NOTE: My presupposition in all my reading of Scripture is that the main point is always Jesus the King. The King first, then the kingdom. There is no kingdom of God apart from the King. The King preexists before the kingdom. The kingdom exists to honor the King. Israel is not the focus of prophecy–Christ is the focus. Prophecy is not about Israel; prophecy is about Jesus Christ. Christ the King himself is infinitely larger and grander than all his kingdom. The kingdom is glorified in its current form as the body of Christ in its union with Christ, as the branches to the vine. Apart from Christ, there would be no kingdom. Words cannot describe the great love with which Christ loves his body, his people, his kingdom, for whom he died.
This material will require two posts–this one and at least one other.
Isaiah 2:5-4:1 describes the judgment of God against his people in Jerusalem and Judea. Verse 5 is transitional from the prior, much shorter section, describing God’s glory in Zion in the last days. Looking back, verse 5 indicates a call to repentance, so that the house of Jacob will be able to participate in the glory just shown. Looking forward, the same verse indicates an invitation to walk with the prophet and see what the Lord’s light will reveal. It’s interesting to think that all the judgment on display in chapters 2:6-4:1 is what God’s light reveals. That is, we usually think of God’s light revealing the good things of the Lord, including his Law, but here we see the Lord’s light revealing the sin and God’s punishment upon the sinners.
Verse 6 was covered in some detail in two prior posts: Journal 3 and Journal 4. Whereas God’s purpose was to have a holy people set aside to worship him in holiness and shine his light to the world, “his people” had disobeyed. They intermarried with nonbelievers, practiced their divinations, and bore children to these unconsecrated marital alliances. The result was that their nation, after 500 years, was indistinguishable from what it had been before their arrival. Therefore, the Lord “has forsaken his people the house of Israel,” (LXX, Brenton’s translation).
Chapters two and three continue with extensive descriptions of the people and behaviors God, through Isaiah, condemns, alongside descriptions of what he intends to do. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is reminiscent of the type of poetry these chapters of Isaiah use. Specifically, Isaiah writes lists of items, as though in a catalogue.
The first portion (vss. 7-8) calls out the silver, gold, horses, chariots, and man-made idols filling their land. In verse 9, it’s not clear if the first clause is a description of people worshiping the idols or a description of what will happen to them as God punishes. One arrives at the conclusion of non-clarity by examining the text itself and also how various translations handle it. The NET follows the first possibility and the NIV the second. Interestingly, NETS and Brenton, which both follow the Septuagint, leave the uncertainty in place. This allows the reader the opportunity to think through both possibilities and arrive at her own conclusion. What is agreed upon is that Isaiah includes all people, regardless of their wealth and social standing.
Revelation 6:15-17 reproduces Isaiah 2:10 and its immediate context, vss. 8-11. I believe that in both locations the imagery is poetically symbolic of the spiritual truth being conveyed.
Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Isaiah 2:8-11 (LXX, Brenton) And the land is filled with abominations, even the works of their hands; and they have worshipped the works which their fingers made. 9 And the mean man bowed down, and the great man was humbled: and I will not pardon them. 10 Now therefore enter ye into the rocks and hide yourselves in the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. 11 For the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
Placing this portion of Isaiah within the context of Revelation 6 causes one to marvel again at the fact that the Lord is speaking to “his people the house of Israel” in Isaiah.
Verses 12-21 repeat and expand, using different imagery, the concepts of verses 7-11. This section very much sounds like pages out of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (I searched Google and found that indeed Whitman did use Isaiah as a model.) One theme word difficult to miss is “high.” The word “high” occurs 7 times in verses 11 through 15. Verse 11 states the real truth that, “the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Following are phrases with the word “high.”
- 11 For the eyes of the Lord are high
- 12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one… that is high and towering
- 13 upon every cedar of Libanus, of them that are high and towering,
- 14 and upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill,
- 15 and upon every high tower, and upon every high wall,
Verse 12 opens with a literal statement that closes with the abstract descriptor “high and towering.” Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and haughty, and upon every one that is high and towering, and they shall be brought down; (LXX, Brenton). The literal, easily understood “proud and haughty” describes what is intended by “high and towering.” Common sense tells us that the remainder of the list is poetically symbolic. We must ask ourselves, is the Lord really resentful of the cedars that grow in Lebanon and the mighty oaks (an extremely useful and strong hardwood) that grow in Bashan? Do the heights of the mountains and hills really bother him that much? How could he in fairness to his people hold them responsible and accountable for the physical attributes of the geography surrounding them? Although one can debate concerning God’s minding the height of the towers and walls used in warfare against their enemies, common sense I believe weighs upon the reader to realize that God is poetically describing in a variety of ways the pride and haughtiness of the people who call themselves by his name. He also condemns their placing their trust in these items rather than in himself.
Other imagery that needs to be noted before moving on is that found in verse 16, “and upon every ship of the sea, and upon every display of fine ships.” Chapter 18 of Revelation, in describing the fall of Babylon, uses this same imagery in an expanded way in verses 11-19. Revelation 18:17-18 reads, “For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” (ESV). The entire chapter of Revelation 18 is written in a style very similar to that of chapters 2 and 3 of Isaiah.
Verse 17 sums up this section with a literal statement that gives the interpretation of what precedes it, “And every man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall fall: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Verse 17 is repetitious of verse 11, both stating in literal terms the poetic meaning of the images sandwiched between (an inclusio.)
Then, verses 18-21 repeat verse 10 in expanded fashion. This is also an inclusio. This term means a section that is bracketed on both sides by similar material, like a sandwich made with two slices of bread.
18 And they shall hide all idols made with hands, 19 having carried them into the caves, and into the clefts of the rocks, and into the caverns of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth.
20 For in that day a man shall cast forth his silver and gold abominations, which they made in order to worship vanities and bats; 21 to enter into the caverns of the solid rock, and into the clefts of the rocks, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. (Isaiah 2:18-21 LXE)
This section is, of course, reminiscent again of Revelation 6:15-17 (See these verses quoted above). Realizing this, the reader cannot help but wonder what time frame these “last days” (Isaiah: 2:10) refers to. Clearly, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587-86 BC, which was future to Isaiah’s writing. It was also destroyed in 70 AD. Pinning an exact time frame for “the last days” here and in Revelation 6 is exceedingly complex and beyond the scope of my understanding.
There is still quite a bit of text between this point and the next reprieve, which begins in Isaiah 4:2. Lord willing, we will continue.