Chapter 1: Isaiah's Portraits of Christ
Isaiah’s name means "The Salvation of Jehovah". He has been called "The Evangelical Prophet". His prophecy has been called "The Gospel according to Isaiah". Generations of evangelists have revelled in his gospel texts and have preached the way of salvation from so many of his great visions. His book is full of Christ.
Isaiah had prophesied during the reigns of four kings of Judah. He had seen the glory and the tragedy of king Uzziah. He had lived through sixteen good years under king Jotham and sixteen years of abomination under king Ahaz. And he had lived to see the prosperity of the reign of good king Hezekiah. But through it all Isaiah had seen the glory of a greater Monarch. In several visions he had seen the King in His beauty, and his portraits of this King hang in prominence throughout the prophecy.
In recent decades the prophecy of Isaiah has commanded fresh interest. For many years, in colleges and seminaries, Isaiah had been the object of "Higher Criticism", and the theory was taught, as fact, that the book was not the work of one Isaiah. Some said that there were two Isaiahs; some said that there were more; and when it was pointed out that our Lord and His apostles recognised but one Isaiah, the blasphemy was advanced that our Lord and His apostles were but children of their day and could only speak with the knowledge available at that time. "Higher Criticism" professed greater knowledge than that!
But God, Who ever delights to use weak things to confound the mighty, was to use, in 1947, a little Arab shepherd boy to bring to light one of the greatest discoveries of our day. While minding his sheep and goats, in a district called Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea, not far from Jericho, this boy lost one of his animals. He wondered if perhaps it might have strayed into one of the many caves in the surrounding hills and into one of these caves he threw a stone. He heard something smashing and, afraid, he ran away. Later he returned with a friend and they ventured into the cave. His stone had shattered a large earthenware jar, a cylindrical vessel about two feet tall and about ten inches in diameter, with a lid. Out of this broken jar there had tumbled a roll of leathery substance. The boy took it to Bethlehem and there sold it to a shoemaker who said it would make straps for sandals. He put it up on a shelf in his small shop.
Some time later, a school-teacher happened to call into this shop, and seeing the roll on the shelf, asked if he might have a closer look. He recognised a parchment of some sort, and received permission to take it away. In the months that followed, the discovery captured the interest of scholars world-wide, until eventually it was established that here was a complete copy of the scroll of the prophet Isaiah; one complete, unbroken prophecy, dating from about two centuries before Christ. The scroll is now in a vault in "The Shrine of the Book" in Jerusalem, and is the oldest Biblical manuscript in existence.
It has for us the great value that it confirms what we have always been happy to believe, that centuries before our Lord was born, the single authorship of Isaiah was accepted, and, that when our English version of the prophecy is compared with this ancient manuscript, it requires no alterations or corrections.
Into this magnificent gallery of visions we come to admire portraits of the King; to see Him in all His beauty as Son and Servant, Shepherd and Sufferer, Sin-Bearer and Sovereign. May our appreciation be deepened, and our love for Him increased.
It was in the year that king Uzziah died that Isaiah was given the great vision of chapter 6. John says that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ, Jn.12.41. As Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up in the smoke-filled temple, how reminiscent it must all have been of king Uzziah. Jehovah had prospered Uzziah. He had ascended the throne as a boy of sixteen years, and was to be king of Judah for fifty-two years. But in pride his heart was lifted up. He presumed to function as a priest as well as a king. He coveted the holy place as well as the throne room. He aspired to the golden altar as well as to the throne. Jehovah smote him for his presumption and pride. He became a leper, unclean. Though still king, he was not permitted to occupy his throne again, and he died in leper isolation, 2Chronicles chapter 26. In the year of the death of king Uzziah, Isaiah says, "I saw the Lord". Adonai lives on in abiding glory, when the glory of earthly kings wanes. "High and lifted up," and with every right so to be. If Uzziah was "lifted up" 2Chr.26.16, it was in pride and vanity. Christ is lifted up in regal, royal splendour which is His due. "And His train filled, the temple." The glory of His kingly robes fills the holy place. Are these the robes which He laid aside when He came amongst us? Are these the garments which He exchanged for swaddling bands? How foolish does our striving for place appear when we think of His condescension. Of course, He left none of His personal glory when He came to earth. He never ceased to be what He had always been, but, as on another occasion He rose from supper and laid aside His garments, so we remember, that He Whose train filled the temple came into our world as a dependent Infant, vacating His seat in the glory to lie in a manger in Bethlehem. Others wrapped Him in swaddling clothes; He wrapped Himself in a slave’s apron. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus …" Phil.2.5.
Seraphim stood above Him. The holy ones were His attendants. Later, in Mark chapter 1, angels would become His deacons in the wilderness. Here they are His ministers in glory. In holy obeisance, reverence, and obedience, they do His bidding; and even in those days of incomplete revelation to men there are intimations here of the great Tri-Unity of Divine Persons, to Whom the seraphim cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy" in three-fold awe. The foundations of the thresholds of the house shook at the voice, and the house was filled with smoke. Uzziah had stood in the sanctuary which oft was filled with incense. But he was there without right, and it was there that he came under judgment. The Christ of Isaiah chapter 6 is the Christ Whose glory is the very incense of the heavens. Later, we shall read again, "The house was filled …"Jn.12.3, but this time with the fragrance of worship from a redeemed, adoring heart. The perfume of Mary’s appreciation fills the house in Bethany as once the heavenly house was filled with smoke. Isaiah feels his unworthiness in the awful Presence. "Woe is me! … undone … unclean" v.5. He feels as leprous as Uzziah in the sanctuary. The sight of the King, the Lord of Hosts, Jehovah Tsebaoth, has humbled him. So has it been with us. Seeing Him, we see ourselves. The revelation of His glory to us is the revelation to us of our own vile state by nature. But there is an altar, and from this altar comes the expiation of our sins, and the taking away of our iniquity.
So purged we stand in the same Presence and hear the call "Whom shall I send?" "Who will go for us?" May we have grace and courage to respond and say, "Here am I, send me" v.8. May we be willing, as Isaiah, to be ambassadors of the King in the midst of rebellion and anarchy. May the sound of His voice, the sight of His glory, and the remembrance of His cross, be our commission to live for Him here, His representatives until He comes.
In what simplicity of language is the most profound truth of Holy Scripture often expressed! The simple beauty of Isa.9.6 is a sublime example. Here we have the deepest, richest thoughts so easily conveyed to us. With inspired skill the prophet cuts the facets of this priceless solitaire, until there flashes forth rays of Messianic glory. The beams of light come from every direction; from the eternal past of a Divine Son Who had no beginning, and from the future glory of a millennium which is yet to be; from Bethlehem with its swaddling clothes, and from the heavens where the Father of Eternity sits enthroned. The pages are gilded with the glory of His Person. The details are exquisite.
