July 31st, 2021 - Isaiah 63-66
Chapter 63 is called the day of God’s vengeance and redemption, and Isaiah begins with a judgement against Edom. He is using Edom as a reference for God’s judgement on all the nations. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. There was tension and hate between them from early on. Bozrah is one of the leading cities of Edom. The Lord has been there and now His robes are stained red with blood. This is the figure of judgement. It is interesting to note that the city name, Bozrah is a play on the Hebrews verb for gathering grapes and the word red is a play on the name Edom which also means red. When the Lord speaks of the year of His redeemed, or ransom of His people, this is a direct reference to the law of redemption that we read in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 25. A close relative of a slave had the right and duty to buy back the slave and rescue a family member from destitution. No one had bothered to help anyone so the Lord stepped in and did it Himself. The Lord was angry and He crushed the nations, the same crushing we saw in chapter 53 of the suffering servant. The nations would be forced to drink from the intoxicating cup of God’s wrath.
The wine press was the key component of ancient wine production. Isaiah used the image of treading the wine press here to express divine judgement against the nations. The act of treading represents God’s vengeance against His enemies, whether through war or other disasters. The juice produced from the grapes represents the blood of the defeated, while the intoxication produced by overindulgence of the wine represents the effect of God’s wrath on those He judges. At the same time, however, God’s vengeance against His enemies is coupled with His redemption of His own people. What follows is the prophet Isaiah reflecting on Israel’s past and how God, in His unfailing love watched as His people alternatively rebelled against Him, suffered hardship, returned to the Lord, and experienced His blessing. God repeatedly demonstrated His compassion, provision, and protection for His people and His possession of and commitment to them was central to His covenants with them. The Lord had expected His people to honor Him, unlike the other nations, but Israel too betrayed their God. Still, He rescued them anyway. He identified with His suffering people and their suffering brought Him grief. But they continued to rebel, and eventually He became their enemy. The people wandered like lost sheep, they worshiped false gods and idols, and pretended to worship Him. But once they arrived in the promised land, He gave them rest. From 63:15 all the way through chapter 64 Isaiah reflects on the past and it inspires him to pray that God would once again rescue His wayward people.
Isaiah calls the Lord Father. This Fatherhood is commitment and much more important than national ancestry. Isaiah understands that God has the power to keep His people faithful so he asks God, why have you allowed us to turn from your path? Come back and help us. Isaiah realizes that God has the power not only to call His people back to him, but to defeat all their enemies. While God wanted His people to be holy, they were not and it led to their destruction. Not only were the people destroyed but so was the house of the Lord, the temple. Israel did not figure out that when they turned from Him, they were punished. Chapter 64 begins with Isaiah asking God to rend the heavens and come down. This would strike terroir in the enemy, much like the fear the Israelites experienced when the Lord came down at Mount Sinai. Fire is often a sign of God’s presence, and Isaiah is remembering all the miraculous deeds God did for the Israelites. He knows there is no one like God. Isaiah also recognizes that everyone is a sinner and the only hope for salvation and transformation comes from the suffering servant from chapter 53, Jesus Christ. No one else sees this and as a consequence no one else is calling out to the Lord for help. Because the people were so bent on sinning, God left them to perish in their sinful ways. Isaiah nearly begs the Lord not to remember the sins of the people forever. As a result of the people’s sinful ways, all of the holy cities were destroyed. All the cities of Judah were considered to be holy to God, but Jerusalem with the temple was considered the most holy place.
We move on to judgement and final salvation in chapter 65. This is the Lord’s response to the previous section of scripture. These last two chapters also conclude the Book of Isaiah. The Lord is now speaking and he reminds Isaiah that he had opened up every avenue so that God’s people could seek Him. No one did. They all followed their own paths and did their own thing. The people openly went about their shameful practices of worshiping idols and false gods. The reference to sacred gardens is a reference to Baal worship. They were part of the fertility rituals of Baal worship. God had banned the practice of necromancy, which is consulting the spirits of the dead, but the people still went into the tombs to spend time. In the tombs they sought oracles from the dead and from idols. In Leviticus 11:7 the Lord prohibited the eating of pork because the pig is considered unclean. But the people were eating pork and other things that were an abomination to the Lord. The people were using the language of ritual purification, stated in the law of Moses, but they practiced rites influenced by paganism. Because of this, they were a stench in God’s nostrils. The idolaters were like the worst of the Pharisees in New Testament times. Jesus a called them the children of the devil but they regarded themselves better than others. But God had written a decree and was fully committed to carrying out His plan. It is of note that royal courts in the ancient world kept a record of unpunished crimes. The godly had asked whether the Lord would stand silent forever and God answered that He would not but would deal with the wicked before restoring the righteous remnant. After all, there had been generations who had worshiped idols and false gods. Now, God would act. He would spare the righteous remnant but the rest would be punished.
