Isaiah 65:13-66:24

Though God has to pronounce judgment upon the evildoers, which must be executed in due time, He delights in the mercy and blessing that He bestows upon His true servants. This He makes manifest in the passage which begins with verse 13. We notice, of course, that earthly blessings and earthly judgments are in view; food, drink, rejoicing and song, on the one hand; hunger, thirst, shame and sorrow, on the other. A curse and death will come upon them; their very name being considered a curse, while the chosen servants will be called by another name.

This will be fulfilled in days to come, but it is remarkable how we can see a fulfilment of it even in our day. The very name "Jew" has acquired an unpleasant flavour, which is explained by what the Apostle Paul wrote in Thessalonians 2: 14-16. On the other hand a remnant, according to the election of grace, is still being called out of that people and incorporated with elect Gentiles as the church of God. Upon such another Name is called, for they are CHRISTian.

As far back as Isaiah 42, we had Jehovah's declaration, "New things do I declare" (verse 9), and now we discover the wide scope of that declaration. There is to be a complete sweeping away of the old order and the creation of new heavens as well as a new earth. The verses that follow show that the millennial age is referred to and not the eternal state, which is announced in Revelation 21: 1.

At present the heavens are the seat of Satan's power, as Ephesians 6: 12 indicates. They will be in a new condition when those evil power are cast out, and heavenly saints are installed, as from the New Testament we know they will be. When the Messiah acts as "the Arm of the Lord," and His dominion extends to the ends of the earth, it will be a new earth indeed. In comparison therewith the old order will be so horrible that men will banish it from their minds.

The remaining verses of the chapter give a description of the happy conditions that will characterise the millennial age, beginning with the joy and blessing of Jerusalem, which will be then, as always intended, the centre of earthly blessing. Yet it will not be an age of absolute perfection as verse 20 shows. For the righteous, life will be greatly prolonged, yet it will be possible for sinners to be discovered and come under a curse. Still those who are the elect will have their days as the days of a tree, and we know how many a tree does not grow old for centuries.

Hence earthly blessings will be enjoyed to the full; houses, vineyards, fruit, and above all they will be in close touch with Jehovah their God. So much so, that not only will He hear them while they are yet speaking to Him, but He will answer their desires even before they express them by calling upon Him. This indicates that a place of remarkable nearness to Him will be theirs.

Moreover mercy will be extended even to the animal creation, which at the outset was placed under man, and so has suffered as the result of his fall. No longer shall strong animals slay and devour the weak Those most opposed, like the wolf and the lamb, will feed together, and the most voracious, like the lion, will be satisfied with vegetable food. All hurt and destruction shall cease.

To this there will be just one exception. The serpent was used by Satan in deceiving Eve, and the curse upon it ran, "Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life" (Gen. 3: 11). Now this sentence is not to be revoked. It seems that in the ranks of the lower creation it will be retained as a sign and reminder of the tragic effects of sin. The serpent will not be able to hurt nor destroy, but its degraded and miserable state will remain.

Isaiah 66 opens on a very lofty note. The earth is but the footstool of Jehovah's feet for the heavens are His shone. Recognizing this, we are conscious that no earthly house built for Him is anything but a small matter. What is a great matter is the right spiritual state and attitude, which should be found in man, who by nature is sinful and estranged from God. To be poor and contrite in spirit, and to receive the word as being truly the Word of God, and therefore to tremble at it and be governed by it-this invites the Divine regard. To such a man the Lord will look in blessing. We may remember that when the Lord Jesus opened His mouth on the mountain, the first beatitude He uttered was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5: 3).

But once more the prophet has to turn to the people, in their then existing state, with words of denunciation. They might be killing oxen, sacrificing lambs, offering oblation, burning incense, and yet all was an utter offence before God because their hearts were astray. They were anything but poor in spirit, but rather self-assertive, choosing their own ways and taking pleasure in abominable things. For this reason they came under God's judgment. Instead of calling upon God, and receiving His immediate attention, He had called to them and they paid no attention whatever.

From these the prophet turned, in verse 5, once more to assure those who really did tremble at the word of God. They had been hated and cast out by the men of that day, and this they claimed to do in the name of the Lord and for His glory. We at once recognize that this is no uncommon thing. Something similar has happened again and again. It was thus when our Lord was on earth and in the days of the apostles. It has been so all too often in the sad history of Christendom, as witness the burning of "heretics" whether in Spain or in Britain. In Spain such an act was called by an expression, which in English means, "an act of faith," and since of faith of course, as they thought, to the glory of God.

The answer of the Lord to this kind of thing is not immediate but inevitable. The word is, "He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed." He SHALL-the thing is determined and certain, but it is future. The voice of the Lord will yet be heard, and when He speaks the thing is done. It will bring joy to the godly while a just recompence in judgment will be the portion of the enemies.

But now a further great prophetic fact comes before us. This mighty intervention of God, delivering His people, and judging His foes, will be accompanied by a wonderful work of grace in the souls of those He will deliver. The earth will be made to bring forth in one day, and a nation will be born at once. The figure used in verse 7 indicates that this deliverance will be a "birth," which takes place in a way quite unexpected. So here we have Isaiah alluding to that great work of the Spirit of God, which is described more fully in Ezekiel 36: 22-33, to which the Lord Jesus referred when He spoke to Nicodemus of being born, "of water and of the Spirit."

