Thoughts on Isaiah 31-35

Isaiah 31‑35  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Jehovah warns His people against the tendency to seek aid in Egypt. It is not any longer only taking counsel without God, but leaning on the flesh. It is the tendency of us all not to have recourse to God unless forced to it. The prodigal son ate the husks of swine before he thought of his father's house. To lean on God one must be in the truth, having the consciousness of what we are; one cannot bring lies before God. What often hinders conversion, or at least retards it, is that one misunderstands what he is by nature, that is, without strength and ungodly. It is the same in all our ways, seeking to lean on any rather than on God. Israel had been taken out of Egypt and carried to Babylon. Called out of the world, one falls into corruption. Egypt typifies the natural strength of the world; Babylon, the world's corruption. Israel seeks support in the natural strength of man. That does not irritate pride nor unveil what we are. One cannot lean on God without the beating down of flesh's pride and the learning that we are nothing. The tendency of sin is to veil sin from our eyes. Far from God we cannot know what is the power of God, though we might have known it at other times. Far from God we forget what He is. It is not a question only for us of God in heaven, but of His manifestation in the midst of His people, mixing Himself with all their affairs, and accompanying them in all their journeyings. (Ex. 29:44, 4544And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. 45And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. (Exodus 29:44‑45).)
What is true for the joy of God's people is also true for their strength; it comes from the presence of God. It is also the case with the church which is God's habitation through the Spirit. It is true of each Christian individually. God does not manifest His power in the activity of the flesh. If one acts in the flesh, one loses the consciousness of what God can do. When we see that God acts, one does not even think of seeking the resources of the flesh. In the activity of the flesh, one feels that one has no right to count on God.
The flesh seeks to hide the thing from itself, or take its side of going with the world, or to find somewhere a resource to hinder chastening. The consequence of this is that one does not at all perceive when good comes. (Jer. 17) Israel set themselves outside the way, and when the Lord acts, they do not at all see it; they will then be overthrown with those from whom they sought succor.
Often the Lord makes one wait long, as if He did not trouble Himself with the lot of His people. But when they are in the greatest distress, God acts. The extremity of man is the opportunity of God, the moment favorable and suited for Him to manifest Himself. It is difficult to convince man of this-that God loves him enough to think of him and deliver him. Faith has only God, and God alone is the resource of the people in the resurrection.
We have already seen that the Assyrian is the last enemy of the people. (Vers. 8, 9.)
Chapter 32.
The moment that God acts, Christ appears. This chapter is the one God used to open my understanding to the coming of Christ. We see, 1st, Christ coming to reign in righteousness on the earth; 2nd, an entire change in the economy, a new Pentecost for the Jews and also for the Gentiles. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit cannot be repeated in the present economy. There are but two outpourings of the Spirit, the rain of the former season and that of the latter. The Jews must necessarily have returned to their own land in order to receive the rain of the latter season which has been promised them. Thus there must be the presence of Christ on earth, and a second effusion of the Holy Spirit. But this will be a testimony rendered to the glory of Christ, and no longer a manifestation of grace. We see in Zech. 2:88For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (Zechariah 2:8) that it is “after the glory” the Jews become a blessing to the nations. The testimony to the glory of Christ thus manifested is not in this economy.
We see here then the return of Christ (ver. 1), and the Spirit poured out from on high on the Jews (ver. 15), entirely new events. All that has taken place before in Christendom will be counted only as a forest and not a fruitful field, or a Carmel; the hail shall fall on the forest (of the Gentiles), and “the city” Babylon shall be utterly abased.
Verses 1, 2. The first thing is a king who is to reign on earth in righteousness. The church on the contrary ought during the actual economy to follow Jesus, righteous indeed but suffering, put to death by a judge who owned His innocence. The righteous man suffers, and injustice the most flagrant is committed against such. Such is the position of the Christian and the church. It is not yet a king reigning in righteousness. In the age to conic righteousness shall reign. Even then it will not be the eternal state where righteousness dwells in the new earth. During the millennium there will be the need of a reign to repress evil. The principle of the present economy is the suffering of the saints though walking righteously: in the future age “judgment will return to righteousness,” whilst at the present time it is opposed to righteousness.
Verses 9-14. Judgment must go on, Zion even be a wilderness, until (ver. 15) the Spirit be poured upon us (the Jews) from on high: then all should be changed for good, the wilderness be a Carmel, and what was a Carmel be counted for a forest.
