Believers are the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19), as Christ’s body was also the Temple of God (John 2:19). God’s eternal Kingdom will remain forever, when death and rebellion have been destroyed.

Methods: Fire is commonly known to test the quality of metals, like gold. When we see Yahweh as an “unquenchable fire,” we will be pressed into two camps–those who dread and those who love. As his “offspring” (Acts 17:28), “begotten of God” (John 1:13), we have no fear of the fire of God, for Christ has borne our judgment (Isaiah 53). But Yahweh’s flames of rebuke and judgment meet others with a vastly different result (Rev 6:16).

Orange: Covenant God

Covenant is both a reflection of the Character of God and a Separation Filter. Yahweh keeps his people under his faithful, loving care, and his people will respond to him likewise in a committed, faithful way (John 14:15). To understand Covenant you must understand ancient Suzerain Treaties.

The Covenant is also a Separation Filter. Professing believers will show their love, in particular in the way they use their time, talents, and life (Eph 2:10). God-haters and atheists are given God’s people in the world as a test, and how they treat the Church reveals their heart toward God.

Ex: GOD: “As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies”
(v. 13).

LOVERSRejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her (v.5)

And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD (vv. 19-20).

From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the LORD (v. 23).

HATERS“Your brothers who hate you
and cast you out for my name’s sake
have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified,
that we may see your joy’;
but it is they who shall be put to shame” (v. 5).

In the whole counsel of Scripture there are certain undeniable facts:

First, Yahweh is with his people in a unique way. He is their protector and defender, he is their comfort and their joy.

Secondly, people who know Yahweh run to him in times of distress or times of joy, and live in a way that pleases him, the Sabbath or day-of-worship being a unique demonstration of that covenant-commitment.

And thirdly, God’s people become targets to haters because of their status with God (Is 66:5 & Ps 53:4).

Consequently, God will repay those who touch the “apple of his eye” (Ps 17:8, Zech 2:8). These are the three ways Covenant works: by God, toward God, against God.

Light Green: Heavens Declare

All things in nature find their source in the creative mind of God, so all aspects of science and reason are intended to teach us the character and nature of God, often as analogies.

Ex: “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord”
(vv 1-2a)

“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;
he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood;
he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol”
 (v. 3).

The created order declares the greatness of God. “By his hand” they have been made, and the more we know of the universe the greater we realize God is. Considering nature teaches us about God (Rom 1:20).

Killing a man, breaking a dog’s neck these are things we naturally cringe from, since they are written on our conscience as wrongs. Oxen, lambs, grain and frankincense are nice things that would normally be associated with a good gift. But in these verses we see that the analogies of nature make a strong point as to God’s disgust with offerings without the necessary relationship (see v.2b below)

Light Blue: Up is Down

The only way to know God is by going down. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. He requires humility and repentance, both requiring a submission to the manner God requires.

Ex: “But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word”
(v 2b)

The way to switch from Hater to Lover, from damned to blessed, is by going down. Return, repent, kneel, confess.

Repentance and confession of sins, falling at the feet of God who will judge you and asking for pardon by the blood of Jesus, if it is authentic and lasting, moves you from death to life.

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry” (Ps 2:12). This theme is the point of everything. This is why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

Each of us is being given a chance, every human who ever lived was given this chance (Rom 1:18-32).

Life gives us this chance, every Separation Filter (see below) gives us this chance to go Down.

The way UP (to God) is DOWN (in humility) and the way DOWN (to hell) is UP (in pride and self-sufficiency).

The Whys of Life

Yellow: Separation Filters

Life sorts people into two groups by their choices, and specific opportunities are given to force that choice, proving what that person is. General Separation Filters are those that clearly differentiate between two groups. Often we see Yellow with another color.

Ex: “‘These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and bring their fears upon them,
because when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, they did not listen;
but they did what was evil in my eyes
and chose that in which I did not delight.’

Hear the word of the Lord,
you who tremble at his word”
(vv 4-5a)

Here two groups are mentioned: those who have chosen their own ways and those who tremble at his word. While there is a heavy reference to Wisdom of the Wise (see below), we see the decisions they are making and the results that are sure to come. On the other hand, we see that God makes a differentiation with those who fear him.

Red: Wisdom of the Wise

How we answer the big questions and how we weigh the ungodly principles of this world sift us into a self-serving life or a deeper faith and trust of God’s Word.

Ex: “Your brothers who hate you
and cast you out for my name’s sake
have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified,
that we may see your joy’;
but it is they who shall be put to shame”
(v 5b).

Here those mocking God’s people reflect the stunted reasoning of their world. They make fun of God’s Covenant people who hope in God’s glory.But this hostile thought process proves they are no friend of God. In earlier verses, the reference to doing things the way the nations do things, especially with regard to sacrificing to idols, reveals them bending to popular “wisdom” that is not wisdom.

 

Pink: Pleasure

Good things in this world either pull us away into idolatry or draw us to God as the source of all joy and contentment.