A Child Is Born
Every birth, and every child, is a story of miracle and mystery, but this one more than any other. This child is mothered by a virgin. He lies in peace in her arms but yet is the God Who neither slumbers nor sleeps. She gives Him sustenance, but He sustains the universe. She wraps Him in swaddling clothes, He Who once wrapped creation in swaddling bands of darkness, Job chapter 38. He has become an Infant of days but has not ceased to be the Ancient of Days. A Child is born indeed, but this is the incarnation of God Himself. The Word became flesh, to tabernacle among us.
A Son Is Given
The Son of the Father becomes the Son of Mary. There is no beginning to His Divine Sonship. And in this Sonship there is no inferiority. Indeed the Jews recognised that sonship was equality, "making Himself equal with God" Jn.5.18. The first mention of love in our Bible is the love of a father for his son, Gen.22.2. "The Father loveth the Son" Jn.5.20. But the Lord Jesus said, "The Father Himself loveth you" Jn.16.27. This was the love that gave the Son; to us, and for us. He spared not His Son. He so loved that He gave. Abraham may have had other sons, but he had only one Isaac. Others may be called "sons of God," as Adam, Lk.3.38; as angels, Job 38.7; as the saints, Gal.3.26. There is but one "Only Begotten"; His Beloved One was given for us.
The Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulder
From the manger, the prophet moves immediately to the millennial throne. Our Lord will carry, on the strength of His shoulder, the weight of government that has proved too much for man. Innocent Adam staggered under this responsibility in Eden, and fell. It was entrusted to Noah in a new earth, and he failed. From the Babylonian confusion that ensued God called out a man and a nation, to invest responsibility in that nation. This too failed, and the nation was eventually taken into captivity in Babylon. Governmental authority was committed to Gentiles. But the head of gold degenerated. It will yet deteriorate, to become an unreliable alloy of iron and clay, and the whole thing will be shattered at the return of Messiah. Then will He carry upon His shoulder the weight which has been too much for men and nations, for kings and parliaments, and that Scripture will be fulfilled, "He shall bear the glory" Zech.6.13.
His Name Shall Be Called …
How often do we read of His name! "Thou shalt call His name Jesus;" "They shall call His name Emmanuel;" "A name above every name;" "His name is as ointment poured forth;" "In His name shall the Gentiles trust;" "His name shall be upon their foreheads."
In Judges chapter 13, Manoah, father of Samson, conversed with a heavenly Visitor. As the conversation draws to a close Manoah asks, "What is thy name …?" "How it it that thou askest after My name," replies the Angel, "seeing it is Wonderful?" J.N.D., vv.17,18. Beyond human comprehension! Passing knowledge! Greater than our intellect! The Wonder of His name is the Wonder of His Person. Yet in equally wondrous grace He became "Jesus of Nazareth". He Who visited Manoah has dwelt among us, a Man amongst men, His Divine name "Secret"; His human name "Jesus".
Our Lord counselled on every truth of relevance to men. Such is the greatness of His counsel that building upon it is like building on rock, Matt.7.24. He expounded on sin, salvation, and service; on time and eternity; on truth and testimony; on faith and fidelity; on hyprocrisy and on apostasy. He ministered comfort and rebuke. He built up what was real, and He pulled down what was false. His words were instructive, and constructive, and, if necessary, destructive. His hearers were in endless variety. There were Pharisees and Sadducees; priests and publicans; doctors and lawyers; scribes and soldiers; princes and peasants; kings and governors; rulers and Rabbis; Jews and Gentiles. He distinguished, yet made no difference. He was impartial and imperative and never impatient. It is not surprising that some would like to read here, "Wonderful Counsellor!" He was that, but "Wonderful" in the text is a noun, not an adjective, and so we must leave it.
That Messiah should be a Divine Person has never been understood by the Rabbis, who did not see a plurality of Persons in the Godhead. Our Lord asked them, "What think ye of Christ (i.e. of Messiah) whose Son is He?" They could see that He was David’s Son, of the tribe of Judah, but that He should also be David’s Lord confused them. Our Lord showed them clearly, to their embarrassment, from Psalm 110, that Messiah was not only the Offspring of David, but the Root of David too. He Who became David’s Son, is, as the Jews say, "El Gibber," The Mighty God.
He is the Father of the ages; Father of eternity from Whom all the cycles of time emanate, and in Whom they are planned. Some think however, that perhaps we should leave the text as it is, and that we are to understand everlasting Fatherly care, protection, and provision, in our Lord Jesus. Everlastingly there is, in Him, all the affection and feelings of a Father’s heart towards His own. He careth for you.
Prince of Peace
This is, of course, the lovely word "Shalom". He is the Prince of Shalom. When He came, the angels said, "Peace on Earth". Shalom! To many, during His gracious ministry, He said, "Go in peace". Shalom! At Golgotha, peace was made by the blood of His cross, Shalom! Risen from the dead, He stood in the midst of His own and said, "Peace unto you". Shalom! One day He will reign. The word "Shalom" implies prosperity and well-being. All this will He bring to earth when He comes to the throne. We who know Him enjoy it spiritually now. Shalom!
Isaiah is not the only Old Testament prophet to portray our Lord as the Branch. Jeremiah and Zechariah are also familiar with this title of Messiah. The Hebrew word is "Netzar," and some have imagined a connection with "Nazarene". This is perhaps strained, but it is an interesting suggestion.
The early verses of Isaiah chapter 11 are reminiscent of the golden lampstand of the tabernacle and the temple. That lampstand had a central stem with six branches: three pairs of branches adorned the centre stem in beautiful symmetry, and this lovely theme is repeated in Isaiah chapter 11, as we shall see.
There is a sharp and striking contrast here with the closing verses of chapter 10. There the Assyrians, the enemies of Israel, are described as a haughty forest of high trees. But they are cut down by Jehovah, and there they lie. The house of David has become like a felled tree also, and note that particular reference to the stump of "Jesse," who was of course, David’s father. The house of David had been reduced to its original Bethlehem insignificance, but a glorious thing is about to happen. While the forest thickets of the Gentiles lie as they have been felled, there springs a fresh green shoot or twig out of the stock of Jesse. A tender plant indeed, out of the parched ground of Israel; a Branch out of the roots to bear fruit for the pleasure of Jehovah. The tenderness of a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes in Jesse’s Bethlehem. The gentle quietness of a Boy and a gracious Youth brought up in despised Nazareth, a fruitful bough for God and for men.
