The second vision. Jerusalem is not the Church. Jerusalem to become the metropolis of the earth.
This second vision goes to the end of chapter five, and again gives a synopsis of the book, forming another introduction. The first verse, reading,
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem,is a divinely given guard against that misdirection of the prophecy, that, notwithstanding that gracious care, has prevailed all through Christendom since it lost the hope of the imminent return of the Lord. It is difficult to see how any words could be selected to be less equivocal as to the subject of the prophecy. How can any presume to divert them from Judah and Jerusalem, of whose destiny the hearts of both prophet and his people were full, and apply them to the Church, of which neither he nor they knew, nor could know anything at all, for it was divinely hidden from them, "kept secret since the world began, but now (to the apostle) is made manifest" (Romans 16:25). If that does not mean that all who press the Mystery into the Old Testament, are doing so without one letter of warrant, then it is difficult to see how words can convey any clear truth. But to paraphrase:
2: In the last days 'tis this shall occur:Thus the vision begins with an outlook far beyond the present all-pervasive conditions of sin and suffering in the earth, to a day in which Judah and Jerusalem are not only restored, but shine with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory than ever of old, giving out the light of God to all the earth. But it is the earth, and not heaven that is in view. Apply this to Zion and the nations in the future day, and all is clear, sure and consistent; accommodate it to the Church, either now or in that day, and what contradiction ensues! What are the prospects of swords being beaten into ploughshares during the testimony of the Church?
In verse two we have the supremacy of that beloved people, Israel, when fully restored, in her Lord and Christ, to the favor of Jehovah. Jerusalem shall then be the center, spiritually and politically, as she is physically of all the earth. She shall have no rival in the capitals that now so far surpass her. All the other "mountains" or States, or their governments (for a mountain in prophetic symbolism is an excellent figure of a Government, and the Government, in turn, represents the whole State over which it governs, cf. Rev. 17:10,11), shall then willingly confess to the supremacy of Zion, whose government is perfect—being divine. For this is the time whereof our own apostle writes, wherein "all things are headed up in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth"; and when "every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." For as now He, being in heaven, is "Head over all things to the Church," so then when on earth will He identify Himself with penitent Israel, and be Head over all the nations of the earth to that beloved people. Up then, to the very head of the nations, goes down-trodden Jerusalem; up, nevermore to lose that place of supremacy, for she is established there in her Messiah. The "times of the Gentiles" are over; the day of man, the test of his ability to govern, is ended, and the Day of the Lord has begun.
But the Gentiles themselves shall then be no longer rebellious. Humbled and penitent, they too shall recognize that the Lord Jesus being there, Jerusalem presents a holy attraction after the storms of six thousand years, that makes them flow, as naturally, willingly, and peacefully, as rivers to the sea, to that center of light where the Lord reigneth.
Even the casting away of Israel has been the reconciling of the world; for since they have, for the time, rejected our "mercy" (Rom. 11:31), or the gospel of His grace, God sends out His ambassadors beseeching men at large to be reconciled; but this being ended, that mercy returns to Israel and their reception shall be "life from the dead."
This is the day whereof the disciples asked: "Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). That people—not Great Britain, nor Germany, nor France, nor any of the present "great powers"—shall be the dominant, the royal nation on the earth; for, as it is written, He will make it "high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name and in honor" (Deut. 26:19), that now being fulfilled to them in Christ which they failed to attain on the principle of law. These are those "kings of the rising again of the sun," as Rev. 16:12 (when quite literally rendered) calls them, and when their Sun shall arise (Mal. 4:2), the whole earth shall be flooded with its beams, and to that light all nations shall gravitate. It shines from Jerusalem.
Verse three gives details of the preceding: many peoples take counsel, and it is good counsel at last; very different from that in the day of Babel (Gen. 11:4), or as in the day of the second Psalm, for they encourage one another to go to that center of light and there to learn. Oh, what evidence of divine intervention such an attitude presents! Think of New York or London confessing that they have anything to learn from Jerusalem! It speaks a very different state of affairs from that ruling today. Even among His people there is not too great a willingness to take the lowly place of "learner," and have we not largely forgotten the word that speaketh unto us, as unto brethren, "Be not many teachers"? (James 3:1). But there is no warning against being many learners.
The outcome is universal peace, precious contrast to the ever-recurring wars and rumors of wars that have characterized the whole of the present time. These continue to speak, in the clearest way, of earth's true King rejected, and the usurping "prince of this world" still sitting upon His Throne. War, with all its horrible accompaniments, accords but too well with that usurpation. But in the day of Isaiah's vision, earth's true King has returned, and having with a strong hand put down all opposition, becomes in very deed the "Prince of Peace." All the implements of war, all the inventions of human ingenuity to destroy life, included in the "sword and spear" that figured them all, are turned into instruments for the peaceful service of man, and banished forever.
