Translation and sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 24 Aug. 2008
12. For thus says Jehovah, “Look at me,
extending peace to her like a river,
and the glory of nations like an overflowing stream,
and you will nurse upon the side,
you will be carried,
and upon the knees you will play peek-a-boo.
13. Like a man which his mother comforts him,
so I myself will comfort you,
and it will be in Jerusalem you will be comforted.
14. And you will see and your heart will celebrate,
and your bones will sprout like the grass,
and the hand of Jehovah will be known by His servants,
but He will denounce His enemies.
15. For look, Jehovah will come with fire, and like the whirlwind His chariots will be,
to return in the fury of His anger, and His rebuke will be with flames of fire.
16. For with fire and with His sword,
Jehovah will judge all flesh, and those pierced through by Jehovah will be many.
17. “The ones who sanctify themselves,
and the ones who purify themselves for the gardens after one in the midst,
eating the flesh of the pig and the unclean-meat, and the mouse together,
they will stop!” – This is a declaration of Jehovah.
18. “Yet I, for their doings and their thoughts, am coming to gather all the nations and the tongues,
and they will come and see my glory,
19. and I will place with them a sign
and I will send from them emigrants to the nations:
Tarshish, Pul and Lud – drawers of the bow – Tubal, and Javan, the faraway coastlands which have not heard tell of me and not seen my glory,
“and they will relate my glory among the nations.
20. And they will bring all your brothers from all the nations to be a grain offering to Jehovah,
with the horses and with the chariot and with the cars,
and with the mules and with the dromedaries,
up to Jerusalem, the mountain of my holiness,” says Jehovah,
“like the grain offering which the sons of Israel bring
in the pure vessel to the house of Jehovah.
21. And from them also I will take for the priests and for the Levites,” says Jehovah,
22. “for, as the new heavens and the new earth which I am making [remain] standing before my face,” (This is a declaration of Jehovah), “so y’all’s seed and y’all’s name will stand.
23. And it will be that
as often as a month with its month,
even as often as a Sabbath with its Sabbath,
all flesh will come to prostrate themselves before my face,” says Jehovah.
24. “And they will go out and look among the corpses of the men who are transgressors by me,
for their worm will not die and their fire will not burn out,
and they will be repulsive to all flesh.”
1930, Sydney Australia. A drunken bum named Arthur Stace wandered into a mission to get a free dinner and heard a preacher talking about hell and eternity. Impressed by the message, he gave his life to Jesus and wanted to do something about it. He took a piece of chalk from his pocket and wrote the word, “Eternity” on the sidewalk as he went home that night. Over the next 37 years, he wrote that word, “Eternity” almost half a million times in various places throughout the public places of Sydney. It took decades before anyone figured out who was doing it, and then he became a kind of folk hero. They even featured his one-word sermon in the opening ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Today we come to the end of the writings of a much more prolific and profound author than Arthur Stace, but Isaiah does close with the theme of eternity. The beginning of eternity is the judgment day:
15. For look, Jehovah will come with fire, and like the whirlwind His chariots will be, to render/bring down/ return in the fury of His anger, and His rebuke will be with flames of fire. 16. For with fire and with His sword, Jehovah will judge all flesh, and those slain/pierced through by Jehovah will be many.
· Isaiah many times speaks of fire in relation to God’s judgment (5:24, 9:5-19, 10:16-17, 29:6, 30:27-30, 33:11-14, 47:14, 64:2&11, 65:5) let me just recall a smattering of these themes of God’s fury:
o “flames” 30:30 Jehovah will cause the majesty of His voice to be heard, and the descent of His arm to be seen in raging anger, and flame of consuming fire, and storm, and hail-stone.
o 34:6 Jehovah has a sword! It is full of blood; it has gotten greasy from the fat – from the blood of … a great slaughter in the land of Edom… 8 For Jehovah has a day of vengeance…
o “judge…rebuke” 51:5 My righteousness is near, my salvation has gone out, and my arm will judge peoples… the heavens will be dissolved like the smoke, and the earth like wear out like the garment, and her inhabitants will die likewise… 20. Your sons have fainted, they dropped down in the beginning of all the streets like an antelope from the net; those filled with the fury of Jehovah, the rebuke of your God.
o “anger” 63:3 I have trodden the crushing-trough alone… and I trod them in my anger, and I trampled them in my fury, and their vigor sprinkled upon my garments… 4. For a day of vengeance was in my heart… 6. and I stepped on peoples in my anger, and I intoxicated them in my fury, and I brought their vigor down to the earth.
