- A Key to Self-Improvement (20 Aug 2021)
There is at the start of this chapter a contrasting between the truly righteous and the self-righteous (or those that put on airs of righteousness, but who are not truly righteous). The distinction is laid out as such:
…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.verse 2
Of the other, the Lord says:
Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations… when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.verses 3 & 4
Verses 5 and 6 read like this:
Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompence to his enemies.
If I put myself in the shoes of the one who trembles at the word of the Lord, why would there be those of my brethren who would be ashamed when I rejoice in the appearance of my Lord? For it their Lord, too. Could one hope to be saved, and not expect the same or greater blessing for those around them?
This morning at the early hour of 5am, I have read the whole of the chapter. I had been struggling to make sense of it all, but this morning it all sits fairly clear in my mind what Isaiah is talking about. And what is he talking about in this chapter?
- The Savior’s Second Coming (the whole of the chapter)
- The restoration of Jerusalem and the house of Israel (vs. 10 -14)
- The appearance of Zion within a day (vs. 7-9)
- The humble and the contrite that will be there to meet their Lord (vs. 1-2, 5)
- The destruction of the wicked (vs. 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 14-18, 24)
- The new heaven and earth that will remain forever, and the promise that the seed of the righteous shall also remain. (vs. 22)
- All will come to worship the Lord (vs. 23)
This is where the prophets stop. What actually happens during the Millennium is far less documented than what is happening leading up to the Millennium, culminating in the Messiah’s return in the Second Coming. This is where Isaiah stops.
The rejection of Israel and the establishment of a Millennial Zion are juxtaposed in these verses.
In the contemplation of why God rejects Israel, there is the discovery of temptations and tendencies that are common to discipleship, and which may be experience perhaps no other way. A common critique of the Scribes and Pharisees was their ability to remove themselves from the “wicked” in their piousness. Safe in their pretended righteousness, they were not guilty of the more serious, outward transgressions of the law, and so there was plenty of ample room to wallow in the filth of their own self-righteous judgments. This is a cankered condition that can only occur among those that claim to be faithful — a subtle derailment of faith.
Verses 1 – 16 deal with the rejection of Israel and the Lord raising up another people. There is the temptation to read these verses and say “I am glad I am not that people!” However, that is the very thing that they were guilty of: “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” (vs. 5)
I cannot help but feel that I am almost as the house of Israel in most of the Lord’s condemnation towards them. I am no better than were they.
A new day, fresh eyes, and a reminder to be centered on Jesus Christ: this causes me to see where Israel fell. Israel was rejected because they first rejected Christ. Being realigned to focus again on the message of Jesus Christ, this chapter becomes infinitely more comprehensible. Israel would not be subjected to their God, who is Christ. They would rather prepare feasts for idols, gods of some other form, than to worship the true and living God. (see vs. 11 plus footnotes)
Starting in verse 13, the Lord begins to make reference to a people that do believe in Him. He calls them his servants and contrasts their blessed state with the house of Israel’s forsaken state.
- Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry:
- behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty:
- behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed:
- Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.
Why does a knowledge of a Millennium benefit me today?
Things continue to grow in the Millennium. The reality is that Christ, and a knowledge of Christ is what makes the Millennium possible. The fruits of a Millennial lifestyle shall be the same as they can be now if my life is centered on Jesus Christ, right here and now. So what is the difference. Growth goes uninterrupted. It’s expedited.
(To be continued tomorrow. Still looking for the answers as to why this is important in a per-Millennial state.)
At the start of my morning, I have a handful of questions that I am wrestling with this morning as it pertains to agency and the Millennium and opposition:
- Does opposition go away in the millennium?
- At what point does true growth start?
We know that when Christ comes again, the knowledge of Him will fill the earth. Satan will be bound however because of the righteousness of the Saints, because a people will be actively choosing to believe in Christ. But in the Millennial Day, there will be those that are growing up without the opposition of the world as we now know it, without the temptations and evil influences of the adversary that surround us on all sides.
The biggest question that is sitting in my mind this morning is this:
- Is opposition requisite for spiritual growth?
- How does agency work in the Millennium?
- How do we grow?
- What does opposition look like when we are all choosing to do right?
- How does faith in Christ change?
Answers (from prayer):
- Agency works the same, and is not taken away during the Millennium.
- Growth may look something like this: knowledge of Christ fills the earth. So our starting point in our growth process is in good soil.
- There is a new world and a new heaven. Memories of this older world are mostly lost and forgotten. But those that are faithful transition from the old to the new.
- Just as an apostle is not void from the experiences of mortality because of their faith, there will still be opportunity to grow and learn.
- Though here is where I get stuck: we will still need to work. Hard work will not be done away with. But pain, sickness, disease, sorrows, suffering: these things are done away with because of Christ.
- Faith in Christ is still required. Healthy trees grow in fertile ground.
Yet, I feel that I am more questions than answers still even after prayer.
There are several verses from this chapter that are already familiar to me:
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.Verse 4
But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.Verse 8
Isaiah offers this chapter as a prayer of the Saints, who are anticipating the Second Coming of the Lord. From the perspective of a praying saint, there is humility and contrition in these words; an acknowledgement of man’s absolute dependence upon God.
