Home » Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal » Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–8

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–8

One of my favorite biblical phrases from a years’ old memory is, “clear shining after rain.” It’s found in 2 Samuel 23:4, in David’s last words. It’s phrased like that in the King James and New King James:

2 Samuel 23:4 And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, Like the tender grass springing out of the earth, By clear shining after rain.’ (NKJ)

I believe this to be a prophecy of the King, the Lord, as Ruler of humankind. The feeling and images aroused by these words–the joy–are what springs to my heart as I continue in Isaiah 4:2-6. These five verses provide such a sharp contrast to the chapters preceding them, that they are like “clear shining after rain.” The entire passage from Brenton’s Septuagint reads:

Isaiah 4:2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.
3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy.
4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgement, and the spirit of burning.
5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding place from inclemency of weather and from rain. (LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Every verse in this portion connects with other portions of Scripture, many in the New Testament.

But first, whom is Isaiah addressing in this portion? Verses 3:16-4:1 appear to have been spoken in their entirety by the Lord, since they flow unbroken from verse 16, which says, “Thus saith the Lord,…” (LXE, Seputagint, Brenton). That section is all judgment against “the daughters of Sion.” (For an analysis of who these daughters may be, see Journal 7.)

In great contrast to the prior section, Isaiah 4:2-6 is a segment of restoration, not judgment. According to the Septuagint, it is addressed to (that is, written about), the remnant. This word occurs three times in two verses (that’s lots! See the text above.) For a word analysis of the “remnant”, see Journal  2 and Journal 3. In the ESV and NET, the word remnant does not appear. In verse 4:2, the ESV uses the word “survivors,” and in verse 3, the phrases, “he who is left,” and “remains.” The NET writes, “those who remain,” in verse 2, and “those remaining,” and “those left,” in verse 3. These words, “survivors,” “remains” and “left,” are lexical synonyms provided by Thayer (for all three phrases) and BDAG (for the latter two phrases). The Greek words themselves are καταλειφθὲν and ὑπολειφθὲν. (1)

No matter which version one uses, the text is clear that Isaiah here refers to a different group of people than the previous text. Verse 4 declares that the Lord will “wash away the filth” and “purge out the blood from the midst of them” with “the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning.” That is to say, the people described in Isaiah 2 and 3 have been washed away and purged out. These verses talk about the “survivors,” the “remnant,” those who are “left,” and those who “remain,” after the purging has been completed. These verses are not a prophecy of what shall happen to the unrepentant sinners, those whom Isaiah says never repent, those who choose to cling to their ways, those who never turn back to the Lord with an admission of their wrongdoing. Those people will be removed. These words are for (about) the ones who remain after that process has been completed.

Why is this important? 

I have presented a case for two distinct audiences whom Isaiah addresses or speaks about. One audience is the bulk, the majority, of the nation. The second audience is the remnant. The destruction of judgment is determined for the bulk. Repentance and cleansing are prophesied for the remnant. The alternative to this explanation is that the Lord does not mean what he says and does not say what he means.

The bulk of the text so far has described the great anger of the Lord against, as he says, “my people.” He makes statements such as the following:

Isaiah 2:20 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. LXE

Isaiah 3:25 And thy most beautiful son whom thou lovest shall fall by the sword; and your mighty men shall fall by the sword, and shall be brought low. 26 And the stores of your ornaments shall mourn, and thou shalt be left alone, and shalt be levelled with the ground.

Am I saying that if one of the wicked people with whom the Lord is so angry repents, that the Lord will not forgive them? No, of course not. But nowhere in the context of chapters 2:5 through 4:1 do we read of any of the wicked repenting. If they did, of course they would be saved. Where Isaiah 2:19-21 is quoted in the New Testament, Luke 23:30 and Revelation 6:16, repentance is also not a theme. Old Testament history bears out that in the period before the exile, the time period when Isaiah was writing, there was never a national repentance. The people were removed, the temple was destroyed, and the nation around Jerusalem flattened.

In Isaiah 4:2-6 then, as regards a national restoration, this will occur only insofar as the nation as a whole repents. How far into the future does this prophecy extend? After Isaiah wrote these words, Babylon did destroy the nation and remove its people. Afterwards, a post-exilic remnant returned, Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, Herod rebuilt that temple, Jesus prophesied its destruction (Luke 23:28-31), Jesus died and rose again for the whole world, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D., and the Jewish people were brought back by the Allied powers after the war. Has the nation as a whole repented? Not yet. However, this glorious portion of Isaiah speaks to a repentant remnant. Whether that remnant will include the entire bulk of the current or a future nation remains to be seen. Whatever happens does not change the necessity of repentance.

If the reader does not hear Isaiah speaking alternately to two different audiences, they are left to think that God is saying in 4:2-6 and throughout Isaiah, Oh, it’s okay. I know I sound angry in these chapters, but don’t worry. Everything will turn out all right in the end. You don’t have to do anything. I will cleanse all your sins and everything will be wonderful in the end.

But that’s not what Isaiah teaches. He teaches that God will cleanse the nation by removing those who persistently disobey his commandments to do good, care for the poor, remain faithful in his worship, follow his law. Those people, the bulk, will be removed, and the ones who survive that process, because they repent and look to God, have a glorious future. They are the remnant God chooses to bless.

God is not “schizophrenic,” as in that word’s popular, metaphorical usage, as one who frequently and unpredictably changes. “Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (ESV)

Learning to spot the changes of audience in Isaiah helps enormously in understanding the singular pupose of God in this book.

__________

1 The Septuagint, which is the Old Greek and its more modern counterparts, was translated from a Hebrew textual tradition that was not the Masoretic. (Yes, way back in the olden days, way back, there was more than one Hebrew textual tradition.) Most of our modern English translations follow the Masoretic. However, much of the New Testament derives its quotations from an unknown version of the Septuagint, not the Masoretic tradition of Hebrew text.

Most likely because of its translation and transmission history, the Septuagint is uneven in places. I generally don’t use it as a stand-alone Bible, but then, I don’t use most translations that way. I have a personal compulsion to check several versions for matters of interest, regardless of what I am studying. In general, though, I prefer the Septuagint for most of the Psalter and for this portion of Isaiah, as well.

Long ago, as a young Christian, I began with the NASB as my devotional and study Bible. After I discovered Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint, I noticed that the NASB often “neutered” (my own description) phrases about Christ in the Psalms. It has a tendency to obscure Old Testament passages with reference to Christ, that is, in comparison to the Septuagint. Where the Septuagint points to a definite Person, the NASB often chooses an indefinite pronoun or abstract noun. These are such general observations as to be academically useless, but I am speaking from my personal, devotional point of view. The Septuagint does not shy away from presenting Christ in the Old Testament, whereas certain modern translations do. This is why I grew to love the Septuagint and to prefer translations that remain more faithful to the original text, such as the ESV, and in former days, the King James Bible.

 


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