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Isaiah 24 Link to LXE Modernized
Give Allegiance to the King Who Wins
It’s easy to get lost in the details of Isaiah 24. But the main point is clear. The reason God gives this word to Isaiah is to give all people everywhere warning of the final outcome of everything. The chapter is a call for all peoples to give their allegiance to the King who wins.
An Amazing Chapter
Isaiah 24 is an amazing chapter. He summarizes his entire message to this point. This chapter especially summarizes his message from chapter 13 forward. It also serves as an introduction to the more detailed messianic portions later in the book. The vista of Isaiah 24 is enormous. His vision stretches to the end of time. This is the first lengthy eschatological (end times) passage in the book. He also zooms in on the “church age.”
Isaiah has already written against: the northern tribes of Israel (Isaiah 10), Babylon (13), Assyria (14), Philistia (14), Moab (15), Damascus (17), Cush (18), Egypt (19), Arabia (21), Jerusalem (22), and Tyre (23). If those to whom Isaiah prophesies are not yet certain of their loyalties, he speaks against the whole world in Isaiah 24.
Behold, the Lord is about to lay waste the world, and will make it desolate, and will lay bare its surface, and scatter them that dwell therein. (Isaiah 24:1, CAB*, LXE)
Further, the prophet foretells of Messiah the King.
14 The people shout for joy. From the west they praise the greatness of the Lord. 15 People in the east, praise the Lord. People in the islands of the sea, praise the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 16a We hear songs from every part of the earth. These songs praise God, the Righteous One… 23 The moon will be embarrassed. The sun will be ashamed. This will happen because the Lord of heaven’s armies will rule as king on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s leaders will see his greatness. (ICB**)
The prophet makes clear that there is no place other than the Lord for anyone to hide. Isaiah intends his listeners to make a choice. Will they look to themselves or their pagan neighbors for help? Because all these get destroyed. Or, will they turn and give their allegiance to the King who wins?
An Eschatological Judgment Passage
How do we know this is an eschatological, or end times, passage?
I. The vocabulary (LXE, English Septuagint))
First, the vocabulary Isaiah chooses indicates totality of place–everywhere.
- world – 2 times in 23 verses
- earth – 17 times in 23 verses
Second, the vocabulary indicates totality of destruction–total.
- verses 1-4 – lay waste, make desolate, lay bare the surface, completely laid waste, utterly spoiled, ruined
- verse 20 – shall fall, not able to rise
Third, the vocabulary indicates totality of object–all people.
- verse 2 – neither wealth nor position can save
- verses 17-18 – fear, a pit, and a snare for everyone–no escape
Finally, the phrase “everlasting covenant” in Isaiah 24:5 most likely refers to a covenant God made with all humankind, rather than to one of those he made with Israel alone. An example of an everlasting covenant would be the one God made with Noah after the flood. Another example would be the law of God written in the hearts of all believers (Romans 2:14-16).
2. Forceful verses
1 Behold, the Lord is about to lay waste the world, and will make it desolate, and will lay bare its surface, and scatter them that dwell therein.
18b for windows have been opened in heaven, and the foundations of the earth shall be shaken, 19 the earth shall be utterly confounded, and the earth shall be completely perplexed. 20 It reels as a drunkard and one oppressed with wine, and the earth shall be shaken as a storehouse of fruits; for iniquity has prevailed upon it, and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise.
Verse 19, just quoted, sounds the death knell for all the wickedness of the world. The words, “and it shall fall, and shall not be able to rise,” are definitively final. One day there will be an end. The waves of the sea will cease crashing, and God will usher in the restful salvation of eternity. The old, wicked, sinful earth will never rise again.
An Eschatological Messianic Passage
Isaiah is always about Messiah. Mention of him is never very far away. There are two sets of messianic verses.
Verses 14b to 16a
14a these shall cry aloud; 14b and they that are left on the land shall rejoice together in the glory of the Lord; the water of the sea shall be troubled. 15 Therefore shall the glory of the Lord be in the isles of the sea; the name of the Lord shall be glorious. 16a O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly; 16b but they shall say, Woe to the despisers, that abhor the law.
First, a simple question: why switch subjects in the middle of a verse? The prior section (ending with verse 13) concerned judgment of the world, but this messianic passage begins with verse 14b? Why not 14a? A simple answer: verse numbers are a later addition. And Isaiah often switches topics suddenly, abruptly.
Second, it’s not clear in verse 14 if the words, “these shall cry aloud,” refer backward, or forward. Should this phrase be interpreted as the painful cry of those who have been stripped away? Or, should it be interpreted as the joyful cry of the remnant? The lexical meaning of the word “cry aloud” could work either way.
