July 30th, 2021 - Isaiah 58-62
From chapters 58 to the end of Isaiah the prophecy continues the same general theme as the previous section, 49-57. The climax is 66:1-3 where we see a passage that foretells of the day Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He spoke of when the true worshipers will worship not in temples made with hands but in spirit and truth. And we will see that as with the majority of the Book of Isaiah, warnings and denunciations are alternated with offers and assurances of blessings.
Chapter 58 deals with worship and godly living that pleases God. Much of it you have read before. Isaiah starts off with the religious Israelites who were pleased with themselves because of their religious activities. They may have been great at going through the motions and ‘putting on a religious show’ but they were not honoring God with what they did. Fasting was to be a time of self deprivation so that they could focus on God and instead they were more worried if God had seen them being religious. Verse 5 really sums up their behavior. It is a satirical telling of what the Israelites did that they thought was so splendid, External piety, not piety that came from the heart. But it looked good. Pomp and circumstance, wearing sack cloth and ashes with no repentance was the order of the day. And then God detailed what He wants from His people. True fasting creates an awareness of injustice and oppression and prompts action. There is a list that involves justice, freedom for the oppressed, and providing food and shelter for those without. When all this is accomplished then salvation comes. Light will dawn on those who have turned fully to the Lord, and the night of divine judgement will be over. Light dawned with the advent of Christ. God will heal, protect, and guide His people. Isaiah repeats himself here in verse 10 with the call to help those who have nothing. Just like in the exodus wilderness God will provide water. They will rebuild Jerusalem under Nehemiah. And Isaiah reminds God’s people again that the sabbath is to be kept holy. The sabbath was intended to be an expression of self denial and worship. It consists in delighting in the Lord, trusting Him to provide for one’s needs while abstaining from work, and living in obedience to His will. When God’s people honor Him through obedience, they will be honored by God. They will receive the inheritance promised to Jacob. That includes living with many descendants in the promised land, and enjoying God’s presence, blessing, and protection.
Chapter 59 is called several things. Some call it warnings against sin. Others call it sin, confession, and redemption and still others, separated from God. The bottom line is God and God alone can and will usher in His salvation. Like a warrior, He will break into the world to avenge Himself on His enemies and to vindicate His holy people. We begin with the people complaining that the Lord could not rescue His people. However, the real problem was that they had not repented and were still living in sin. The Lord is not weak. Because of sin, God had turned away from His people. The people were not living like God had commanded. Deadly snakes and spider webs represent plans designed to destroy others lives and relationships. It also shows deliberate, calculated wickedness in the courts. The wicked power structures would soon prove worthless. Paul quotes from verses 7-8 in Romans 3:15-17. The people lamented being victims of oppression but they were oppressors themselves. They ran without thought into evil and they did not know peace because they denied others peace. Verses 9-15 are the prophets confession of the nations sins. It is also a lament because the people could not apprehend the light of God’s salvation. Their sin had blinded them and they growled with longing for redemption, finally coming to terms with their sinfulness. The Lord goes out as a warrior intent on achieving victory against the wicked. God’s justice demands that people be judged for the evil they have done and He will dole out righteous retribution on the wicked. All over the world people will respect and glorify the Lord because of who He is and what He has done. In verse 31 the word them refers to the repentant. These members of the new community will have the Spirit, and they know and practice God’s Word. The Lord promises to regenerate His children by His Spirit and bring them into the covenant of obedience and love for the Lord.
When we arrive at chapter 60 we see the glory of Zion. Even the Gentiles will bless Zion. The transformation of all nations and mighty kings will be so radical that all kingdoms will take notice and be drawn to God through His people. God will come to be with His people and He will transform Zion’s destiny from darkness as black as night caused by sin and judgement. Zion’s losses from warfare will be restored by the wealth of many lands, and foreign nations will be eager to make a contribution. The nations of Midian and Ephah were both Midianite tribes southeast of Israel. Sheba was a region in southeast Arabia, probably very close to modern day Yemen. Sheba was famous for their gold and for frankincense. These were real nations Isaiah speaks of here. The restoration would be a historical reality, not just an idealistic vision. Many nations would submit themselves to the Lord and worship Him. Kedar was a tribe is Arabia and Nebaioth was an Ishmaelite tribe. God promised to make His glory even more evident than it was in Solomon’s temple. Verse 8 refers to ships sails that looked like swift moving clouds and doves returning to their roosts. References to ships of Tarshish alludes to the wealth of Solomon, which was vast. In verses 10-16 we find that those who previously oppressed the people of God will one day participate in restoring the holy city. God’s people who were previously humiliated will be exalted, and today the Gentiles are helping to build the church of Christ. Isaiah tells us that the city gates are not closed at night which is a major departure. Typically the gates were closed before sundown to keep attackers out. But check out Revelation 21:25. In eternity the city gates will never be closed either because all evil will be destroyed and there will be no need. Here there will be so much traffic coming into the city that the gates will need to stay open to accommodate everybody. The citizens of Zion will no longer need to fear their enemies because the Lord is their protector. The nations that remain will be serving the Lord and His people. In the coming age all the nations that refuse to obey the Lord will be destroyed. In Isaiah’s day the temple was God’s sanctuary, the symbol of His presence in earth. Nowadays, believers are the temple of God by the indwelling of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16). We still await the fullness of God’s presence.
