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Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–11

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. (Isaiah 4:3 LXE)

{1) Gr. written for life}

Does this verse ring any Christian bells?

Even though Malachi was written some 300 years after Isaiah, Isaiah 4:3 and Malachi 3:16-18 appear to have much in common.

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.
17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.
18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (ESV)

The phrase “those who feared the LORD,” means those who respected, took seriously, honored, and were cautious not to disobey the precepts of the Lord. Proverbs 3:7 uses this phrase as one of the sources for the meaning I gave, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil,” (ESV). The portion, “turn away from evil,” also captures the latter portion of Isaiah 4:3, “they shall be called holy.” A better known verse using the word “fear” is Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight,” (ESV). But listen to the Septuagint for the same verse, Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the <1> beginning {summit} of wisdom, and the counsel of saints is understanding: for to know the law is the character of a sound mind,” (LXE). I love when Scripture interlocks with Scripture: “the counsel of saints” in Proverbs dovetails so nicely with Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel,” (LXE). One is reminded that the same author (God) wrote all four of these verses.

Although it might seem like a small point (but our God is a God of detail), the Septuagint translation notes for Proverbs 9:10, detail that the phrase, “beginning of wisdom,” is written literally as the “summit” of wisdom. This corresponds with Septuagint Isaiah 4:2, “And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel.” Looking up the Greek lexicon (dictionary) definition of “exalt,” we read, “to lift up, raise high,” (Gingrich), i.e., to the summit.

Combining and paraphrasing these five verses, Isaiah 4:2 and 4:3, Malachi 3:16, Proverbs 3:7 and 9:10, we arrive at the following understanding:

In that day, God shall shine gloriously among the remnant who fears the Lord and obeys his commands. They will excel in the good counsel of God and turn away from evil. God will take notice, and having written their names in his book, they shall be called holy.

What is this book in which God writes? What is this book with names of people who have been appointed for life? And, why will these people be called “holy?”

First, what book?

Perhaps the fullest description of “written to life,” in the Bible is Revelation 20:12-15–

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12 ESV)

But this is a stretch, isn’t it, to go from Isaiah 4:3 to Revelation 20? The Septuagint phrase, “appointed to life” is literally, “written for life,” as the footnote states, “οἱ γραφέντες εἰς ζωὴν ἐν Ιερουσαλημ (Isa 4:3 LXT).” 

But then, how do we go from “in Jerusalem” to the lake of fire at the final Great White Throne judgment? By faith is the only way. Consider these verses–

Galatians 4:25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (ESV)

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (ESV)

 Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (ESV)

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… [The omitted verses describe the physical appearance of the new Jerusalem]… 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21:2-27 ESV)

Clearly, if one accepts the presupposition (by faith) that Isaiah is a messianic prophet of enormous proportions, then the texts bind together very well. Notice that verse 27 in Revelation 21 speaks of the holiness of the residents of the new Jerusalem, “nothing unclean… nor anyone who does what is detestable or false.” Compare this with the Septuagint text of Isaiah 4:3, “…the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are <1> appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, (LXE).

But is Isaiah a messianic prophet of enormous proportions? According to several websites, Isaiah is the second most frequently cited book by New Testament authors. Psalms is the most often cited. All the Isaianic quotations found in the New Testament are referenced in the book Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament by Archer and Chirichigno. (1) Since the New Testament is predominantly about Christ, it seems fair to suggest that Isaiah is quoted so frequently due to his messianic relevance.

Nevertheless, there are also Old Testament references to God’s Book. Perhaps the earliest reference is Exodus 32:31-32–

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin– but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written,” (ESV).

Other verses include: Psalm 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and let them not be written with the righteous,” (LXE); Daniel 12:1, and Malachi 3:16 (see above).

What can be said about the holiness of those who are “appointed to life in Jerusalem?” The answer to this question lies in the subsequent verses of this blessed passage. We will consider these in a later post, Lord willing.


1 Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983, 92-134. One site with an easy graphic is: http://www.biblecharts.org/thebible/thetenoldtestamentbooksmostcitedinthenewtestament.pdf. A site that lists the number of direct quotations is: https://conservapedia.com/Most_quoted_books_in_the_Bible.

Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–1

In Isaiah 1, God speaks as a man. By that I mean he speaks in the language we use. He uses our words, and his meaning is clear.

God’s tone (verses 1-8) is the tone of one who is grieving, as a father grieves his wayward children. He speaks not as an authoritarian–not as a lofty God of might who issues decrees with thunder and lightning. His tone is pleading, almost as though he has put himself down at our level.

