Notes on Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The whole work being now finished at Jerusalem, the Lord is now shown us reigning, for He and no other is the personage spoken of here. “Behold a king shall reign in righteousness,” &c. This is a totally different state of things from what prevails at present; for it is grace that now reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, not (so to speak) righteousness through glory in the government of the world. In the day that this chapter contemplates, the Lord Jesus will righteously take in hand the scepter of the earth, and especially of the land of Israel. All the nations will come indirectly under His reign, because there will be one king over all the earth, not to the setting aside of others, as we know, but one supreme central government maintained. Other kings will be obliged to submit to the sway of the Lord, which will continue throughout the whole unbroken period of the millennium. It is called, therefore, “the everlasting kingdom,” not being transferred to another, and lasting as long as the earth endures. At the end of the thousand years there will be an awful proof of man's radically unchanged condition, for the nations will then gather together against “the beloved city,” the earthly Jerusalem, compassing about the camp of saints. This will be allowed for the express purpose of proving the solemn truth that glory no more ameliorates the heart than the present longsuffering patience of God. If judgment against evil works is not executed, men's hearts are hardened in wickedness; when they are in the earth, the world will learn righteousness, but alas! the lesson is soon forgotten.
The Lord will reign in righteousness, and there will be the exercise then of beneficent government all through His day; but it will be proved once more that the heart is no more changed thereby than under the gospel now, unless received in conscience by the power of the Spirit. There must be the possession of a new nature. Man must be born again to see or enter the kingdom of God. It will then be evident that the new birth is requisite not merely for the heavenly part, but even for the earthly things of that kingdom. (John 3) It is in reference to the earthly part that we hear of a king reigning in righteousness. Rev. 20 shows the total failure of this display of glory to make the heart of man one whit better. In a higher point of view, far from failure, there will be during this time an amazing exhibition of that which will bring praise to God Himself, and to this we have a reference here. And what a proof of the selfishness of our hearts, that we do not think much about this blessed time that is coming! Not that it is not believed in; but God give us to think yet more not only of a world set free, but what it is to see Christ where He is in heavenly blessedness. It is blind, too. For, to love, what is so much our own portion as His? Besides, we are too apt to slight the deliverance of creation, now travailing in pain, during the thousand years, and this because we are so little identified with the interests of Christ. Whatever glorifies Him ought to be very dear to us. Again, we shall be connected with the earth, though our home will be heavenly. We shall indeed reign with Christ over it. God will make the risen saints to be the intermediary vessels of His glory, and the fruitful channels of His goodness in that bright day. Does it not then show the insensate selfishness of the heart that we are so little filled with the thoughts and feelings suitable to such expectations? It is freely granted that there is a far sweeter hope, even to be with Christ Himself in the Father's house. To see His glory there is more blessed than any inheritance we shall share anywhere. But if we look around and see all the sins, miseries, sufferings, and sorrows of a world far from God, what a cheering truth it is that the day is so near when we will be able to say even of the yet unbelieving Jews, “Their iniquities are forgiven, their sin is covered.” Will not God be magnified? A remnant of Israel suffices not: all will be saved. Further, the miracles of Christ are called the powers of the world to come, because it was the sample of that divine energy in man which will never be revoked, though it may be suspended. But it is always in Christ, though the Church may not know how to count upon Him for it, or apply it to a needy creation. But we ought to know it is in Christ for faith to draw on, and God has rebuked our low state by withholding the display of these outward ornaments. It is good, however, to remember that it is always in Christ, and that He is coming, and that the end of this age will witness the exercise of the glorious power of that exalted man, the Church too being associated with Him, and every blessing brought in to the exclusion of all evil. This is what the chapter before us anticipates.
As long as God does not put evil down, grace reigns; and now it is only grace that can deliver. But when the power of evil is smitten (and the Lord will smite before the millennium), the king shall rule. It is the kingdom of God administered by the exalted man, Christ; and a blessed thought it is that God has always had it in His view to exalt Him. Adam's sin was not the fall of man only, but of all the lower creation too; for the whole structure was ruined when he departed from God. Adam was not a mere individual but a head. All thenceforward depends on the coming in of another man, the Lord Jesus, who has won a title, not for Himself to stand, which He did not need, but for us to have a standing in virtue of His blood, and death, and resurrection. The consequence is that for the believer the glory of Christ is saving, not destructive. But much of its brightness is practically lost for those who do not dwell upon this scene of glory. The distinctive mark is the Lord reigning in righteousness; and moreover, it is a man who thus reigns over the earth, not only a divine person. God will put all things under the man that died and rose in delivering power, as truly as Adam drew down in his fall the race and creation. The world became a wilderness of thorns and briers; it was the consequence of man's fall. Do you believe it? Believe also that the Second Man would be defrauded of no small part of His heritage if He did not deliver, not believing man only, but creation, and govern it in power and glory. This future reign is necessary to vindicate the faithfulness of God, to manifest the worth of Christ and the results of what He has done, to display His bride along with Him. It is good therefore to look onward to the scene where this blessed man shall thus reign in righteousness. This would be true apart from our own share with Him, for which we must turn to the New Testament. The prophet's subject is earth; we belong to heaven. Hence it is the province of the New Testament to reveal the Father's house and heaven, no longer shut but opened, first upon Christ and consequently upon us, that we may look in peace and joy into the presence of God. What a totally different theme from the Old Testament, which brings the earth into prominence, as the scene of the reign in righteousness. In the earth it is judicial power that governs. A rod of iron, a scepter of righteousness is that by which the Lord is to break down the pride of the world.