· “pierced/slain” 34:3 – This is the penalty for rebellion against God “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 3:23) But note that not all will be pierced. Even in this description of God’s coming judgment against sin, the good news can be glimpsed. Why is it just “many” who are pierced rather than “all?” Because Jesus was “pierced” (53:5) for the iniquities of those who would believe on Him, so the price for their rebellion was already paid by Jesus, and they are not pierced or slain in God’s judgment!
o First Level (superficial by now): Babylonian captivity (Calvin, Young)
§ v.15 “chariots and whirlwind” are used of the Chaldeans in 5:28,17:13
§ Jeremiah quoted parts of this passage from Isaiah, warning the Jews that the Babylonians would come from the North and capture them if they did not repent: Jeremiah 4:4-13 … my wrath will go forth like fire, and burn so that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings... 6 Set up a standard toward Zion: flee for safety, stay not; for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. 7 A lion is gone up from his thicket, and a destroyer of nations; he is on his way, he is gone forth from his place, to make thy land desolate, that thy cities be laid waste, without inhabitant. 8 For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and wail; for the fierce anger of Jehovah is not turned back from us... 13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as the whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles… we are ruined.
§ Chaldeans came upon Jerusalem in chariots in 605 BC with sword in hand and killed many Jews and burned the temple down.
o Second Level: Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Calvin, Young)
§ Mt. 24:22 (“all flesh”)
§ Roman armies entered Jerusalem in chariots with sword in hand and slaughtered Jews indiscriminately and burned the city to rubble in 70 AD.
o Ultimate Level: Hell (Rashi, Calvin, Barker)
Further descriptions of this firey judgment in v.24 are eternal.
We also see parallel passages using similar words in other end-time prophecies:
§ Joel 3:1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will execute judgment upon them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations… 11 Hurry and come, all you nations round about, and gather yourselves together: cause Your mighty ones to come down there, O Jehovah... 13 Put in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining…
§ 2 Peter 3:7-13 …fire is being reserved for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men... 10 and the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up… 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
§ John - Revelation 19:11 And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 And his eyes are a flame of fire... 15 And out of his mouth proceeds a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty… 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone: 21 and the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse... 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works... 15 And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
Isaiah 66:17. “The ones who consecrate/sanctify themselves, and the ones who purify themselves for the gardens following an idol/after one in the midst, eating the flesh of the pig and the abomination/ detestable/ unclean-meat, and the mouse/rat together, they will be consumed/stop/come to an end!” – This is a declaration of Jehovah. 18. (alt: For I [know] their works and their thoughts and [the time is] coming) “Yet I, for their doings and their thoughts, am coming to gather all the nations and the tongues, and they will come and see my glory,
· God calls them enemies because they worship other gods.
· These are the same people from 65:3-5 the people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in the gardens and burning incense upon bricks, 4. the ones who sit in the graves and spend the night in the guarded places, the ones who eat the flesh of swine and the broth of tainted meat is in their cookware, 5. the ones who say, “Keep to yourself; do not approach me, for I have become holier than you!”
· These are the same gardens where idols were being worshipped in 1:29-30
· These people were wallowing in that which is unclean. Leviticus 20:25 You must make a distinction between the clean beast and the unclean, and between the unclean fowl and the clean: and you must not make your souls abominable by beast, or by bird, or by anything wherewith the ground teems, which I have separated from you as unclean. Pigs and mice were definitely on the “unclean” list in the Old Testament, yet there was apparently a popular dish called glires isicio porcino described by commentator Franz Delitzsch as made of dormice that had been fattened up and then cooked with pork stuffing as a special delicacy. Delitzsch went on to write, “However inward and spiritual may be the interpretation given to the law in these prophecies, yet, as we see here, the whole of it, even the laws of food, were regarded as inviolable. So long as God Himself had not taken away the hedges set about His church, every willful attempt to break through them was a sin, which brought down His wrath and indignation.”