Seven spirits are mentioned. The Spirit of Jehovah is the majestic central stem. Then follow the three pairs. There is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; the Spirit of counsel and might; the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of Jehovah.
"The Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him." The word "rest" means "to dwell; to abide; to be at home; settled." So it ever was with our Lord in abiding, unbroken communion with the Spirit. But perhaps especially do we see this at His baptism, and at the beginning of His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth. The Spirit in bodily form as a gentle dove abiding upon Him. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" He read in their hearing. Note the three Divine Persons in perfect unison and harmony: 1. The Spirit: 2. of Jehovah: 3. upon Me. The dove abides upon the Son while the Father approves from the heavens.
In the three pairs of branches from the central stem we have the personal, official, and moral glory of Christ. These all have been displayed in Him in His ministry here upon earth, and will be displayed again on earth when He comes in kingdom glory to rule. This is the theme of the greater portion of this chapter. The varied glories of the Messiah, the Branch, will give character to His kingdom when He reigns. Look at these glories.
The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding
Wisdom and understanding are the attributes of a Messiah Who is Divine. They declare His Personal, essential, eternal glory. That the Messiah should be a Divine Person seemed impossible to the Jew, and it does yet. If the Lord their God was one Lord, and not like the many gods of the heathen, how could the coming One be God also? This was ever their problem when our Lord claimed to be the Son of God. Rightly they saw this as a claim to Deity and this they could not accept. And this problem persists with them still, even though the first reference to God in Scripture is in the plurality of "Elohim" Gen.1.1. Compare Deut.6.4. Wisdom and understanding have been defined as follows:
Wisdom: "The power to discern the nature of things."
Understanding: "The ability to discern the differences."
The Spirit of Counsel and Might
Earlier, we have seen our Lord as Counsellor, and as Mighty God. Here is a repetition of that same theme, and here is His official glory. What more necessary qualities in a ruler than counsel and might. How many mighty rulers have fallen for lack of counsel. How many wise rulers have fallen for lack of strength to implement what they knew to be right. These twin branches are necessary in balance. They are both in Christ. They have been defined thus:
Counsel: "The gift of forming right conclusions."
Might: "The ability to carry them out with energy."
The Spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of Jehovah
This is not knowledge in a general sense, but knowledge of Jehovah. And this knowledge of Jehovah brings with it that reverence and dignity of behaviour which is characteristic of those who know the Lord. This is all seen in perfection in the Lord Jesus. We have come to call it "His moral glory". His knowledge of the Father was complete. He could say to the Jews, "Ye have not known Him; but I know Him" Jn.8.55. It is the knowledge of One Who was ever in the Father’s bosom. He knew His Father intimately. Such knowledge, based upon the fellowship of love, is accompanied by that desire to live only as pleasing the Father. And so He lived. Even Christ pleased not Himself. In Him then is:
Knowledge: "Full knowledge founded on a fellowship of love."
Fear of Jehovah: "Reverence in the joy of pleasing the Lord."
All these things make our Lord "of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD" Isa.11.3. Literally, the beautiful sense of it is this: the fear of Jehovah is fragrance to Him. He senses with delight the fragrance of the fear of the Lord. He does not, will not, judge after outward appearances; His judgments will be according as to how matters are related to Jehovah. This desire for the glory of the Lord will determine the character of the kingdom. Girded with righteousness and faithfulness Christ will hold the sceptre in millennial glory. He will rule with impartiality and with equity. Having destroyed the wicked one He will take His throne. He Who once was girded with swaddling bands, and with a towel, and with a purple, mocking robe, and with grave clothes, will then be girded with glory to usher in an era of peace for earth.
O the glory of that kingdom! Wolf and lamb will dwell at peace together; and leopard and kid; and calf and lion; and cow and bear. They will go to pasture together. The Prince of Peace is upon the throne. A child will play safely at the adder’s den. The infant need no more fear the viper. Let us not spiritualise these beauties away. Such conditions happened literally when our Lord was here in the flesh. They will obtain when He comes again. It is a glorious restoration of Eden with a Man upon the throne and the creation at peace. The Root of Jesse will be the gathering centre for the nations. Jew and Gentile alike will know the blessing of that benign reign and the Saviour too shall rest in His glory.
Today in Israel the great word on many lips is the word "Aliyah". It means "The Ascent," or "The Going Up". It is the opposite to "Diaspora," the dispersion. The nation is coming home. Israel is returning to the land. On the 15th May, 1948 the state of Israel was formally set up. Ben Gurion declared, with deep emotion, "For two thousand years we have waited for this hour, and now it has happened ... the state of Israel is open for the ingathering of exiles ... it will rest upon the foundations of liberty, justice and peace, as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." Alas, it is a regathering in sad unbelief. It is not yet the "Shalom" of the millennial day. There is yet no life in the dry bones. Nevertheless, we live in a remarkable age, when, looking back over the amazing events of the last half-century, it is difficult to believe that still there are those who do not see a future for Israel.
One day our Lord Jesus will be the gathering centre. He will assemble the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah. From the four corners of the earth they shall come; from Egypt and Assyria; from Pathros and Cush; from Elam and Shinar; from Hamath and the islands of the sea. Like as it was when Israel went up out of Egypt, so shall they go up again. Is it to be wondered at, that after chapter 11, comes the song of chapter 12. There is such a parallel with the redemption out of Egypt that Isaiah can only exclaim, "Sing unto the LORD for He hath done excellent things" 12.5.
"Behold the Man whose name is THE BRANCH … He shall build the temple of the LORD … and He shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon His throne" Zech.6.12,13.
On the historic 14th May 1948 a little group of leading Jews in Palestine was engaged in a struggle of words. On the afternoon of that day the new Israel was to be born and the declaration of sovereignty was to be broadcast to the world, but there were problems with the wording of the proclamation. Some of these Jews were atheistic; they would refuse to sign the document if it contained any mention of the name of God. On the other hand, some of them were devoutly religious, orthodox, and they would refuse to sign if the name of God was not included on such an historic paper.
The proclamation was due to be read at 4 p.m. After 2 p.m. they were still locked in argument. Then came the compromise. After the solemn declaration of the independence and sovereignty of the new Israeli state, the statement concluded with the avowal that it was "with trust in the Rock of Israel" that the signatures were penned to the document.
Each individual in the group chose his own interpretation of "The Rock of Israel". The orthodox among them correctly saw it as a Divine title. The atheists viewed it as describing Israel’s military might and national rock-like determination. That such a dilemma should ever have arisen, in such a place, and at such a time, is sad. That such a compromised solution should have been necessary is tragic.