But there are intimations of peace and comfort too. The Lord is here viewed “as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” (Ver. 2.) The world had long been weary of the effects of sin, if not of sin itself. Now the blessing is come. “And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. The vile person shall no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villainy, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.” (Ver. 3-8.) It is not as you see now, men who appear to have every good natural quality, and yet when tested have no heart for divine things, love not the name of the Lord Jesus, care not for His glory. Here it will not be so. Blessing will flow, evil be judged, shame will vanish away. Things and persons will be manifest and bear their true character. Man will be accomplishing for the first time on the earth that for which he was made. It is in contrast with all the deceitfulness of unrighteousness that has gone and still goes on here below. We know the uncertainty of human judgment, we know how men cling to and keep up appearances. There will be no vain show then. Good fruits will spring out of the rich resources of divine mercy, and, in the light of God then shining, there will also be the detection of everything that is false. If wickedness appear, the judgment of the Lord will fall upon it. For during the millennium there will be cases demanding vengeance; and God will not fail to deal with wickedness in a summary manner. There will be a solemn public sight of the execution of His wrath continually before men's eyes (Isa. 66)—the more stern in that day, because there will be no temptation to evil. Accordingly these that are the objects of God's curse will be immediately visited, so as to keep up a wholesome horror of iniquity in the hearts of men.
This leads the Spirit of God to give a warning, which will be needed, especially as the blessing of Israel will not be brought about in a single day. There will be a time of sifting. As we know there will be for Israel in the wilderness, so in Jerusalem too there will be another mode of dealing with the Jews proper. Even when the Lord appears for their deliverance, it is a mistake to suppose that all is complete at once. The Lord will gradually put down the enemies round about the Holy Land, and will use Israel as the instrument of these judgments. (Isa. 11; 63, Mic. 5, Zech. 9; 10) He will send forth His armies and deal with the nations in various ways. In His appearing from heaven He does work by His own power. The Jews will have nothing to do with the judgment of the beast and the false prophet; but He will employ Israel to put down the then representatives of their old neighbors, who rise up once more in envy against them. He will remember what their forefathers did, and will then definitively deal with them, seeing that they retain and skew the same spirit to the last. Thus the Lord will act thoroughly in righteousness, and Israel will need a warning previous to this; so I suppose this will be the bearing of it. “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come. Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers: yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be dens forever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.” (Ver. 9-16.) The allusion is to what precedes the Lord taking His place and reigning in the land. And all the sorrow is to be until the Spirit is poured down upon them. (Ver. 15.) Then comes the great change in Israel. There is not of course the same dwelling of the Holy Ghost in the hearts of believers as now, for that He has a special dwelling in the Church now is manifest. But there will be the outpouring of the Spirit in that day as truly as now. It is a mistake to suppose that the Lord's reigning is incompatible with the Spirit's being thus poured out. He will be poured out very largely then. Now it is more the depth—if we may so speak of a divine person—than extensiveness. What is not now in extent is made up in depth. What then will not appear in depth will be made up in extent. It will be the day for a wide diffusion over all flesh. Now this is only true in principle; and so it is applied from Joel 2 in Acts 2, not as if it were the full result.
The present time on earth is the reverse of a manifestation of righteousness. The Righteous One was rejected of men. God's righteousness set Him risen at His right hand and justifies those who believe on Him. Then it will be the king, coming and sitting upon His own throne (not a rejected king exalted on His Father's): everything will be righteous. As a matter of grace our Lord Jesus puts aside for the time His earthly Jewish titles, and the heavenly counsels are accomplished and revealed while He is above. The Father has seated Him at His right hand and said, as it were, “You shall reign; only, till you are seated on your own throne, come and sit with me upon mine.” Before Christ comes from heaven, the Jews (at least a remnant of them) will have welcomed Him in their hearts. Then He will come, where they are, to bless them in the earth, to govern them, and accomplish in the children the promises that were made to their fathers. Accordingly, when the Christians are taken from this world at Christ's coming, the Jews will in due time be converted, so as to be the earthly people of the Lord, who will make good in their midst earthly glory according to the prophets, and not this only, but the Holy Ghost will be poured out upon them. This great earthly change is consequent on the effusion of the Spirit from on high. Isaiah speaks about thorns and briers until the Spirit be poured upon them. (Ver. 15.) Instead of all being in its appropriate order, everything will need to be restored round the only due center. All as regards the earth and the Jews is now in confusion and misrule, but the Spirit shall be poured out from on high, and then what a change! Thus there are two things necessary to bring in this time of blessing—the king reigning in righteousness, and the outpouring of spiritual power, specially among the Jews, but also in the Gentiles. In nothing will God fail. Then shall “the wilderness be a fruitful field and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. “Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness:” instead of its being the resort of robbers, judgment shall dwell there. Instead of covetousness hankering after the fruitful field, righteousness should remain there. Thus the work of righteousness shall be peace. and its effect quietness and assurance forever. Ends and ways shall be righteous: all is governed with blessing. “And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place. Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.” (Ver. 18-20.) God's people shall be sheltered and prosper in peace, whatever befall His enemies. For them assured blessing takes the place of fear and evil.