God, having put man near Himself above by resurrection and ascension, pours out from on high the Holy Spirit upon those who believe as a Spirit of power, which it is needful to distinguish from His work in conversion or the new birth. At the time of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down on the converted only. We see that not only does the Holy Spirit act on us to make us believe, but moreover when we believe He is therein given to us as a Spirit of power. All this got blotted out little by little in its effects by the unfaithfulness of the church, which grieved the Holy Spirit who dwells there. When the church is caught up to meet the Lord, the Holy Spirit goes along with it; but after the Lord returns in power and glory, the Spirit is poured out afresh as the rain of the latter season, and the world recommences as a thing quite new. “Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places,” &c. (Vers. 16-18.) But it is the moment of the world's judgment (ver. 19), followed by the blessedness of peace on earth. (Ver. 20.)
The chapter thus presents us with the complete change of the economy. It is not here a question of the church. The relationships and the state of the faithful will be then quite opposite in character. Today it is a question of conformity to the grace of Jesus in suffering, then to His glory and power on earth. The earth cursed because of sinful man will be blessed; self and unrighteousness will be uprooted. The vile person will no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. Peace and righteousness shall flourish; and the Holy Spirit will no more have to resist the power or wiles of Satan, who will then be consigned to the abyss. We see the later history of the Jewish remnant in Psa. 42-49, especially in the three earliest of these psalms. Then Psa. 45 introduces the Messiah, and joy comes. We have here this instruction to sustain us on the Lord when He does not manifest Himself. Those who have believed without seeing are to be especially blessed, This is the church's portion; and it applies also to all the circumstances of details. Moreover the presence of the Holy, Spirit is all our strength. It is when put to the proof that we are tempted to lean on the flesh, and then faith manifests itself in leaning only on God. But we must be in the truth before Him, and it will be manifest that the remnant seek not help in Egypt.
Chapter 33.
We have seen from chapter 28 the special circumstances of the Jews in the last days, terminating as always in the introduction of the Messiah. Here in chapter 33 we see judgment fall on the last enemy of Israel (it would seem the Gog of Ezekiel); then in chapter 34 on. All nations of which Edom is the scene, followed by the unparalleled sketch of the earth's blessing, and joy, and prosperity under Messiah's reign in Zion, when “the last end of the indignation” is closed. Therefore in the midst of the prophecy is found introduced the history of Hezekiah menaced by the Assyrian and his deadly sickness turned, as a type of Messiah and the power of resurrection, and the destruction of the last mighty foe of Israel in the last days, but not without the captivity of Judah and its royal line to Babylon meanwhile.
Edom is another bitter enemy that ever put stumbling blocks in the way of Israel, and yet to be judged in a particular way, when his destruction will be so complete as to leave no remnant. See Obadiah.
We have then in this chapter the judgment of the last great enemy of Israel, typified by the Assyrian; then of Edom and the nations gathered there, to introduce the blessing of Israel and the earth, the land especially when every curse shall be removed.
The invasion of the Assyrian into Judea was groundless; be dealt treacherously (ver. 1), deceived Hezekiah and, after receiving his treasure, broke the covenant and besieged Jerusalem; but the effect of the distress of Israel at the coming of the Assyrian was that Jehovah rose, was exalted, and lifted Himself up. (Vers. 2-10.) One may remark the spirit of intercession in Christ for His people, and how He identifies Himself with them: “Be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” We see it also very often in the Psalm when He speaks of “mine iniquities” in speaking of those of His people.
Verse 5. “Jehovah is exalted,” &c. The circumstances indicated in verses 7-9 show the power of the enemy unlimited. It is thus faith regards all the power of the world. From the moment it sees neither fear of God in the world nor deliverance for itself, it gives itself up to wait on God. Faith judges justly of all. Unbelief judges the circumstances correctly, and the consequences of things visible; it forgets but one thing, God, who comes in and upsets all these combinations, be they ever so wise. Faith pierces even to God across all circumstances and all difficulties. It does not stay to consider, it does not reason on the possibility of things because it only stops at God, and when man despairs, faith is perfectly calm and happy. Faith has no need either of human reasoning or of human prudence. Hezekiah puts before Jehovah the letter of Sennacherib. The wisdom of faith is looking to God, doing His will, and troubling about nothing. When Christ comes, one then sees that the fear of God is wisdom and treasure. (Ver. 6.)
The circumstances which are too strong for us ought to have no other effect upon us than to make us realize the presence of God. We see in Psa. 18 how God answers to the distress of His people. He rises, and all crumbles in His presence: the full accomplishment of this psalm will manifest it.