The promise given in Isa.28.16 of a tried and tested foundation Stone is very precious to the believer. It will be precious to the remnant of a future day. For them the promise was initially intended. When the unbelieving nation shall have made its covenant with death; when, in the days of antichrist, that unholy alliance is trusted as a refuge, and fails; and when the waters of judgment shall sweep away that refuge of lies like an overflowing scourge; in that day Jehovah will lay in Zion a sure foundation for the remnant of His people. In the midst of judgment there will be salvation, just as in the deluge of Noah’s day the ark was lifted safe above the waters.
But the believer today is already resting on that same Rock. The assembly, whether locally, 1Cor.3.9-11, or in its widest form, Matt.16.18, is built on Christ. And so too, is the individual believer, Matt.7.24. We have come, prematurely, but in the purpose of God, into the enjoyment of that Sure Foundation. Just as we have come, beforehand, into all the privileges and blessings of a covenant which has yet to be ratified with the nation in a future day, so have we come, before them, to an appreciation of the Rock of Israel.
However, it is important to notice that in the Scriptures referred to, Matthew chapter 16, and 1Corinthians chapter 3, the builders are not the same.
In Matthew chapter 16, (the first reference to the assembly, the ecclesia) Christ Himself is the builder. He is the Son of the Living God, the Christ, and as such is the firm Rock upon which He, personally, will establish the new assembly. He says, "I will build My church." Every stone built into this, upon Him, and by Him, is a living stone, 1Pet.2.5. There is no inferior material. The building cannot fail. Not all the powers of the Satanic kingdom can prevail against it. It must endure. It cannot be divided or destroyed. It is universal, mystical, spiritual, eternal, unassailable, impregnable, invincible and indestructible. It takes character from the Builder Himself, Who is also its chief corner Stone, elect and precious.
The local assembly is not so. Though also built on Christ it must be distinguished. Here it is men who lay the foundation; and it is men who build. Local building is our responsibility, and as with all else that is committed to man, there is the inevitable failure. We can rejoice when gold and silver and precious stones are built in; this is how it ought to be. But wood and grass and straw there is almost sure to be when the human builders become careless.
The fire will ultimately discern it all, but let us even now be diligent. Let us build quality into the local testimony. Let us jealously guard the work. The questionable methods of modern evangelism; the lightsome attraction of musical innovations; the fleshly appeal of intellectualism; these are shoddy workmanship. Such does not augur well for the soundness of the building. Let us beware the alarming looseness of attitudes towards the denominations of Christendom; the increasing tendency to occasional and casual reception to the assembly; the apparent failure to recognise the unique separateness of the assembly; and the trend towards "outreaches", "training centres", "organisations", and "associations", which are "extra" to the assembly. These do not help towards solid, reliable building of a local testimony to His name.
Let us be true to our dignity as builders, feeling the weight of the responsibility committed to us. Let us build according to the character of the foundation Himself, that which has the approval of His Word. Let us clear away the rubbish, Neh.2.14, and build that which, in our several localities, will be according to the pattern and for His pleasure and glory. "But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ" 1Cor.3.10,11.
There are several other interesting aspects of the Rock. Christ is not only the sure Rock upon which we build; He is also the sheltering, shadowing Rock, in which we hide from the storm, Isa.32.2. He is the smitten Rock from which we drink, 1Cor.10.4; and He is the stumbling Stone over which many will stumble and perish, 1Pet.2.8. One day He will be the smiting Stone, crushing the final form of Gentile world power, Dan.2.34, and grinding to powder those proud sinners who refuse to call upon Him for mercy, Matt.21.44. Ours is the blessing of being steadfastly built upon the Rock of Israel.
What blessing indeed, that those who were but poor Gentile strangers are able to sing with Israel’s king David, "O Jehovah, my Rock, and my Redeemer" Ps.19.14, J.N.D.
Jehovah has had a multitude of servants. They are a noble and illustrious roll of honour. But when Jehovah exhorts us to "Behold My Servant", none of us thinks of asking, "Lord, which servant?" There is but one Servant worthy of the adoring contemplation of all the saints. His name is Jesus. It is upon this blessed One that we now meditate.
The early verses of Isaiah chapter 42, with passages from chapters 49,50,52 and 53, are often referred to as the "Servant Songs". They sing of the lovely character and ministry of Messiah. They tell of His incarnation, His crucifixion, and His eventual glory. In chapter 42 there are seven delightful features of Jehovah’s perfect Servant.
This is an essential prerequisite for every servant. That He Who is the Son from eternity should be willing to be called "Servant", draws out our admiration of One Who was perfectly submissive. "My Son", says Jehovah, in the second Psalm. "My Servant", He says, in Isa.42.1. Our Lord has added a new dimension to Sonship. That a son should be a servant was a thing unknown in Jewish households. Servants and sons were different. Even the prodigal knew this, Lk.15.19. The holy submissiveness of the Servant-Son has added dignity to service. "He took upon Him the form of a servant", and we bow in worship.
The unswerving, consistent faithfulness of the Lord Jesus brought delight to the heart of God. "My Son"; "My Servant"; My Delight"! The Father’s expression of delight at the Jordan is the intimation of what those hidden years really meant to Him. For thirty years in Nazareth there lived, in utter faithfulness to God, One Who could say, at any time, "I must be about My Father’s business". In the things of His Father He was ever occupied. His work in a carpenter’s shop, or His attendance at the Nazareth synagogue; His subjection in the home, or His holy demeanour in the town; all, alike, were for the pleasure and glory of His Father. Those were thirty years of faithfulness to God, and the years of public ministry that followed were just the same.
"My Spirit upon Him." There are three references by Isaiah to the Holy Spirit and the Messiah; 11.2; 61.1, and here 42.1. There would appear to be links with His incarnation, His baptism, and His public ministry. The gentle dove abode upon Him. It is reminiscent of the oil in the meal offering. There was unbroken communion between the incarnate Son and the Spirit in the holiness of His perfect Manhood, and this is evidenced in His unique life, in which was ever present all the fruit of that Spirit. Every beautiful feature was there, in perfect blend and balance. There was love, joy, and peace, in His relations with God. There was longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness, towards man. There was, in His blessed Self, faith, meekness, and temperance. His was, indeed, a fruitful life and ministry.
"He shall not cry, nor lift up ... His voice." We know of course, that, literally and actually, our Lord did cry; and He did lift up His voice to be heard in the street. He preached to multitudes, and no doubt preached that all might hear. This lovely phrase means that He would never, ever, engage in noisy, cheap, loud advertising of Himself. The street vendor shouts his wares. He attracts attention to himself and to his goods by shouting in the street. It is the cheapest form of publicity. Our Lord would never be associated with such. Nor should His servants be. He has exemplified for us that quiet dignity which should ever characterise the service of God. There is no room for, and no need for, noisy gimmickry, in the ministry of the glad tidings.
