Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 35. Isaiah (3)
Isa 1:17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
I suggested yesterday that, here in Isaiah, we can distinguish between Messianic Prophecies and General Principle Prophecies, and yesterday we looked at the Messianic Prophecies and so now we pick up on one or more general principle prophecies. What I am calling ‘general principle prophecies’ are those words from God that certainly applied to specific situations in the day they were spoken, but also can act as general principles for us today.
- Obey the Law: Our starting verse above is a classic example of this. Seeing it in context, it comes at the end of the Lord rebuking Israel for having rebelled against Him (v.2), having forsaken Him and turned their backs on Him (v.4), resulting in them having been vulnerable to attacks of enemy nations who had devastated them (v.7-9), but nevertheless carrying on meaningless religious ritual (v.11-15). The Lord didn’t want this; it is a message that is repeated again in Isaiah and Isa 58 is a classic against meaningless fasting. He wanted then to live out good lives which this verse characterises. It is very simple and straight forward, a basic keeping of the Law to produce a just and caring society. Easy! Our calling is similar.
- Consequences: Verses 19 and 20 of chapter one are really just a synopsis of all the laws of blessings and curses found in Deut 27 to 29: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Obedience brings good – God’s blessings, His decrees of good, while disobedience brings bad – God’s curses, His decrees for bad. Not only does the Lord lay out quite simply the fundamentals of keeping the law for blessing the community of God, but He also reminds them of the consequences of obedience and disobedience – yes, there WILL be consequences, and so we need to choose which path we take.
- Future Glory: It is easy to get morbid when a nation is not doing well and wonder about how it will all work out and perhaps that is why Chapter 2 opens with, “This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” (2:1). Under the anointing of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter applied the phrase “the last days” to the period of the Church, the period of the Spirit (see Acts 2:17,18), which perhaps distinguishes it from the phrase “end times” suggesting the very last days before Jesus winds up all things. These ‘last days’ last from Pentecost to that future time.
Some may wish to interpret the verse above as referring to Israel but the teaching of the apostle Paul suggests that a true ‘Jew’ is only a member of ‘the people of God’ if he is Spirit born (Rom 2:28,29) and therefore the ‘people of god’ comprise both Jew and Gentile born of the Spirit, and thus the “mountain of the Lord’s temple” is what today we simply refer to as Christianity or ‘the Christian Church’. God’s people may have looked in a poor state in Isaiah’s day but that did not mean the Lord’s plans would be frustrated. The nation was the precursor to the Church (i.e. both believing Jew and Gentile)
- Revival for Israel in End Times: For those who think this is detrimental to Israel, a further prophecy comes: “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.” (Isa 4:2,3) It is difficult to believe that this means anything less than the geographical Jerusalem and thus signifies a day of revival in Israel yet to come even as the apostle Paul appeared to teach (Rom 11:25-27). We are to watch for such signs.
- Dullness & Blindness: There comes a strange instruction at Isaiah’s calling, that reveals a spiritual principle: “He said, “Go and tell this people: ” `Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isa 6:9,10) Jesus quoted this as his reason for using parables (Mt 13:13-15). Because of spiritual dullness (or maybe spiritual hardness) there comes a spiritual blindness and spiritual deafness so that people see the prophet and hear his words but the significance of them is lost on these people. The more they hear Isaiah’s words the harder and more resistant they become and the less impact those words have. It’s all about heart condition, is what Jesus taught. If your heart is hard and resistant to God, you’ll hear His words but they’ll have no impact on you.
- Free Salvation: Let’s jump to near the end of the book: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isa 55;1) It sounds like a market stall barrow-boy shouting an offer that just can’t be believed. Summary: come and get what God is offering – it’s free! A few verses later, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isa 55;6,7) You don’t have to take exams to get to heaven. You don’t have to be clever, handsome or beautiful and you certainly don’t have to be famous. It’s very simple: turn away from evil (repent) and turn to God and – and here’s the amazing offer – He will pardon you, grant you mercy – it’s a free pardon! Don’t ever say God is hard when He reaches out to us in this way.
Yes, in this book of amazing prophecies there are calls to obedience, warnings about consequences of lifestyles, hope for the future, a warning against hard-heartedness and then offers of free salvation. It’s all there, a variety of highlights of salvation basics. It speaks into the historical context of Hezekiah’s day, it sends out peals of hope of a coming Messiah, and it lays out warnings and offers for all who would face the reality of the living God. The Lord, who Isaiah ‘saw’ in chapter 6, is the same Lord today and all these things come by His revelation.