I have spent another morning reading these verses. I find deeper meaning in these verses this morning, especially understanding the perspective from which Isaiah is taking. We are the clay in the hands of the potter. What a powerful image is this. Hands dirty, interactive, molding, shaping, guiding us into better things than what we would otherwise become.
I am spending another day with this chapter, because there is more here. This is a prayer and at no point in this prayer does Isaiah take license to put a saint in any where on the spectrum of discipleship except at the very beginning of the path. “We all are as the unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses as filthy rags.” Only when talking to God about God does Isaiah acknowledge any goodness at all.
This is a very interesting and compelling position to take; A very uncomfortable position to take; and yet a very right or correct position to look at humanity.
“And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee:”
A Terrible Thing
In verse 3 there is a reference to “terrible things” which the Lord will do before his Second Coming. Moses, in Exodus 34 also makes reference to “a terrible thing”. Though the Spanish translation on Exodus, changes the word “terrible” to “amazing” (cosa asombrosa).
Isaiah goes on to qualify it as something “which we looked not for”. I suspect then that this is something that hasn’t been articulated elsewhere in scripture, nor may not be spelled anywhere, until it happens.
In close association with these “terrible things” is the flowing down of the mountains. It is mentioned in the prayer that is put up in verse 1. It is again mentioned in verse 3.
Thought it is hardly noted in this study, my journal entries and prayers that have happened during this same time period capture more fully the impact of this particular chapter on me. This chapter has been for me one of the most transformative chapters yet experienced in Isaiah. Things are not as they seem.
Chapter 63 starts with some bold statements about the Lord and his vengeance. The wicked will be destroyed. Just like the destruction of squash bugs in the garden. In one evening, they are gathered together, thrown into the fire.
It is helpful for me to keep perspective in what this day of vengeance is and is not. My first read of these verse brought images to mind of mass destruction, total annihilation, absolute eradication of the wicked. And perhaps it may be such a visual scene. But knowing that death is not the end, and that there is more to our existence than this mortal probation, no one is being absolutely done away with forever. The words that Isaiah uses to describe the Lord’s vengeance have to do with more of a reset, a leveling effect, abasing the proud, and causing the wicked to reconsider the priorities of their approach. Granted, some may have to do that in the next life.
But this is not what we preach from the pulpits, thought there is ample evidence of day of vengeance at the end of times. What do we preach then? Verse 7 gives us the answer: “I will mention the lovingkindness of the Lord.”
In yesterday’s study, verses 1-6 were referenced in connection with the Second Coming.
In verse 8, the Lord states: “Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.”
The remainder of the chapter has reference to a people not the direct lineage of Abraham, but of others that would follow Christ and have the Father to be their God. These stand out from the traditional house of Israel because among them there is no compulsion. This is a people who voluntarily want the Lord to be their God. Verses 15 and 16, and verses 17-19 are both suggesting this same idea to me. For example:
Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not:Verse 16
We (Saints; outside the House of Israel direct lineage) are thine: thou( God the Father ) never barest rule over them( The blood lineage of the House of Israel ); they(the same blood lineage of the house of Israel) were not called by thy name.Verse 19
In verse 2, on the first day that I studied this chapter, I went down this side study on the footnote for “name”.
Reading this, causes me to realize that there is much more at play here than what our present “reality” would have me to believe. These are realities however that are only discovered by the faithful.
Verse 1 starts with this declaration of the Lord: That for the sake of both Zion and Jerusalem, he will not rest or hold back until the righteousness of these cities goes forth as brightness before all people.
This begs me to consider what is righteousness? How will it become so clear to the rest of the world that kings and nations will come recognize it by its righteousness? Rigtheousness is nothing less that the principles of the Gospel of Christ as He taught them to be. The Church has a singular mission in all the modern world of seeing that nothing is held back. Verses 6 & 7 repeat this sentiment:
- I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night:
- ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence,
- And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
I also appreciate the long-term view that these verses present about our time and day. The exaltation of Zion and Jerusalem are the end goals here. Only the teaching and preaching of the Gospel of Christ will get Zion and Jerusalem to their appointed destination. This helps me to see that it may be a lifetime of service that I am called upon to render to assist the Lord in achieving these ends. It will be a great work, indeed, to see Jerusalem eventually awaken to the terms of righteousness. Not in the pretended piousness of generations that have struggled in vain, but to be truly converted to the Lord — can this ever be achieved?
I cannot help but feel that these verses are directed at me in some small way. The principles discussed herein resonate so deeply with me. A restorer of paths to dwell in, the riches of the gentiles shall be mine, a double portion for my shame. “I will direct their work in truth.”
The first two verses of this chapter are clearly talking about Christ, and the Lord controversially declares such in Luke 4:18-19. These verses are of particular interest to me because of the picture of Christ that they paint, especially as I am striving to assimilate myself to Him.
Breaking verses 1 & 2 down, line by line:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me.” The Holy Ghost comes upon the Messiah. Why? “Because the Lord hath anointed me.”