With the "bruised reed" and the "smoking flax" the perfect Servant deals gently. The reed was the most primitive of wind instruments. The flax was the wick of the simple oil lamp. When the reed was bruised the melody was spoiled. When the wick smouldered the flame was dimmed. Neither the reed nor the wick were of any intrinsic value. They could easily be discarded and replaced. But this was not the way of the Lord Jesus. With gentle grace and tenderness He would mend the reed or trim the flax. Thomas may doubt; Peter may deny; the others may forsake Him and flee; but He will restore them. He will have the reed playing sweetly again; He will have the smoking flax burning brightly once more. May we, His servants, imitate His gentleness, and deal kindly with those who err and get out of the way. Our Lord never tolerated sin; nor should we; but He did exercise forbearance towards His erring people.
"He shall not fail." Sometimes we excuse our failures. If only we had lived in a different age; if we had lived in a different place; or if we had been given a different task; it might have been easier, we imagine. But the perfect Servant ministered when things were as dark as ever they had been in Israel. And He moved in a variety of circumstances, engaging in a variety of tasks. Wherever you find Him; whatever He is doing; at whatever time; He did not fail. Preaching, teaching, healing, praying, comforting, rebuking, He did not fail. Whether individuals like the woman of Samaria or the Rabbi Nicodemus; whether little groups in a fisherman’s cottage or multitudes by the sea of Galilee, He did not fail. His was a stedfast ministry, with a fixed purpose; the glory of His Father.
"Judgment unto truth ... judgment in the earth." Just judgment was His motivating desire. Jehovah would be glorified in this. Impartial, righteous dealing with all the people. He would never be swayed. Voices may call, but He was deaf to them. There would be sights that would distract others, but to those sights the perfect Servant was blind. He had a single eye and a pure motive in His ministry. He lived and served for the pleasure of God, and left us an example.
- So we remember Him, in all His ways,
- The Man of Thy good pleasure, through those days
- Of earthly sojourn, suffering and shame,
- And give Thee thanks for Him in His blest Name
- (William Kirkpatrick)
It is well known that chapter 40 is a watershed in Isaiah’s prophecy. It is the beginning of the second great section of the book. Thirty-nine chapters have passed, answering to the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. Twenty-seven chapters have yet to come, answering to the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Chapter 40 is the first of these twenty-seven chapters. Here, as in the New Testament, we are early introduced to the ministry of John Baptist. It was a wilderness ministry; a call to repentance. John is the last of the prophets. Perhaps he is the porter, opening the door to the true Shepherd. In v.11 of the chapter the Shepherd is introduced.
There is a strange and tender blending of greatness and gentleness; of grace and glory. The Shepherd Who gently tends His flock is none other than the Creator. He is the everlasting God. He is Jehovah and the Holy One with Whom the nations are as a drop from a bucket or as fine dust in a balance. The great things, and great ones, of earth, are to Him less than nothing, but in His very greatness He moves in gentleness towards His people who are His flock. David knew this. His opening words in Psalm 23 are not just a statement of fact; they are an exclamation, "Jehovah Rohi!" My Shepherd is Jehovah. With what confidence might we rest in His Shepherd care for us when we remember how great He is. His Shepherd ministry takes on a new grandeur when we consider it in the light of His greatness.
We do well to remember too, that for fifteen hundred years before Bethlehem, He was the Shepherd of Israel, Ps.80.1. For centuries, and for generations, He shepherded that straying flock. He bore with their backslidings, their murmurings, and their unbelief. And in Israel’s sad history can we not see a reflection of our own? What consolation to know that He Whom I now call, "my Shepherd", knows well what human frailty and failing are, and He cares for me as He cared for Israel of old.
There is a four-fold ministry of the Shepherd in Isa.40.11. He feeds; He gathers; He carries; He leads. In the days of His flesh He did all this in a personal way for those whom He called His "little flock" Lk.12.32. Now He has gone on high but His ministry continues. He is the Chief Shepherd, 1Pet.5.4. He has under-shepherds. He careth for you. Sometimes it is a personal care. Sometimes it is effected for us in the patient ministry of shepherds in the assembly.
He Feeds His flock. How graciously and patiently did He feed His little flock when He was here. He called them by name and they followed Him, and as they walked together, or sat together, He expounded truths to them and fed them; sometimes on a mountain side, sometimes in a garden; perhaps by the sea-side, or in the home; maybe in the temple court, or on the highway. But He seemed to be always teaching them, and this was their food. His Word was their sustenance and their nourishment, so it is today. Nothing is as important for our growth as the Word. If at times we can read it for ourselves, and if He ministers personally to us in our reading, and we are fed, this is good. If at other times He uses His servants to minister to us and to lead us into rich pastures, this also is good. Whether alone with Him, or waiting upon the ministry of His under-shepherds, we must feed on His Word. It is the food of the flock.
He Gathers. The very idea of a flock suggests togetherness. It is shepherd ministry to gather. It is the enemy’s work to scatter. Sectarian division has been the great strategy of the devil down the years. The simple answer to human systems and schisms is the unity of a Scripturally gathered assembly. "Gather My saints together unto Me" Ps.50.5. "Gathered in [unto] unto My Name" Matt.18.20. "Dwell together in unity" Ps.133.1. "Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" Gen.49.10. It is His mind that we should be together, and so He gathers. But how? The answer is again in His Word. The directions are simple and clear. There is nothing complicated except where men have made it so. Implicitly obey His Word and we shall find the footsteps of the flock; and find Him! It is still a wilderness ministry that calls us out to Him. He is not in the city. He is not in the camp. We must go out to Him. And as we go out we shall find that others are making their way out too, and with them we gather. As we get close to Him we shall be close to those who are close to Him and we shall be "together", as He desires it. This is not denominationalism, to gather to Him in obedience to His Word.
He Carries. This word "carry" is the word which appears four times in the chapter which introduces the Aaronic priesthood, Exodus chapter 28. Four times we read "Aaron shall bear ...". The word there translated "bear", is the word which in Isa.40.11 is translated "carry". Aaron carried the people. He bore their names on his shoulders and on his breast. He bore their cause upon his mitre, and for their guidance he carried the Urim and the Thummim. He bore them on the strength of his shoulders and in the sympathy of his heart. So does our Lord Jesus carry us. For our security and in our sorrow, He carries us. He carries the lambs in 40.11. He carries us to old age in 46.4. Well do we sing, "All the way my Saviour leads me". This brings us to the fourth aspect of the Shepherd ministry of Isaiah chapter 40.