· What is the phrase “following one in the middle/behind one in the center”
o Some take this as one tree or pole in the garden where people would perform wicked rites in worship of the goddess Ashtoreth. (Maimonedes, Ibn Ez., Calvin)
o Others suggest the word translated “One” is actually the name of a god that they worshipped in the garden. The spelling of the word “one” in the Hebrew manuscripts is a bit varied, some spelling it as the number one in the masculine gender, others spelling it as the number one in the feminine gender, and some omitting any vowel pointings at all. The King James Version thus renders the word as “an idol.” Fair enough.
o But the explanation that makes the most sense to me is that the “one” is a person - a worship leader - that would stand in the middle of the garden or in the middle of the worshippers of the false god and perform actions that the idol-worshippers would repeat after him (or her). (Del.)
· Another strange phrase occurs in the next verse (17) where the Hebrew literally reads, “and I, their doings and their considerations, coming to gather…” The question is, “What is the relationship between the ‘I’ (God), the “actions and imaginations” of the idol worshippers, and the action of “coming in order to gather”?
o Most English translations add the verb “know” “I [know] their works and their thoughts…” and many add the word “time” to be the subject of “coming” – “[the time is] coming to gather”
o I prefer the way the Septuagint, Vulgate and NIV rendered it, keeping God as the subject of “coming to gather,” and adding the word “for/because” between “I” and “their deeds” (which would be a simple duplication of the last syllable of the word “I/anoki”).
o In other words, it is because of the deeds and thoughts of these idolators that God is coming in judgment.
o These “deeds” that the people have done are the idols they made:
§ 41:29 “their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind”
§ 37:19 “they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands”
§ 17:8 “the work of his hands… the Asherim or the sun-images”
§ 2:8 “Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands”
§ It is God’s works that they should have been paying attention to instead! (5:12)
o The first step in the judgment, as we have seen in some of the parallel passages earlier, is to gather the people together to be judged.
· The phrase “they see my glory” is used in regard to:
o The creation of the heavens which tell of God’ glory (Ps. 97:6)
o The Plagues God brought upon Egypt (Num. 14:22)
o The 10 Commandments given by God upon Mt. Sinai (Deut. 5:24)
o God’s provision of manna in the desert (Ex. 16:7)
o and Jesus’ second coming (Matt. 24:30)
o There is certainly a sense in which this will be fulfilled at the end of time. We have already looked at passages which speak of this gathering of nations to fight against the city of God, followed by God’s judgment of those gathered nations, (Zeph. 14:14, Joel 4:9ff, Rev. 1:7, 22:4) and that may well be part of the fulfillment,
o but because of the context of this passage - especially v.19 - I look for a much nearer fulfillment, and I find it in the first coming of Christ:
§ Isaiah 40:3-4 says in regards to Christ, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God… And the glory of Jehovah will be revealed and all flesh together will see”
§ John 1:14 says that the glory of God was “seen” when Jesus came to earth.
§ John Calvin put it this way, “[Jesus is coming] that he may cast off the hypocrites… and adopt [the Gentiles]… ‘See my glory’ [means] …enjoying God’s grace” within the context of the church!
§ At Pentecost, Acts 2:5 tells us that there were “devout men from every nation under heaven” gathered in Jerusalem that day that the apostles preached and the church was born!
· This brings us to the second prong of God’s two-pronged plan:
Isaiah 66:19 and I will set/place with them a sign and I will send from them emigrants to the nations: Tarshish, Pul and Lud – drawers of the bow– Tubal, and Javan, the faraway islands/coastlands which have not heard tell of me (my fame) and not seen my glory, “and they will relate/ proclaim/ declare my glory among the nations/ Gentiles.
· God’s plan is two-pronged, just as we’ve seen throughout Isaiah. When He intervenes, He not only brings judgment to the wicked, but He also brings salvation to His people.
· God sets a “sign” among the Jews - I think “them” in v.19 is referring to the idolatrous Jews spoken of in the first half of v.18
o Pretty much every time God speaks of His “enemies” in Isaiah, the context is that He’s talking about the Jews. (Check it out: 1:24, 42:13, 59:18, 63:10, 66:6)
o Jesus is the “sign” of Isaiah 7:14 the Lord himself will give a sign to y’all: Behold, the virgin conceives and bears a son, and she shall call his name ‘Immanuel.’
o Jesus is the one who was placed among the Jews and performed signs, according to Peter’s testimony in Acts 2:22-24 “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by Him in the midst of you, even as you yourselves know; 23 He, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, by the hand of lawless men you did crucify and slay: 24 whom God also raised up...”
o Jews who wish to avoid this Messianic interpretation might say that the “sign” was the prophecy of Daniel set among the Jews in exile in Babylon, and that the “survivors” were Jews who had maintained their Jewish identity through the exile, and that these Jews would go throughout the nations gathering their fellow Jews to return to Jerusalem in 536 BC.