What does it mean to be anointed? The common thought behind the term is to have an oil applied to the body for the purpose of a blessing or setting apart. Several references in the Old Testament connect the word “anointing” with this setting apart to a new office.
At what point did the Father (the Lord) anoint His Son (Christ) and to what purpose? There appears to be no ready answer to the first question, but his purpose is clear: “to preach good tidings unto the meek.” Remember that the meek are those found in company with the lowly of heart. They are not the weak, but rather those that are willing to let God take the lead in their lives. This is in part what makes them able to receive good tidings, while others would hear only condemnation in the words of truth.
Also in verse 1, Christ comes to deliver those that find themselves in progressively harder straits. First the meek, then the brokenhearted, followed by the captives (probably innocent), and then finally those bound in prison (perhaps the guilty). Christ can strengthen them all. There is no one too far gone.
In verse 2, Isaiah says Christ is come to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Why the time frame of a year? And what is “the acceptable year of the Lord?” What are we talking about? Is this not a reference to the millennial reign of Christ? I feel yes. And then what is the day of the vengeance of our God? And why does the proclamation of both the “acceptable year” and the “day of vengeance” bring comfort to those that mourn? Perhaps because presently neither is our reality. Those that mourn because of current life circumstances and the injustices and inequities that surround us, may be comforted by the reality of what is to come.
But then in Verse 3, wow! Trees of righteousness is what he calls those that are blessed by him. I much appreciate the connection presented in this chapter between Christ and his saints. Christ’s mission is defined in the opening verse. The saints of God, these trees of righteousness, have distinct but very exciting responsibilities as well.
- They shall build the old waste
- They shall raise up former desolations
- They shall repair the waste cities: the desolations of many generations.
The bulk of this chapter has a very descriptive prophecy of the circumstances surrounding these “trees of righteousness”. Beyond having specific missions defined, we read that “strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.” Is there a spiritual significance to these passages? Are we talking about a migrant work force on who’s back the prosperity of the Gentiles is built? Or are we talking about the scatter branches of Israel coming in to Ephraim to feed the flock of God?
Reading through the blessings detailed in these verse
As I am sitting contemplating the end of this chapter, it strikes me that there will be righteous acknowledgement and praise of Christ the Lord. He will be adorn with his jewels, his saints. Notwithstanding the day of vengeance, there will be no condemnation, rather simply the plant will produce its fruits before all nations. And what will happen? It will be blessing to all nations, a reason to rejoice. Christ will have proven to be the generous victor over all that was oppression. The end is glorious!
What are the actionable items that I can take away from this chapter. I feel like in part, this blessing is mine. But another part, especially as I look at my children, lost in the confusion of sin (and feeling completely incapable of navigating this world of faith within my family), can see that these blessings are not mine in the generational sense. It is verse 9 that I am not yet realizing in my own home. “All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the offspring which the Lord has blessed.”
(A couple of side notes from a study last evening: Lehi does a generational jump in obtaining this blessing for the posterity of his two oldest sons. He cannot protect them from the effects of bad parenting, and tells his grandchildren as much. Alma, Enos, and others prayed that their children would be “brought to a knowledge of the truth.” )
(This morning in prayer I was tasked with the assignment to write a description of the city of Zion. Then I came to realize that this is what I am studying presently.)
This chapter starts with a command to “Arise, Shine” but the source of the light that we are to shine is from the Lord. “For thy Light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” We are to be a reflected light source then, not to carry the weight of responsibility to invent our own source of light.
This has me contemplating again how much the principle of light resonates with me personally. And why does it resonate with me? What is the Light? It is Christ, the personal and compassionate One. So the thing that attracts all the world to Israel, or Zion, is the glory of the Lord that is upon them/us. What does this look like? What does this feel like?
The abundance of many nations and the seas are brought in to Zion as a result of the attraction that is felt towards this light. Resources are gathered in abundance.
The gates of Zion will be continually open, both day and night, and this that the forces of the Gentiles maybe brought into it. The Hebrew translation suggests “wealth” in place of “forces”. There are a lot of questions here that I am not asking. See also Revelation 21:23–26.
The glory of the Lord will be upon the City of Zion so that there will be no night. (When will people sleep?) Why does Zion become the center of material goods and wealth? Because Zion knows how to distribute resources to where they are needed. This is the welfare program applied to a global economy!
Zion won’t produce garbage. Because they will not be concerned with money (so long lucifer!), the quality of the output will not be influenced by a “bottom line.”
The remainder of this description of Zion talks about it being brought up under the nurture of the Gentiles, but that Zion will know that is the Lord that leads them. (See vs. 16) Interesting features make Zion stand out or apart: A land where violence is far away from it. A city that is hid from the sun and moon because is is self-light by the everlasting light of the Lord. All found within Zion will understand and live righteously. It will start small, but grow from a small one to a thousand! The Lord will hasten this work in its time.
How then would I describe Zion? (This feels like the wrong question. I either need to get to this study earlier in the day, or figure out what the right questions are to understand this chapter. )
Here’s a better question: What does this chapter teach me about hope in Christ? How does this chapter increase my hope in Christ?
(Go study about Hope!)