Ex: “These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations” 
(v. 3b).

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious abundance.”

For thus says the LORD:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.

As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants,

and he shall show his indignation against his enemies” (vv 10-14).

The first group delights in their abominations, the second group is comforted and flourishes because they are trusting in God, rejoicing with God’s “Jerusalem,” or heavenly kingdom (Gal 4:26, Heb 12:22).

 

Brown: Suffering

Pain and suffering in this world either push us into an atheistic anger against God or into a deeper trust of his ways.

Ex: “These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and bring their fears upon them” (vv. 3-4).

As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem (v 13).

“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh” (v 24).

The Biggest Big Question is why we have to live in a suffering world. Believers suffer so they can turn to God for comfort.

In Isaiah 65, God repeated the either/or warnings to the nations and to those not following in the Covenant.

In Isaiah 66 we see the end result of their life of bad decisions. We no longer see suffering sifting them anymore. No more chances remain. Instead, we see that suffering they experienced was a message of impending judgment they never took to heart. And this is the last verse of Isaiah.


(For a more advanced study, CLICK HERE.)


All quotes from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.

Separation Filters: Isaiah 9

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


The first verses of Chapter 9 parallel last three verses of Chapter 8.

There is the remnant again! And the remnant, those who know their God, goes through the same dark anguish common to all of humanity. All mankind fell into a state of sin and misery. We were all of the same lump of clay (Rom 9). We all live in a broken world. Yet the anguish results in a different set of deeds.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish,” it says (v1).

Then there are some cryptic words about Galilee:

“He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (v1).

There is a group of people in this world whose hearts leap with the name of Galilee.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…”(Luke 1:26).

People who know Jesus see him already here in verse one.

What happens to this group of people as they are in the darkness? They have the dawn.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (v2).

This group of people does not curse God. The light shines in their hearts because God has “shone his face” on them, as is prayed for in the Aaronic blessing. As a result of God’s face shining upon them, sorrow turns to joy and the speeding spoils takes a completely different turn.

“You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy. They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil”(v3).

Upharsin + Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Here, both concepts are tied together in the dawn of God’s shining face. In the Immanuel, darkness brings light, for very soon we hear the words:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”(v6).

In the Nativity story we see this dawning.

Zechariah’s prophecy after the birth of John makes this connection:

“because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

And Simeon said when he held the Babe in the temple,

“my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:31-32).

Isaiah speaks of the Immanuel, God-with-us, who is born. This one whose birth earns him David’s throne forever, the promised one who is born (earthly) and given (divine). And if that is not clear enough, he declares the name of the one who is born:

“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v6).

Isaiah, who urgently called people away from idolatry and to worship the living and true God, would not have accidentally called a born-man “God.” Rather, through Isaiah’s amazing prophecy, God intentionally made this truth of a coming God-man known to those who listened to Isaiah.

But as we saw earlier, the truth of Immanuel would become a sanctuary or a stone of offense (8:14-15). Immanuel’s nature would sift people in to two camps.


“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy,
and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev 22:11)


In Isaiah 7-9 we clearly see God using suffering as a separation filter, sorting people into his sheep and the goats. We see the fists lifted in defiance and the faces hung in despair. People are given a choice to trust or not. They are culpable for their choices, and they choose exactly what they want. But we see, too, that only if God shines his face on people will they see the great light.

Thus we see that a suffering world is the venue to sort people, both by their deeds and by their God-given faith.


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9

 

 

Separation Filters: Isaiah 8

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


Maher-shalal-has-baz. Isaiah’s son, born as the first proof of God’s being with Israel, is named “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.”

What kind of name is this? What kind of hope is here? The proof Ahaz got is this: the one you trust will betray you. This happened in the lifetime of Ahaz.

God had offered his presence as proof, and had promised consistent covenant provision if Israel would choose to trust his Character. As Christ had promised “living water” to those who came to him, here God refers to his faithful covenant-keeping acts as “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently.”

Yet in the face of suffering, Israel is being sifted. The test proves their mettle:

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently…therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River” (vv6-7).

Two waters: peace or war. They refused peace, so war will come. And it comes from the hand of God: “the Lord is bringing up against them” (v7) this consequence. God is like a parent who consistently disciplines his children to teach them the wise and prudent way to go.

So does this prove God is a dictator and a monster? Why doesn’t he just let them be the way they want to be?

If you notice, he does let King Ahaz, and all Israel, “choose this day whom [they] will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Interestingly, or purposefully, the meaning of Maher-shalal-has-baz is equivalent to the third part of the warning Belshazzar himself heard at his blasphemous feast.


Mene: You have been measured.

Mene: You have been measured.

Tekel: You have been weighed.

Upharsin: You will be divided.


The Upharsin judgment of losing one’s home, life or kingdom is the ultimate consequence God may decree upon any man or king.

“The spoil speeds, the prey hastens” sounds like the tension that makes our hearts race in a suspense or horror film.