§ While this may have been part of the fulfillment, I believe it is only a foreshadowing of the greater fulfillment of the Apostles and the church, because the Jewish nation did not remain with its offspring – it was ended in 70 AD, nor did all flesh come to worship God in Jerusalem in fulfillment of the next few verses.
· I believe that the “escapees/survivors/emigrants” in v.19 are the Jews who believed in Jesus and were spiritually saved from their “crooked generation,” (Acts 2:40) and became those who would “escape” the judgment of God.
· On the day of Pentecost when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, those apostles preached to a representative sample of all the nations of the earth.
· Some from those nations believed, and they, together with the apostles went out into all the world preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:20)
o The nations in the list here, I believe represent four corner points of the compass:
§ On the SW is Tarshish, on the Atlantic coastline somewhere south of Europe
§ To the SE is Pul and Lud – since Pul is found nowhere else in the Bible, it is generally assumed that Pul is an alternate spelling for the country of Put, which is next-door to Lud around Ethiopia on the Red Sea.
o Targums place them on the island of Philai in the Upper Nile close-by, Josephus locates them in Mauritania also nearby, and the NIV locates them further north in Africa at Libya.
o The people of Put were apparently “renowned archers/drawers of the bow” because they are symbolized in Egyptian hieroglyphs as a series of 9 bows, and even as late as the 600’s AD, after becoming a Christian nation, they gained the distinction of being the only African nation the Muslims could not conquer because their archers were so good.
o Meshach is the Hebrew word translated “drawers of,” so some people add Meshach as a country to the list.
§ Anyway, back to the four corners of the compass, on the NE is Tubal, on the base of the Black Sea, east of Asia Minor
§ And on the NW corner is Javan, also known as Greece.
o These emmisaries go even further than these four corners out to the coastlands far away, to every nation that has not heard of God’s glory, in order to tell them of God’s glory – the coming of Jesus who was pierced for our iniquities so that we could be saved through faith in Him from the wrath of God to come!
· Some parallel passages are as follows:
o 42:10 Sing to Jehovah a new song, His praise from the end of the earth… 12. They will … relate His praise in the coastlands.
o 48:20 declare, cause this to be heard, cause it to go out unto the end of the earth! Say, “Jehovah has redeemed His servant Jacob…”
o 60:3 nations will walk toward your light and kings toward the brightness of your rising… Your sons from afar will come… 6. An abundance of camels will cover you… all of them, from Sheba they will come. Gold and frankincense they will carry, and the praises of Jehovah they will announce. 7. They will be gathered together for you - all the flock of Kedar; rams of Nabioth will minister to you. They will go up with acceptance upon my altar, and my beautiful house I will beautify! … 9. because it is for Me the coastlands will wait - even the ships of Tarshish at the head… 13. To you will come the glory of Lebanon…
o Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the Gentiles, says Jehovah of hosts.
o The apostle Paul understood his ministry of evangelizing Greeks and Romans and other Europeans to be a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: Romans 15:15b …because of the grace that was given me of God, 16 I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable...
1. Gentiles who respond to the good news in faith become acceptable to God (v.20)
v.20. And they will bring all your brothers from all the nations to be a grain offering to Jehovah, with the horses and with the chariot and with the litters/ wagons/ cars, and with the mules and with the swift beasts /camels/ dromedaries, up to Jerusalem, the mountain of my holiness,” says Jehovah, “like the grain offering which the sons of Israel bring in the clean/pure vessel to the house of Jehovah.
· The “emigrants/survivors/apostles” go out “among the nations” in v.19 and “declare” God’s “glory,” and they bring “all your brothers as an offering to God”
o “they” being apostles, evangelists, and missionaries,
o “your” being the church,
o “all the brothers” being the fullness of the elect converted from the nations (Rom. 11:25).
· This kind of offering (the minchah) was a non-bloody offering, usually of grain and incense, representing all the living substance of a person, not a substitionary atonement like the olah animal sacrifices that were killed and burned on the altar. And often these would be accompanied by actual wagons (Num. 7:3) and pack animals (2 Chr 9:24) offered along with the offering.
· The only other place in the Old Testament where “pure vessels” are mentioned is in Exodus 37 and 25 where Bezalel was making pure gold cups and vessels for use in the temple, so I suspect that Isaiah is making a comparison of the Old Testament sacrificial system (which used the physical pure gold bowls that Bezalel had made) with the way the New Testament apostles would spiritually bring believing gentile brothers to God as an offering.