Nevertheless, judgment is coming, but God’s call is ever for his people to repent. God’s first-ever recorded words to Cain urged him to repent:

… And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?
7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. (Gen 4:4-8 ESV)

In response to God’s graphic description of the people’s sinfulness in verses 1-8, the first person plural voice of verse 9 acknowledges that they had sinned.

Isaiah 1:9 If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. (Isa 1:9 ESV)

Nevertheless, it is God who acts in verse 9. It is he who did not (note the past tense, as though the speaker is recording after-the-fact) completely wipe out his people, as he had done when he passed judgment on the wicked towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here is the FIRST mention in Isaiah of those whom God “left,” or spared. Here, so early in the book, Isaiah introduces this group of people whom God addresses throughout the full length of Isaiah: those who repent and remain under his wing. The other group comprises those who do not.

Still in verse 9, the verbal phrase, “had not left us,” in the Septuagint contains the root (lemma) of the Greek word for “remnant,” which Paul announces in Romans 9:27, where he quotes from Isaiah 10, a few chapters later. Then, in Romans 9:29, he quotes this verse from Isaiah. The “remnant” whom God spares from judgment play a critical role in Isaiah. The ESV calls them, “a few survivors,” again in verse 9. In the Septuagint, the Greek word for “survivors” is “seed,” which my analytical lexicon labels as singular. God left a remnant, a leftover seed, whom he did not destroy. From Paul again, we recall that Christ is Abraham’s “seed,” singular (Galatians 3:16). I surmise that here in Isaiah 1:9, the seed are the remnant of the faithful, from who Messiah comes. The other group of people, for want of a better word, I call the “bulk,” the bulk of the people. As Isaiah progresses* through the reigns of four kings, a very long time, we find that he alternately addresses each of these two groups. We will watch for that.

If we were not sure that God is angry, verse 10 makes that abundantly clear. The speaker of verse 9 says, “If…, we would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah.” But with God there is no “if.” We know that he is speaking to the “bulk” group now, because he directly addresses them as though they are Sodom and Gomorrah:

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! (Isa 1:10 ESV)

And then, in verses 11-15, God speaks in the most personal of terms about how he does not want their forms of hypocritical worship–their false obedience to his law. In 16-17, he lists what he does want: his heart seeks justice for the fatherless, the widow, and the oppressed. Sins against these are the ones God notices.

Verses 18-19 are a direct call to repentance, along with a description of the blessings which will ensue. Verse 18 speaks the FIRST promise of cleansing in the book. Verses 18-20 offer the two choices: repent and be blessed, or continue rebelling and be punished.

In tragic terms, God describes in verses 21-23 how low the once beautiful city has fallen, how mismanaged and corrupt it has become. But in verse 24, he, the “Lord” and “LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,” vows, “I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes.” This also is tragic, because verse 25 reveals that these enemies and foes are his own people. We know this from the text because he names his foes and enemies as, “you” and refers to them with the word, “your.” There is no doubt of whom God is speaking–his own people.

 24 Therefore the Lord declares, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes. 25 I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. (Isa 1:24-25 ESV)

Verse 25 reveals, however, that his intention is to purify. He continues to describe the restoration of Zion by means of justice and righteousness in verses 26-27. But the closing verses switch back again to the “rebels and sinners,” and their end in verse 31 sounds a lot like hell. This causes the reader to go back and reread vs. 24-25, where the likelihood emerges that the group there who receives the cleansing are the remnant, while the rest of the chapter describes the bulk who will be destroyed.


I was first struck by the love of God and how he makes himself so accessible. His heart is that his people should repent and receive his blessing. Nevertheless, he, as the Sovereign Lord, judges wickedness. He will have none of it. But the pleading for repentance is strong here, as throughout the rest of the book. It is not God’s desire that any should perish.

As I read the descriptions of those who displease God, I could not help but think of our own country, America, right now, especially as we travel through this election season. As I look around the dark landscape our country has become, it seems as though Isaiah’s words directly describe us as a nation. How tragic that is. And what about the church? Is God wholly pleased with us?

Personally, the sins of my life are scarlet. In meditation, I rehearse these sins before the Lord. My only hope is that I will be one of the ones who continuously turns to God in confession and repentance. I am assured that God has loved me in the past, and if I remain humble and dependent upon him for my cleansing, I am sure he will love me to the end. Lord, help me to do my part. Lord, may it be so.


* It is true, this is not the first time I have read or studied Isaiah. I studied it many years ago, and discovered the concept of the remnant at that time. What is a surprise to me here, is that the remnant is named as early as v. 9 of chapter 1.


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