He Leads. He gently leads. There are lambs in the flock. Some of the ewes are pictured as having their young with them, by their side. The true shepherd will gently adapt the pace of the flock to suit the lambs. He does not create a separate flock of lambs. He maintains the togetherness of the flock, but ever remembers the special needs of the lambs as they move along. So the lambs amongst us need particular care. The world in which they live is very hostile. There is infidelity and adversity; there are temptations, allurements, pitfalls, and snares. They need gentle guidance. They do not need meetings specially convened for them. They do not need to be segregated. But they do need patient instruction from the Word, exposition that they can understand, and exhortation given in such a manner that they can respond.
It is a great privilege granted to any brother, to be an under-shepherd. Your work is appreciated both by the chief Shepherd Himself, and by the spiritual of the flock. May the Lord graciously give us a continuing shepherd ministry of feeding and gathering and carrying and leading, until He comes.
There are more than forty pronouns in Isaiah chapter 53. There is no name; but the believer has no problem for the unnamed Sufferer can be none other than the Lord Jesus. It is the Rabbis who have the difficulty. Not being willing to apply the prophecy to Jesus of Nazareth they have sought for other explanations. Many are unhappy with the explanations which are offered, and for them the chapter is an enigma. "It is better", they say, "not to read it at all". Some have called it, "The Forbidden Chapter". For every believer it is a precious portion. For some of us it has a special preciousness, for it was here that we first found the Saviour.
This great portrayal of the Sufferer begins properly in chapter 52. By attaching the last three verses of chapter 52 to the twelve verses of chapter 53, we have fifteen verses which are readily divided into five sections with three verses in each. They form a pentateuch, and there is an intriguing parallel with that other great Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, Genesis to Deuteronomy.
At the end of chapter 52 we have the Genesis section. Genesis is the book of beginnings, as we speak of "Genetics". In the book of Genesis we have the beginnings of all that is afterwards developed in our Bible. Everything is there in germ form; in embryo; so it is with Isa.52.13-15: it is the seed plot of all that follows in chapter 53. Here, in these few verses, there is portrayed the Servant’s moral glory, His lovely life. We have, too, His exaltation, His high position through resurrection and ascension. His sufferings are here too, His visage marred. His future glory is here, His millennial splendour, and His ultimate triumph. Everything is here in this Genesis portion, which is now to be expounded in chapter 53.
The first three verses of chapter 53 are the Exodus portion. Exodus is that book which portrayed the nation in unbelief. The arm of the Lord was made bare in their deliverance from Egypt. He divided the sea for them, and in a barren wilderness He gave them water from the rock and bread from heaven. But they persisted in unreasonable unbelief in spite of every revelation of Himself. How sadly does the prophet cry, "Who hath believed our report?" In a dry ground in Nazareth there grew a tender plant for the pleasure of Jehovah. But there was nothing pretentious, and none of the beauty that they desired. So they despised and rejected the revelation of God in Christ, and repeated the unbelief of the wilderness. There had lived among them One Who was the great antitype of their Paschal Lamb, their tabernacle, the Rock, and the manna, but they did not recognise Him. "Who hath believed?"
The Leviticus section follows in vv.4-6. The great theme of Leviticus is, of course, the sacrifices and offerings. A sacrificial system allowed Jehovah to go along with the people, but all those offerings spoke of the Christ Who was to come. He has come, and by one offering He has satisfied God and obtained for His people a perfect acceptance. It is an offering which renders all the others obsolete; it has superseded them. "He was wounded for our transgressions." "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
- I hear the words of love;
- I gaze upon the blood;
- I see the mighty sacrifice,
- And I have peace with God
The book of Numbers has been called, "The Book of the desert". It is largely an account of the people of God in their desert sojournings. In this Numbers section of Isa.53.7-9, we have the desert experiences of the Lord Jesus during His last hours on earth. What a desert that was for Him. Oppressed and afflicted; prison and judgment; stripped and slain; death and burial. In it all He was silent and uncomplaining. The house of Caiaphas! The Roman judgment hall! Herod’s palace! Meekly and unresistingly He trod the desert paths alone. He endured the mockery, the false witnesses, the spitting, the whipping post, the thorns, and all the shame. It is very possible that He was kept, for part of that night, in the common prison beneath the palace of the high priest. (Later, His apostles were to be detained in that same prison, Acts 5.18). When we read that, "He was taken from prison and from judgment", we may understand it literally. From the common prison at the house of Caiaphas, and from the judgment hall at the Fortress of Antonia, He was led out to Golgotha to be cut off out of the land of the living. Who shall point out His generation? Humanly speaking, He left nothing. A young Man of thirty-three years, cut off. Their intention was to bury Him, as they had crucified Him, with the wicked. But He was with the rich man in His death. Joseph of Arimathea attended reverently to the interment of the holy Body.
The closing book of the Pentateuch is Deuteronomy. It is the book of review and retrospect; of summing up and looking forward; so too this closing section of Isaiah chapter 53. As we look back we see the travail of the Blessed One, as Jehovah bruised Him. We see again the offering for sin; the pouring out of His soul unto death.
- My soul looks back to see
- The burden Thou didst bear,
- When hanging on the accursed tree,
- And knows her guilt was there.
But with joy we look forward too. We see Jehovah’s pleasure prospering in the hand of the Risen One. The spoils of Calvary are shared by God and Christ and His people. "I will divide … He shall divide …". It is the great peace offering. There is a portion for all. The Man of sorrows is satisfied. His people are justified. God is glorified. Well might we read on into chapter 54! "Sing ... Break forth into singing ...".
- Man of Sorrows, God of Glory,
- Wondrous path Thy feet have trod;
- Cross and crown rehearse the story,
- Joyous sound this note abroad -
- Calvary’s Victim
- Now adorns the throne of God.
Isaiah chapter 61 evokes precious memories of Nazareth. After His baptism and the temptation in the wilderness, our Lord returned to Galilee and to His home town. What wondrous grace it was that He should have chosen to be brought up in Nazareth; to be called a Nazarene. "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Jn.1.46. It was a town of ill repute. It was a stopping place on the road south from Damascus and from Lebanon and beyond. Merchants, traders, soldiers, and a variety of travellers lodged here overnight, and they made it infamous for immorality and vice. Here, in this environment, for thirty years, our Lord lived and laboured, humbly and sinlessly.