Beloved brethren, let us too, "see" this "word." The earth longs for peace. Men are war-weary. Various expedients have been, are being, and will be tried, but all in vain. Permanent peace can only be as the result of God's intervention—the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign. We admit that this is to the man of the world, whether a professor of religion or not, altogether chimerical; a conception only possible to religious extremists or foolish enthusiasts. Far more practical is peace maintained by the Nations leaguing together, and becoming "the United States of Christendom" with, possibly, the Pope accorded the place of arbiter, as the surest guarantee of an unbroken peace. These are the ways that fill the minds of men who have not learned that God's way is, always and alone, by the manifested exaltation of His own dear Son, after man's impotence has been fully exposed. It is He who shall "judge among the nations"; it is He who shall abolish West Point, Sandhurst, St. Cyr, and all the military academies for learning war, for when He thus comes, nevermore shall war be learned at all; till then, war with intervals of armed truce will prevail.
It is refreshing then, thus to see beyond the dark present in vision, as the prophet himself entranced with it, turns to his own people and cries: "Does not that attract you? O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord."
But he does not ignore the actual present conditions of his people so different from the "word that he had seen"; and, turning again to Jehovah, he mourns, "For Thou hast forsaken Thy people, the house of Jacob"; but not before they had forsaken Thee "because they are replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they go hand in hand with the children of foreigners" (ver. 6). East and west have both contributed to draw them away, wealth has come from the east (ver. 7), and brought with it that independence of God that ever accompanies trust in it, whilst from the opposite quarter the opposite evil has come—soothsaying, and idolatry (ver. 8)—and God's people have friendship with all these.
We, too, stand between that same East and West, which have involved us in the same guilt, only of a far more serious character, for ours is the substance of which that of old was but the shadow. On Israel's eastern border dwelt the base-born brothers, the Ammonite and Moabite, who ever and again made inroads into Israel's land, bringing its people into humiliating bondage. Exactly corresponding to these, bordering on the Church of God, have long dwelt the modern Ammonite, "Rationalism," and its very close relation, the Moabite, "Worldliness," and all that is comprehended under that comprehensive word. Have they not made sad inroads among the Lord's people, bringing so many of us into bondage? Surely they have. From the opposite quarter, opposite evils; so in Israel's west—not on the border at all, but in the very land which he claimed for himself, and to which he gave his own name—dwelt the Philistine,* just as his antitype, Ritualism, involving superstition, with its claim to magic art, and formality has, in Rome and her daughters (who are quite numerous, and the family is still increasing rapidly) taken up its dwelling in the very Church, and in the same way as her prototype claims it for herself; claims, indeed, to be the "Catholic," or the "whole Church"—there is no Church outside her border!—while still in close league with demon powers, for these are "the depths of Satan" (Rev. 2:24). It is too, with these strangers, as they surely are, that the professing Church has "joined hands"; has it not? Are we not then deeply interested in this vision?
What then does the opened eye of the prophet see as impending over all the outward prosperity of his day? This:
9: The mean man abased shall be,What day is meant? Verses 12 to 16 give the answer. Jehovah of Hosts has a day of judgment on every form of human pride, summed up in four pairs:
"Cedars and oaks," noblest of trees, apt figures of men highest up in the social scale.
"Mountains and hills," i.e., all organized Governments and States.
"Tower and wall," everything of military preparedness.
"Ships and pleasant pictures,"—all forms of commerce and art, finishing again with the chant, only slightly varied,
17: Brought down man's loftiness!In verses 18 and 19 the prophet turns to the root evil of that time—idolatry. Jehovah has been forsaken; idols have replaced Him. In a short verse of only three words (i.e., in Hebrew), their future is declared as with a lightning flash, as if with terrible terseness he said: "Nothings to nothingness." Vanities as they are, to utter vanity they go. What then can those who put their confidence in them, do? And again in answer we get the solemn chant:
19: They creep to the rock-caves; to earth-cellars go,We might also give verse 20 somewhat of the rhythm of the original by a paraphrase:
20: Away go the idols of silver and gold,Then once again as to their worshipers:
21: They creep into rock-clefts; into rock-fissures go,Let us now ask, Who is this King of Glory thus coming with terror-striking face? The Psalm answers: "The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory." But we venture to further ask, "Who is this Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory?" May we not "see this word"? It is a "Lamb as it had been slain." It is Jesus of Nazareth, and His rejecters are but fulfilling His own words in calling to the mountains, "Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us" (Luke 23:30); for it is the Lord who thus "consumes the wicked one with the breath of His mouth, and destroys him with the splendor of His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8).
Surely both New and Old Testaments lift up their voices in unison to proclaim our Lord Jesus to be Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory. Are we then quite uninterested?
Impossible, for that day of terror still impends, and we see it by every portent swiftly approaching. Nothing in the past satisfies the prophecy at all. Man's boasting is still to be heard on all sides; it is still man's day. May we then hear and heed the Spirit's gracious counsel:
22: Cease ye from man whose breath's in his nose,Estimate man at his true worth as a reliance. He is, with all his boasting, with all his ingenuity, his marvelous inventions, but a poor, vain creature. His breath, which is his life, is at the very door of his being, ready to step out at any moment, and his united powers are but weakness. It is not such an one that we need, but One whose breath is not in His nostrils, for He is Himself "a quickening Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45), and is "able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing that He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:24, 25). Then may we justly have "no confidence in the flesh" at all—in ourselves least of all—but joy, rejoice, boast in Christ Jesus, for He is worthy. In His revelation alone the earth finds peace.