Shall a nation be born at once? is the question asked in surprise. And the answer quite clearly is-Yes, it will. Of the old Israel, that the world has known, Moses had to complain at the start of their sad history, "They are a perverse and crooked generation. . .a very forward generation, children in whom is no faith" (Deut. 32: 5, 20). The Israel that will enter into millennial blessedness will be a new Israel, born again and therefore cleansed from their old life and ways. The Apostle Peter, writing to the scattered Jewish Christians of the early days, could say to them, "But ye are a chosen generation" (1 Peter 2: 9), and he had previously spoken of their having been born again. As regards the new birth, converted Jews of today are advance samples of what will be wrought in the children of Israel, who finally enter the kingdom.

In view of this, all those who love Jerusalem, and at present mourn for her, may well rejoice. Her prosperity and glory will be a joy to behold. The sons of Israel through the long centuries of their unbelief and rejection of their Messiah, have been noted for the ability with which they have managed to "suck" wealth and profit out of the Gentile world. The objectionable features, which have characterized them in doing this, will have disappeared when they are a born-again nation. The saved of the nations will act toward them as a nursing mother, and peace will flow as a river, instead of there being resentment and disturbance on every side. The hand of God will be in all this, for His word is, "so will I comfort you."

But the prophet leaves us in no doubt as to what God's intervention will mean to the world at large. It will be the day when the inhabitants of the earth will learn righteousness because God's judgments are in the earth, as Isaiah told us in chapter 26. Jehovah will come with fire and whirlwind and sword, as we see in verses 15 and 16, and when we turn to such a passage as Revelation 19, we discover that the Person who will thus come in judgment is no other than Jehovah-Jesus.

Verse 17 would indicate, we judge, that judgment will be specially severe against false religion-against those who practise abominable things, of an idolatrous nature, while professing to sanctify and purify themselves by them. Religious evil always incurs judgment of a very severe nature. This we see exemplified in our Lord's day. His strongest denunciations were directed against the Pharisees and Scribes.

The millennial reign will be preceded by the gathering together before God of the masses of mankind and before them the Divine glory will be displayed. The gathering of the nations that they may see the glory is described in verses 18 and 19, but the outcome of this is not described here. We turn to Matthew 25: 31-46, and there we discover what will take place. All of them will be judged on the basis of their attitude towards the Son of Man who is the King, as revealed by their treatment of messengers, who have represented Him, and whom He owns as His "brethren."

In Isaiah, however, the term used is "your brethren," for the prophet is more occupied with the re-gathering of the children of Israel from the most distant places to which they had been scattered. Their coming in this way will be like the bringing of an offering to God in a clean vessel-an offering therefore acceptable to Him and for His pleasure. Brought thus to the house of Jehovah, they will be taken for priests and Levites in the millennial age.

Now this was the original intention of God, as we see if we refer to Exodus 19: 6. Had Israel kept the law that was delivered through Moses at Sinai, they would have been "a kingdom of priests." They broke the law, so this they never were. But the purpose of God is never defeated, and so here we are permitted to know that what failed then is ultimately achieved, as the fruit of the mercy of God. That it will be the fruit of MERCY is made very clear in the closing part of Romans 11,

Had it been brought about on a legal basis, some future breach of the law would imperil the whole position; as it stands on the basis of mercy, it is a permanent thing, as stable as the new heavens and new earth of the millennial age. From the overthrow of David's kingly line the world has seen a succession of kingdoms, rising up as the result of some overthrow, and each being overthrown in its turn, as predicted in Ezekiel 21: 27; but here at last is a kingdom that abides.

And it will prove to be a kingdom in which Jehovah at last obtains His rightful place as the Object of worship. What He originally intended in connection with Israel, His people, will be fully accomplished, His glory will be in their midst; they will surround His house as a kingdom of priests; they will render Him due worship from one sabbath and new moon to another. He will have accomplished His original design.

The contemplation of these things is surely a great encouragement to us. We are not called to find our part in, "My holy mountain Jerusalem," since our calling is a heavenly one, but we may rest assured that God will reach His original purpose with the church, as really and as fully as He will with Israel. Not one item of His good pleasure as to us will fail. And He will do it in such fashion as will command our glad recognition and worship. The saints in their heavenly seats will render a worship that will not need to be governed by sabbaths or new moons.

The last verse of our prophet is one of much solemnity. When Israel is re-gathered and blessed, and the earth rests in the blessedness indicated at the end of chapter 65, there will yet be a perpetual reminder of the awful result of rebellion and sin. When the Lord Jesus spoke of "the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not," (Mark 9: 43, 44), it would seem that He alluded to this verse, and gave it an application stretching far beyond the millennial age. In "the lake of fire," which is "the second death" (Rev. 20: 14), there will be an eternal witness to the awful effects of sin.

Let us rejoice in the greatness of the salvation that has reached us through our Lord Jesus Christ.