He would have been so familiar with the Nazareth synagogue. It was the centre of learning, the meeting place for devotions and for daily discussions. On sabbath days it was His custom to be there, and as an adult Jewish male it was His right and privilege to be involved in the public reading of the scrolls. The sabbath referred to in Luke chapter 4 was one of those days. But it was to become a memorable "Shabbat". Our Lord stood up to read. He took the scroll from the attendant. He quietly and confidently, with holy familiarity, Ps.1.2, found the place which we now know as Isaiah chapter 61, and having read the appropriate portion, He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down.
"Gracious words" were spoken, says Luke. They marvelled at His exposition. It was an historic, remarkable day, when the ancient Isaiah prophecy was being fulfilled in their midst. Messiah had come. He had lived amongst them unknown. He had for thirty years been with them unrecognised. A carpenter, and a carpenter’s son, His Messianic glory had been veiled. But now the veil was to be lifted; He would present Himself to them and to the nation.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me", He read. "He hath anointed Me." Our Lord was the true Meal Offering. His lovely life had been a perfect blending of every desirable moral feature. Fine flour indeed; the finest of fine flour was to be presented to Jehovah. Now the oil had been poured upon the flour. The offering had been anointed. He had stood in Jordan and the tender dove had settled upon Him and marked Him out. As Israel’s prophets, priests, and kings had always been anointed into their offices, so too had our Lord been anointed. Now, this day, in the Nazareth synagogue, He would reveal Himself as the anointed Messiah.
From this day He would be a preacher of the gospel to the poor. He would herald the riches of the glad tidings to those of meagre resources. To men unable to pay, He would offer the wealth of the heavenly message. To poor sinners, morally and spiritually bankrupt, He would proffer the gold of a precious pardon and forgiveness. That is, if they, on their part, would but acknowledge their poverty. This, however, was not to be.
He had healing too, for the broken hearted. It was a Divine characteristic, Ps.147.3, that He should bind up the hearts of those who were wounded with grief. But with the men of Nazareth, as with Israel in general, there would be a notable absence of sorrow for sin. There was little heartache for either individual or national guilt. Nevertheless, there would be some who would grieve, and the anointed One had come with healing.
There was deliverance too, for the captive. The Emancipator had come. Not that the yoke of Roman bondage would yet be lifted; that was a secondary thing. Men were in fetters worse than that. The chains of sin were strong and man was helpless to disentangle himself from such. The people, though many knew it not, were imprisoned by their own sinful thoughts and deeds. They were captives to their habits and vices. But the Deliverer was here. For those who knew their bondage, and the reality of the captivity in which they were bound morally, the Redeemer had come.
But how blind they were! He had come to give them new vision. If only they could know how blind they were. But like men blind from birth, they did not, could not, know the beauties and glories to which sin had blinded them. This very blindness was, in fact, a form of imprisonment too. Messiah in their midst had deliverance from that too.
Indeed, they were blind, bruised, bankrupt, broken hearted bondmen, but they knew it not. And in the humble confines of their local synagogue stood the Christ of Isaiah chapter 61, as Prophet, Priest, Potentate, Benefactor, Healer, and Redeemer, and they knew not this either. The day, which should have been a day of gladness and rejoicing, was shrouded in sadness. Their day of visitation had begun and they did not and would not know it. It was the acceptable year of the Lord. He had there closed the book. In gentle, tender grace, He Who knew the hardness of their hearts would not yet announce the day of vengeance which would one day be their portion.
Their eyes were fastened upon Him as He read. Their ears had heard the gracious words as He spoke. But their hearts were hard. Could Joseph’s son really be Isaiah’s Christ? Could One from their own country be the Messiah for Whom they had waited? In questioning disbelief they heard His rebukes, backed with stories from the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Sidonians and Syrians had been blessed in those days, in a ministry that had by-passed lepers and widows in Israel. History would repeat itself. They were filled with wrath. They rose up. They thrust Him out. They led Him to the brow of the hill, not knowing that three years later, in national rejection of the ministry that had just begun, they would lead Him, outside Jerusalem, to the brow of another hill.
But His time had not yet come, and passing through the midst of the men of Nazareth, He went His way to Capernaum. The day of vengeance would inevitably come, but, in grace, not yet.
The contrast between Isaiah chapters 53 and 63 is like the contrast between Psalms 22 and 24, and like the contrast between John chapter 19 and Revelation chapter 19. It is the contrast between the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.
Isaiah chapter 63 opens with a simple (but profound) question: "Who is this?" It is the question which they asked when our Lord was here. It is the question they will ask when He comes again. As He entered the city in lowly meekness, riding "upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass" Matt.21.5, they asked, "Who is this?" Matt.21.10. When He returns to the city again, the question will be repeated, "Who is this?" Ps.24.8-10. It is the question of yesterday and the question of tomorrow. Here, in chapter 63, Isaiah foresees the day of Messiah’s triumph and vindication, and cries, "Who is this?"
The Conqueror is returning from Edom and Bozrah. In other parallel passages it will be Megiddo and Olivet. But there is no discrepancy. From Edom in the south; from Megiddo in the relative north; through Olivet, near to the Jerusalem centre, Messiah will travel in triumph. This is in perfect agreement with Rev.14.20: "blood to the horse bridles by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs". Sixteen hundred stadia! One hundred and sixty miles! The length of the land from Dan to Beersheba! From Olivet to Megiddo and back through to Edom He will ride victoriously, and vanquish His enemies. In our present chapter He is returning from Edom.
"Who is this … with dyed garments?" We must not be influenced by a much-loved hymn (Redemption Songs 704): Its sentiments are touchingly beautiful and its language unsurpassed! But its interpretation of Isaiah chapter 63 is a travesty. The blood that stains these garments is not the blood of the cross. This is the blood of Armageddon and Edom. It is not His own blood, but the blood of His enemies. The land has become a winepress. The judgment is a vintage. As grapes are trampled in a winepress so will our Lord tread down His enemies when He returns in glory. As the garments of those who tread the grapes in the winepress are stained with the juice of the trodden grapes, so will His garments, (in figure), be stained with the blood of His crushed foes.
His apparel is glorious. All His garments smell of myrrh; always. What garments He has worn. Swaddling bands in His infancy; a seamless robe during His ministry; a slave’s apron on that last evening in the upper room; a scarlet robe of mockery on that last morning; linen grave clothes in the tomb. Now, a vesture dipped in blood, bearing the glorious name: "King of kings and Lord of lords". Glorious in His apparel indeed.
He travels in the greatness of His strength. In what apparent weakness did they once see Him upon the cross. A carpenter crucified! A Galilean nailed to a tree! Since that day of dishonour the world has not seen Him. He has been hidden in the heavens. A King rejected; a Sovereign in exile; but now He returns in power. His rejection was callous and cruel. His triumph is righteous. This is vindication. He is "mighty to save". He, to Whom they cried, "Save Thyself and us". He, of Whom they said, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save". He comes for the deliverance of His remnant people. He comes to emancipate the land and make it Immanuel’s land indeed, Isa.8.8.
