RPM, Volume 15, Number 37, September 8 to September 14, 2013

The Big Picture in Isaiah

Isaiah 2:2-5

By D. Marion Clark


I felt this morning like I was on The Hulk roller coaster that shoots you forth and never slows up until you come to the end. We will try to slow down a bit this evening, keeping with the book of Isaiah.

There are two primary commentators I use in my studies of Isaiah — E. J. Young and Alec Motyer. Motyer is especially useful in putting forth a structure to the book. He divides Isaiah into three parts according to the manner in which the Messiah is portrayed. Chapters 1-37 portray him as the King; chapters 38-55 depict him the Servant; and chapters 56-66 as the Anointed Conqueror.

He points out that in each section that the Messianic representations embrace equally Israel and the Gentile nations, starting with the restoration of Israel and then including the nations. We are going to explore that concept this evening. We are not so much interested in the designations of King, Servant, and Anointed Conqueror, as we are in relation between Israel and the nations.

The King

Chapter 1:26-27 is the first passage that presents a restored Israel as represented by Jerusalem:

26 I will restore your judges as in days of old,
your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you will be called
the City of Righteousness,
the Faithful City.&
27 Zion will be redeemed with justice,
her penitent ones with righteousness.

That is soon followed by the procession of the nations to the city in chapter 2:
2 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
&Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.&
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore (2-4).

In chapter 9 a child is born who will reign on David's throne and establish the kingdom in righteousness:
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

Chapter 11 reveals that this king will be a banner for the nations:
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
12 He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.

The Servant

Turn to chapter 48:20ff:
20 Leave Babylon,
flee from the Babylonians!
Announce this with shouts of joy
and proclaim it.
Send it out to the ends of the earth;
say, &The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.&
21 They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split the rock
and water gushed out.

Here we have the redemption of Israel from exile. But Isaiah goes on to make clear that the redemption is far greater than the deliverance of Judah from Babylon. It is a redemption for all the nations.
5 And now the LORD says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD
and my God has been my strength—
6 he says:
&It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth& (Isaiah 49:5-6).

The Redeemer, the Servant of God, will redeem not only the covenant people of God, but also become a light of salvation for the nations.

The atoning work of the Messiah depicted in chapter 53 is for both Israel and the nations.

Chapter 54 presents the redemption of Israel:
5 For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The LORD will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,& says your God.
7 &For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
8 In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,&
says the LORD your Redeemer (54:5-8).

Chapter 55 presents the redemption for the nations:
3 Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor (55:3-5).

The Anointed Conqueror

The third section continues to present the theme of redemption and restoration to both Israel and the nations.
20 &The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,&
declares the LORD.
21 &As for me, this is my covenant with them,& says the LORD. &My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,& says the LORD.

Here we have the Redeemer coming to Israel restoring her to an everlasting covenant. The following verses of chapter 60 break forth into praise for the light of redemption that will then become a beacon for the nations:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

And then we are given the final vision of both the inclusion of the nations and the missionary work of God's people to bring them in.

Isaiah 66:18-23:
18 &And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.
19 &I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations—to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. 20 And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,& says the LORD. &They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels. 21 And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,& says the LORD.
22 &As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,& declares the LORD, &so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,& says the LORD.


Why go to other nations when there is so much need here? Because God desires worshippers from every nation. He is not merely after numbers. He wants people from every people-group and every tongue. The theme of Isaiah is God's glory revealed through his redemption. He intends for his glory to be revealed to all the earth through the redemption that covers the earth.

Why force other peoples to leave their religions? Isn't the religion of a people essential to the make-up of that people group? Take away their religion and the people lose their distinctiveness. From God's perspective there are no other gods. He alone is to be worshipped in truth. (45:20-25)
20 &Gather together and come;
assemble, you fugitives from the nations
. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
who pray to gods that cannot save.
21 Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no God apart from me,,br> a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.

22 &Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
24 They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone
are righteousness and strength.'&
All who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame.
25 But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel,
will be found righteous and will exult.

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