The switch in verse 16 seems clearer. Notice, however, that the Masoretic text of Isaiah 24:16b reads first person “I” rather than “they” in the Septuagint. That’s not an important difference, however. Clearly, there are two groups referred to in this verse–the joyful godly and the desperate deniers of God’s law.
How is this passage messianic?
First, it speaks of a “remnant.” The remnant in Isaiah are the faithful few who cling to God no matter what. And eventually, Messiah is born to Israel. That is where the New Testament begins. Only a faithful few received him (John 1:11-12).
Second, the phrase in this context, “the glory of the Lord” is messianic. Old Testament Israel expected a glorious deliverer. The book of Isaiah is a main reason why this was so.
Next, the “isles of the sea” in Septuagint Isaiah is a phrase with special reference to Gentiles. This is its first occurrence. But we can look ahead and see several other times Septuagint Isaiah uses this phrase to refer to Gentiles. This mention of the Gentiles “nations” in Septuagint Isaiah is one reason I love it.
Isaiah 49:1 Hearken to Me, you islands; and attend, you Gentiles; after a long time it shall come to pass, says the Lord; from my mother’s womb He has called my name; (Septuagint)
Isaiah 51:4 Hear Me, hear Me, My people; and you kings, hearken to Me; for a law shall proceed from Me, and My judgment shall be for a light of the nations. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and My salvation shall go forth as light, and on My arm shall the Gentiles trust; the isles shall wait for Me, and on My arm shall they trust. (CAB, LXE)
19 And I will leave a sign upon them, and I will send forth them that have escaped of them to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, Lud, Mosoch, and to Tubal, and to Greece, and to the isles afar off, to those who have not heard of My name, nor seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. (CAB, LXE) [This verse describes the actions of the apostles and their missionary journeys, especially those of Paul.]
Finally, the phrase the “ends of the earth” makes reference to all nations on earth.
Sidebar: a long shot interpretation
It’s tempting to read history back into Isaiah’s prophecies. In 70 CE, Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed by the Romans. The Christians there scattered, and took the gospel with them. The Jewish temple and its sacrifices were destroyed and haven’t been restored to this day.
It may be possible that verse 13 refers to this very special moment in Israel’s history, its moment of “final” judgment.
Isaiah 24:13 All this shall be in the land in the midst of the nations, as if one should strip an olive tree, so shall they strip them; but when the vintage is done, 14 these shall cry aloud; and they that are left on the land shall rejoice together in the glory of the Lord; the water of the sea shall be troubled. 15 Therefore shall the glory of the Lord be in the isles of the sea; the name of the Lord shall be glorious. 16 O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly;
First, Israel in Isaiah’s day certainly existed in “the midst of the nations.” Chapters 13-23 describe some of these. Second, Old Testament Scripture sometimes refers to Israel as an olive tree (Psalm 52:8; Isaiah 17:6; Jeremiah 11:16).
Second, many Christians believe and think of themselves as the “remnant.” In the Apostles’ day, the remnant was the small number of Jewish believers who received Christ as their Messiah. Paul speaks of such a remnant in Romans 9:27 and 11:5. This remnant certainly rejoiced in “the glory of the Lord.” They experienced his resurrection. And their joy did not diminish after Jerusalem was destroyed, as an olive tree that had been stripped of all its fruit. The first disciples went out as far west as Greece, Rome, and Spain spreading the name and glory of the Lord. The new Christian converts could certainly say with Isaiah in verse 16, “O Lord God of Israel, from the ends of the earth we have heard wonderful things, and there is hope for the godly;”
Finally, the phrase in verse 14, “the water of the sea shall be troubled,” may remind readers of the passage in which Jesus healed the paralyzed man beside the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9. Verse 7 refers to the water being “stirred up.” This is the identical word in Greek as Isaiah uses in verse 16. In John’s gospel, the first person to enter the pool after the water had been stirred would be healed. This implies a divine presence moving the water. Could this be the case in verse 14?
In verse 14, “the water of the sea shall be troubled.” The sea, as previously established, is where the “isles” are. They are the nations of the Gentiles. The first missionaries, the apostles and disciples, went out to these nations of the world after the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit of God went with them, stirring the waters in preparation for the healing of spirit and new life. This would be the same Spirit that hovered over the dark waters before God created light. Such was the Spirit who hovered over the darkened souls of the Gentile nations, the isles, before the Word brought them light.
A Second Messianic Passage: Verses 21-23
To Be Continued
* Complete Apostle’s Bible, a modernized version of Brenton’s Septuagint.
** International Children’s Bible, New Century Version.