Verse 14. It is a terrible thing to be found without faith between the power of the enemies of God and the manifestation of the power of God when He descends with devouring fire. The hypocrite cannot dwell there between the two, nor is any one so wretched as a merely professing Christian or a sinful Jew in those times. It is the position of the foolish virgins; the Bridegroom comes, and they have no oil. It is the position in which all Christendom will then be found, all that which has but the form of godliness; and therefore daring the judgments in the last days they will be as men giving up the ghost through fear, and saying to the mountains, Cover us. Conscience foresees those everlasting burnings, and that the judgment of God will rise against every power of Satan.
Verses 15, 16. The remnant will be kept; the devouring fire does not touch them. But further (ver. 17) their eye shall see the King in His beauty. The thunderbolt that falls on the wicked passes them harmlessly, for Messiah is there. Peace is established, and men look round freely even to the most distant quarters of the land, and reflect on the terror which no longer fills them: so overwhelming the danger so sudden and complete the deliverance! (Vers. 18, 19.) All that was dreaded is vanished away.
From verse 20 we see what Zion will be for the faithful people. It is a peace God has made and given forever, not an atom to be disturbed any more. Even in the last revolt when Satan masters the distant nations at the end of the thousand years' reign, the enemies may compass the beloved city and the camp of the saints, but they touch nothing. It is a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down. “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.” (Ver. 20.)
Vers. 21, 22. The confidence of Israel is in Jehovah, the source of all blessing, and withal their unfailing security. “For Jehovah our Judge, Jehovah our Lawgiver, Jehovah our King, He will save us.”
The strongest of their enemies was foiled and prostrate, and a prey to the feeblest in Israel (Ver. 23), who will thus be enabled to enjoy the blessing, the curse being gone, all their iniquities forgiven, and all their diseases healed. (Ver. 24.)
Chapter 34.
All the earth is called to hear (ver. 1); it is very far now from being willing to answer such an appeal.
The nations, will be assembled in Idumea, and there will be judged. (Obad. 13-1513Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity; 14Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress. 15For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. (Obadiah 13‑15); Psa. 137:77Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. (Psalm 137:7); Isa. 63:1-41Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. 2Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? 3I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. 4For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. (Isaiah 63:1‑4).) The sword of Jehovah shall come down on Idumea, and on the people of His curse to judgment. (Ver. 5.) Edom is marked out as a center of judgment for the quick. He has chastened His people to sanctify them; but He will judge the nations. His indignation against idolatrous and apostate Jerusalem closes with the judgment of the Assyrian, and the destruction of the nations in the land of Edom. In chapter 63 we see what will happen to them at this time; Jesus will judge and trample them down in His fury: a scene which has no reference to the cross, where Jesus was Himself trampled down.
“The sword of Jehovah is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for Jehovah hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.” This terrible judgment of the living is lost for Christendom. The Jews had, no adequate idea of a judgment of the dead; they were familiar with judgments on the living by the direct government of God which exercised visible judgment on the living, as we see in Korah, Achan, &c. All has been changed in relationship with God for the church by the resurrection; and Christians have in great measure lost sight of the judgment of the living, because they are used only to expect judgment after death. But there will be a judgment of the living as well as a judgment of the dead. They like to forget it because the judgment of the dead, being more distant, does not touch so directly the course in which one walks on the earth. It will fall on the neighborhood of Jerusalem as well as on Bozrah.
The rest of the chapter is the detail of the judgment in Edom.
Chapter 35.
We see the full blessing of the land, of which Zion will be the center. All will be blessed. God does not despise this earth, nor any creature, though the curse is fallen on all because of Adam's sin.
The miracles of Jesus working every sort of cure were a sample of what His redemption will do for all creation, and hence called powers of the world to come. (Rom. 8:19-2219For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:19‑22); Heb. 6) There will be deliverance when He appears; the evil will be taken away. Hence also, when the disciples rejoiced over the demons cast out in His name, He predicts the fall of Satan from heaven. His death breaks Satan's power for the believer's conscience: but though thus emancipated, we groan and suffer in the body still. But the Son of man's victory goes much farther than to cast Satan from the Conscience. By His word He takes away every evil, all suffering, for faith. But here it is no question of conscience; it is a marvelous manifestation of God's intervention into all the miseries of man.
Jesus will exercise this power fully when He returns, but on quite a different plan from that which He exercised in Judea during His ministry. It will be no more by the Holy Spirit awakening souls for spiritual joys, but delivering creation from the slavery of corruption, the liberty of glory and not merely of grace.
“Say to them that are of a faithful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.” (Ver. 4.) The faithful remnant is restored by this announcement. Is it also for us the greatest source of joy or would His coming be a sort of tearing us away from the earth, instead of lifting us up to set us where our treasure is? The Spirit and the bride say, Come: do we?