Loss of everything is coming, and there is nothing you can do about it.

“The spoil of Samaria will be carried away by Assyria” (v4) because their time is up, because they trusted Assyria instead of trusting in God’s promise. Man will betray them.

This example is for us. Israel’s remnant lived through these difficult times to prove its faithfulness. They went through this for us: so we would weigh our own lives in comparison.

The remnant clings to hope that the three names give. Even though the spoil speeds and the prey hastens, the remnant will return and God will be with us.

Yet remains the second fulfillment of the prophecy. There has been great debate as to the definition of “virgin” in the Immanuel prophecy. As is often the case, God uses one word to pivot two-prophecies in one. Only when we see this scene from a New Testament perspective can we understand it in fulness.

In Chapter eight, the Messiah is presented as one who will also be born, along with Isaiah’s son. “God with us” yet of a technical “virgin.” Maher-shalal-hash-baz comes up wanting.

King Ahaz has made a decision the remnant does not agree with. He trusts in “horses and chariots” but they trust “in the Name of the LORD” (Ps 20:7; Is 31:1). Those who believe in Immanuel are themselves called Immanuel (v8). Even as the destruction comes, God will keep his promise. The enemy nations will be broken and shattered.

They will “take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (v9-10).

Those who know their God know this: though the nations rage, God will never break his covenant with true Israel.

It is time for the great sorting.

“Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (vv12-13).

This is the call to return to the covenant. The first and second commandment.

And after the call to return comes the sifting. Two groups will respond to this call:

“And he will become a sanctuary,”

(Rock of Ages, cleft for me)

the first response is juxtaposed against the second response:

“and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap. And a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken” (vv14-15).

Either you hold firmly to the covenant promise of “God with us whatever happens,” or you will trip and fall and be broken. The very promise of the Messiah is a separation filter. Sheep from goats.

But people will be what they will be. Some will be blind to the word of God. Isaiah says,

“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” (v17).

Obviously God was not hiding his face from Isaiah. The remnant alone, whose choosing proves their loyalty, can see the face of God. The Who of God is known by his people, and “whatever happens” his people will keep believing in his Character. To others, God is unseen and unknown.

“Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples,” God says (v16).

In Chapter 6, this is the very call God put on Isaiah’s life;

“Go, and say to this people:
Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy
and blind their eyes.”

The absence of seeing God’s face or hearing his word is equated as being in the darkness. Instead of seeking God’s voice, Israel seeks messages from mediums and necromancers. Isaiah begs them to look “to the teaching and to the testimony!” (v20). But then he says

“If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn”(v20).

The dawn has not lit them from inside. They cannot because they have no light. And the lack of light in itself sorts them into certain types of deeds:

“They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (v21-22).

They have no hope in the promises of God, because they do not know God. The suffering has sorted and sifted them. It has proven the fact that they were not true Israel in the first place. The suffering will cause them to shake their fist at God, to “speak contemptuously against…their God.” To hate him.

And we look upon this story and we ask ourselves, which group am I in? How do I respond to difficulty? Do I cling to the hope given that “the remnant shall be saved”? Or do I conclude that since I suffer, therefore there is no God?


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9

 

Separation Filters: Isaiah 7

The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.


King Ahaz has an amazing opportunity. He meets with Isaiah not only to hear the direct word from God, but also to respond. As Joshua had commanded the people, “choose this day whom you will serve,” Ahaz is given hope and a choice. Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub comes with him to the meeting, his very name that of hope: “a remnant shall return.”

Isaiah presents to Ahaz an opportunity to prove his mettle. Pleasure and peace or war.

“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two…” (v4).

We hear echoes of Moses and Joshua speaking to trembling Israel.

“Do not be dismayed or discouraged for the Lord is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God recognizes the enemies are fearsome:

“two smoldering stumps of firebrands…fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah…. Syria has devised evil against you” (v4).

In spite of this God presents Ahaz with a great opportunity to throw in his hope onto God’s side.  This is his only opportunity for success.

“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (v9).

Then King Ahaz is given the option of choosing proof. Like with Gideon, God condescends to strengthen the faith of Ahaz with a sign of God’s presence.

“Let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (v10).

How many of us would love such an opportunity for divine proof? Yet Ahaz declines.

So God gives a promise that will come about in double-time:

“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (v14).

The child will be named “God with us.” Can you hear Handel’s version of this playing in your head?

The immediate fulfillment of this proof happens in the next chapter, but with a twist. God tells all the signs of sorrow and suffering that will come upon Israel, with Sheer-jashub standing right there. To the hope of the remnant is added the hope of God with us.

What will Ahaz do? His decision is our decision. His choice pushes us to look inwardly. What would I have done? What do I do in my desperate times?

Ahaz is being sifted, shaken, stirred. How does he come out in the face of suffering? Ahaz chooses to put his faith in Assyria. This nation promises to help Israel against Rezin and Syria, but Israel has not considered the dear cost.


Isaiah 7 | Isaiah 8 | Isaiah 9