There will be a radical change now from the conditions of the exile in Babylon. Fulfillment of this prophecy includes the Jews restoration from exile, the coming of Jesus Christ, and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the church. The final fulfillment awaits the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ, which will usher in the new Jerusalem. Verses 17-20 show Zion’s future grandeur. Gold, silver, bronze, and iron are metals for adornment and strength. Peace and righteousness will bring harmony and blessing among the people and with God. Entrance into this city of salvation will be through gates of praise to the Lord for His salvation, and the light of Christ will overshadow the light from the sun and the moon. The citizens of Zion will be righteous, enjoying a right relationship with God and others. Here the Lord identifies Himself as the covenant God of Israel.
Chapter 61 brings good news for the oppressed and it comes in the form of salvation. This is the year of the Lord’s favor. Here the servant proclaims the good news that His ministry will restore Zion. We see Jesus quote these words in Luke 4:18-19. He is teaching in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. The presence of the Lord’s Spirit ensures the success of the servants mission. This servant will restore and heal the marginalized poor and the broken hearted. The time of the Lord’s favor is the day of God’s salvation and the day of His anger is when God turns His wrath against the enemies of His people. It will be a day of righteous vengeance. Ashes on one’s head was a sign of mourning and grief but now the Lord will replace the mourning with joy. The crown of ashes will be replaced with a crown of beauty. The oil of gladness can be translated literally, joyous blessing. A face covered with oil was a sign of blessing and well being, and a host would lavish on a guest this oil. Anointing with oil was a common practice on joyous occasions. The remnant of believers would grow, starting small like an off shoot of a plant and those off shoots would grow into mighty oaks. There had been many generations of desolations and now both the Jews and the Gentiles would grow and flourish as they worshiped the Lord. Now, the nation would finally fulfill its original calling. With Christ, they would make intercession for sinners. Check out Exodus 19:6 for the original calling reference. God’s people had suffered at His hand for their sins but now they would receive a double portion of His blessing. Verse 8 is for all believers. All, who belong to the community of God’s people are called to imitate the character of God, who loves justice and hates wrongdoings. God’s covenant will be effective from one generation to the next because the Lord has blessed them in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. There will be new clothing in celebration of salvation and righteousness, and the people will be a adorned like a bride and bridegroom.
Chapter 62 has several different titles ranging from Isaiah’s prayer for Jerusalem to Zion’s new name to the assurance of God’s salvation. The servant commits himself to proclaiming the good news continuously until the glory of Zion is realized. He loves Zion so much he cannot remain silent. He has to go and tell! Here we learn that the real beauty and glory of God’s people would not be seen in earthly treasure or even a rebuilt city. It will shine forth from their righteousness. Others will be drawn by their divine gift. The new name reflects a change in status. We see this even today. When a man or woman becomes part of a religious order, they take a new name. Believers no longer have to worry about exile or being abandoned by God. Instead they will be married to the Lord, appropriate for a close covenant relationship. The watchmen Isaiah speaks of are the prophets. They will pray day and night and continually seek the full restoration and blessing of Zion. These watchmen are not the same ones from 56:10 who were destructive. Finally, the Lord swore an oath just as He did with Noah, Abraham, and David. He has promised to never punish and purge a remnant from His people again. In order to do that God brought in the Assyrians and the Babylonians to decimate them. He will never do this again. The people will finally be able to eat and drink the fruits of their labor. This is the opposite of God’s judgement. The last three verses are a call to prepare for God’s coming salvation. The prophets would not only pray for the people but they encouraged them to worship. The people are called to prepare the way so that people can come from all over to worship. It is a grand and glorious picture for God’s people.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
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