· The list of conveyances is striking, painting a mental picture of people driving in from all over the world on every kind of vehicle imaginable, in long lines, streaming in to worship God at one central point:
o The dispensational pre-millennial viewpoint is inclined to be literal at this point, expecting all the world at some point in a future millennium to begin offering sacrifices according to the old Levitical laws and literally riding on the backs of camels into the streets of Jerusalem to worship Jesus who will be physically present.
o Because of my a-millennial “glasses,” I’m inclined to take all this figuratively, and apply it to the current time of the church. As we’ve seen in Rom. 15, the apostle Paul also seems to have taken this figuratively and applied it to the church of his day. The converts are not converging on a physical spot on the map, but rather converging on a singular object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the means of travelling to that singular object of faith are many – missionaries use street preaching, sign language, tract distribution, Bible translation, Jesus film, Radio programs, debate, mercy outreach, drama, Satellite TV, many ways to communicate the Gospel to people all over the world so that they will, Lord willing, place their faith in the same direction that everybody else in the church has, and that is in Jesus Christ.
o Calvin wrote, “the prophets… were under a necessity of borrowing comparisons from known and familiar objects. Formerly the sacrifices were taken from the flocks and herds; but the Apostles and other priests of Christ slew men themselves, and offered them as a living sacrifice to God by the Gospel.” (Quoting Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.)
o Gentiles therefore, as a result of being brought to faith in God through hearing the apostolic declaration of God’s glory in Christ, would become “legitimate and acceptable offerings” conforming to the law and desires of God Himself! (Young)
· Likewise, God’s “holy mountain,” I believe, “is not the physical, but the spiritual Jerusalem, the church” (Yng.), which merges in the distance into the heavenly Jerusalem as well. Unlike a physical city, Isaiah taught us in chapter 65 that God’s holy mountain is a spiritual citizenship that can be forgotten by worshipping idols (v.11), and it will be a place where the lion will lie down with the lamb and there will be no evil (v.25), and there will be representatives from all nations there (2:2-4, 56:6).
2. Believing Gentiles and Jews will join forever in sacred service to God (v. 21-22)
v.21 “And from them also I will take for the priests and for the Levites,” says Jehovah, 22. “for, as the new heavens and the new earth which I am about to make/am making [remain] standing/endure before my face,” (This is a declaration of Jehovah), “so y’all’s seed/descendents/offspring and y’all’s name will stand.
· The “them” that God will take people from to fill the ranks of priests and Levites is the Gentile believers, the brothers from all the nations –
o Even the most famous Jewish commentators Rashi and Kimchi agreed that this includes Gentiles along with Jews! (61:6)
o Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:6 “the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”
o Peter, in his first epistle, wrote to the elect (1:1) scattered throughout modern-day Turkey – not Israel – that they were (2:9) “a royal priesthood, a holy nation… that you may show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light”
o Consider also that the author of the books of Luke and Acts was a gentile!
o God has already promised them an “everlasting name” in 56:5, and said that they would be able to rejoice “forever” in the new heavens and new earth (65:17-18, cf. Rev. 21:1).
o This is similar to the wording of both the Davidic covenant that there would never lack a descendent of David to rule on the throne of God’s people (fulfilled in Jesus Christ), and it is similar to the wording of the New Covenant as Jeremiah stated it: (31:36) “If these ordinances [of the sun lighting the day and the moon and stars lighting the night and sea waves roaring] depart from before me… then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.”
o This is speaking of the “church” (Del.), the “spiritual Israel” (Young), you and me, who have an eternity to join in sacred service to God.
3. Believing Gentiles and Jews will worship God in His very presence (v. 23)
23. And it will be that as often as a month with its month/new moon, even as often as a Sabbath with another/its Sabbath, all flesh/mankind will come to worship/bow down/prostrate themselves before my face,” says Jehovah.
4. God’s blessed people will get to see the eternal punishment of the damned. (v. 24)
24. “And they will go out and look among the corpses/dead bodies of the men who are transgressors/ rebels by me, for their worm will not die and their fire will not burn out/ be quenched, and they will be an abhorrence /loathsome/ repulsive to all flesh.”
· Importance of Last Words
· What is prioritized in these last words?
· How can we align ourselves with these priorities?