God would gather His descendants from Jacob and Judah, representing all of Israel. And they would come from all over. Sharon was a fertile and beautiful marshy region southwest of Mount Carmel. The valley of Achor near Jericho was associated with the curse of Achan. (Joshua 7:24-26), but it would be transformed into a place of blessing. These western and eastern regions might represent the renewal of the whole land. The names here, Gad and Meni mean fate and destiny respectively. These gods were thought to bring fortune and determine ones destiny. That God would destine the people for the sword is a play on words, tied to Meni, the godly of fate and destiny. However, we know that God alone controls human and national destinies. The contrast we see in verses 13-15 are between the wicked, addressed as you, and God’s servants, pertains to all areas of life. God punishes the wicked and blesses those who truly serve Him. The new name given to the faithful represents a new identity and a deeper relationship with the Lord. These chosen will use the apostates name as a curse by invoking the terrible fate of the apostates upon others. We also see the promise of new heavens and earth. This will be a place of righteousness and peace described those who believe in Jesus as already being part of the new creation. This is also referenced in 2 Peter 3:13 and the Book of Revelation chapter 21. The reference to Jerusalem symbolized God’s eternal kingdom. He will be present with His people and there will be no more tears or reasons for tears. His people will live in safety, prosperity, and they will live long and fruitful lives. Verse 25 shows a reversal of nature with animals who are now predators, laying down to eat together. This is a picture of universal peace.
The last chapter, chapter 66! It is judgement and hope, true worship and false. Isaiah prophecies right up to the end. The Lord is still speaking here and He begins by reminding the people that His kingdom extends over all creation. He really does not need a man made temple because heaven and earth, the whole cosmos, is His sanctuary. There is no place in earth that can accommodate the transcendent God. Stephen quote these first two verses in his last sermon. (Acts 7:49-50). God is pleased to dwell with those who have humble and contribute hearts and those who tremble at His Word. They submit themselves to God’s will, but the arrogant resist it. There are still plenty who delight in their detestable sins, literally delighting in their abominations. This is a reference to pagan religious practices. And many were worshiping to the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. The wicked brought sacrifices as prescribed by law, but their sin rendered those sacrifices equivalent to pagan offering. God’s harsh criticism of false liturgy is tempered with His promise of the coming true liturgy. The reference to slaying a man may well refer to child sacrifice and breaking a dogs neck was a pagan practice. The dog was considered to be an unclean animal, a scavenger. None of the wicked’s sacrifices to the Lord had value or worth. Judgement will come with great trouble because the people refused to listen. Others, who believe will tremble at the Lord’s Words. The non believers will hate those who believe and those who are cast out of the temple will be back but they will bring the Gentiles with them. Then the persecuted will rejoice and the persecutors will be ashamed.
The noise from the city and voice from the temple Is the sound of battle. The enemies are those who worship idols and they are persecuting the believers. This parallels Ezekiel 9 when God’s executioner began to destroy the wicked people of Jerusalem. God will deal out retribution to the disobedient members of His own people. They were His enemies because of their persistent sin and rejection of God. The labor pains represent the birth of the community from the cast out worshippers as coming so quickly there will be no labor pains. Sometimes Zion is pictured as the daughter of the Lord but here she is the mother of His people. And the male child and her children most likely means Christ and His church. The Lord promised He would surely recreate His holy nation. Again God will provide and the people who lost peace and prosperity in the exile will receive it back abundantly, hence the reference to the River. God will bring comfort to His people and they will receive blessings.
God is coming with fire and He will appear in furious judgement against His enemies. By contrast He will reveal His glory to His people. God will judge all creation as part of the process of renewing the earth. Those who practice idol worship will come to an end and when God reveals His glory to all people, the nations join in God’s plan of redemption. They will even be able to serve as priests and Levites before Him. The godly from all nations last from generation to generation as they serve the living God. The sign mentioned is the proclamation of God’s glory among the nations. God will establish a righteous and faithful new people consisting of godly Gentiles together with faithful Israelites. The fact that Gentiles would serve as priests and Levites shows that God has removed the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. We see that God’s promise to Abraham was secure and the identity of this new people will last forever. Isaiah gives a final warning of the severity of God’s judgement. Th book begins and ends with the condemnation of those who have rebelled. God’s judgement on the wicked will generate utter horror because people will have no hope and no relief from suffering. However, those who believe will live as God had first intended.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
Comments are closed.