Notice the "aloneness" of the Conqueror. "I have trodden the winepress alone." How often He was "alone" when here on earth. He was "alone" in prayer, Matt.14.23. He was "alone" in service, Mk.4.10. In the uniqueness of His Sonship too, He was "alone" Lk.9.18, 36. And He was "alone" in suffering, Jn.16.32. Here in Isaiah chapter 63 He is "alone" again. Alone He treads the winepress. Alone He tramples His enemies in righteous anger. Alone He accomplishes the deliverance of His beleaguered people.
The day of vengeance has come. How graciously, at the commencement of His ministry, had our Lord closed the book in Nazareth, when reading from Isaiah chapter 61. He had not then announced the day of vengeance. It was an acceptable year that He was introducing. It was a day of grace. Appropriately, He had closed the Book. But in chapter 63 it is all different. It is the day of vengeance now.
The nations are presently being prepared for that day. Morally, politically, religiously, and commercially, the world is being fashioned for the advent of a man of sin and for days of tribulation. We do not look for signs, but if signs there be, we may look at them. Morally, conditions are reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah. Politically, the shadows are large. The kingdoms of Europe with the movements in Israel and the Middle East all point to the end times. Religiously, the deep, dark shadows are equally large. Ecumenism and the charismatic confusion make it easy to believe that the day is not far distant. Commercially too, the amalgamations, the giant corporations, and the monopolies of the business world are suitable preparations for the dictatorship which is to come. A man will accept from the devil what Jesus refused, Matt.4.8,9; Rev.13.2b. The kingdoms of this world will be dominated by a satanically inspired superman. Many of Israel will bow the knee to him and receive his mark. Many of the faithful will be martyred. A remnant of Israel will be trapped, and look as though to be destroyed. But the Deliverer will come.
Armageddon appears to be the place where the armies will gather. The armies of the beast and of the great Northern Confederacy; the kings from the east and the king of the south, are all assembled. Suddenly, gloriously, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appears. Those who are enemies of each other become allies in common enmity against the Lamb. The Lord comes! He crushes them all. The beast and the false prophet are taken personally and cast alive into the lake of fire.
What triumph! What glory! What victory! Well might Isaiah cry, "Who is this . . . with garments dyed … glorious in His apparel ... travelling in the greatness of His strength … mighty to save"!
We have seen, in our meditations, that Isaiah’s prophecy is indeed as a gallery of portraits of the Messiah. He is portrayed to us in a variety of glories. There are portraits of Christ as the Son, as the Saviour, and as the Shepherd. We have seen Him as the Servant, as the Stone, and as the suffering Sin-Bearer. He is the Singer, the Scholar, and the Soldier. There are several views of Him as the Sovereign, and in chapter 65 it is indeed as Prince of Peace that He is being portrayed.
Here, and in the parallel passage in chapter 11, is described something of the bliss of the coming kingdom. We have arrived at millennial glory. It is, as another has beautifully said, "the harmony of Eden renewed once more, and the wild fierce creatures of the jungle graze in the company of the fearless flocks of the farm." Psalm 24, Isaiah chapter 63, Revelation chapter 19, all synchronise here. The King has returned in triumph. Over the earth that once cast Him out He will reign in glory.
The basis of that kingdom is righteousness. The Sun of Righteousness will usher in that new day, spreading golden wings over the earth in warmth and healing, Mal.4.2. The King is the King of Righteousness, Heb.7.2. His name is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness, Jer.23.6. Only the righteous will enter His kingdom, Matt.25.37. Zion, the capital city, is called the city of righteousness, Isa.1.26. In His days shall the righteous flourish; and the poor will be judged with righteousness and equity, Ps.72.2. Righteousness will reign, and the King will hold a sceptre of righteousness, Heb.1.8; Ps.45.6.
How many of earth’s kings and kingdoms have been corrupt, corruptible, and corrupting. This King and kingdom are all righteousness. It is the basis of His reign.
It will be a kingdom of unbounded dominion. Even the glorious kingdom of Solomon had its boundaries. North to the Syrian hills and the Lebanon; south to the wilderness, the Negev; east to the desert, and west to the Mediterranean; but Emmanuel shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. His kingdom shall extend from the Euphrates to the Nile; from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf; kings and islands; east and west; nations and continents all. They of the wilderness, the proud Bedouin, will bow before Him. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, Rev.11.15.
There will be, in that day, unlimited prosperity. A handful of corn on the mountain top, Ps.72.16! Every man will rest securely under his own vine, Zech.3.10. There will be rain in season and no drought. There will be no need anymore for military forces, for police, or for the judiciary. Therefore there will be no wasting of manpower because of sin, as is necessary today in our sinful world. A rod of iron will suppress sin, and maintain the peace and the security of that millennial day.
What unparalleled bliss will then prevail in every realm of life; in the human kingdom civil harmony, and no more lusting for power. Swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. (Is this reminiscent of Melchisidec’s bread and wine?). The strength of that kingdom is measured, not by any stockpile of armaments and weaponry, but by the safety of boys and girls playing in the streets, Zech.8.5. In the animal realm too, what bliss is envisaged here in Isaiah chapter 65. The fierce wolf will feed with the gentle lamb. The lion and the ox will feed together too. There will be no hurt or injury in all that holy mountain. (Though the serpent will still creep in the dust). Man will be at peace with man; beast will be at peace with beast; beast will be at peace with man.
Even the very solar system will be affected when Jesus reigns. The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun; and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days, Isa.30.26. The glory is unprecedented. It is Eden indeed, on a universal scale.
When this millennial day arrives, it will be the answer to the prayers, and the fulfilment of the desires, of Israel and her prophets and psalmists. David says, "Amen, and Amen" Ps.72.19. The prayers of David the Son of Jesse are ended when Messiah sits upon His throne, and the whole earth is filled with His glory. David has nothing more to ask. It is the realisation of Israel’s hopes and longing. There is nothing more to pray for. May we, while we wait for Him, be able, even now, to pray intelligently, "Thy kingdom come".
- Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,
- Great David’s greater Son!
- Hail, in the time appointed,
- His reign on earth begun;
- He comes to break oppression,
- To set the prisoner free;
- To take away transgression
- And rule in equity.
- Kings shall fall down before Him,
- And gold and incense bring;
- All nations shall adore Him,
- His praise all people sing:
- For He shall have dominion
- O’er river, sea, and shore,
- Far as the eagle’s pinion
- Or dove’s light wing can soar.