Wednesday, December 13, 2023

2023.12.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 33–35

Read Isaiah 33–35

Questions from the Scripture text: What have the objects of this last woe been doing (Isaiah 33:1a–b)? What has not been done to them? What is about to happen to them (verse 1c–f)? What cry (Isaiah 33:2) will occasion this response of the Lord? Who is the rampaging, plundering army of Isaiah 33:3-4? What will this show about Him (Isaiah 33:5a)? What else shows that He is exalted (Isaiah 33:5-6). How have the warriors (Isaiah 33:7a), politicians (verse 7b), and merchants (Isaiah 33:8a–b) of the world (and the church, Isaiah 33:14a–b!) fared in this picture of the end (Isaiah 33:7-9Isaiah 33:11-14)? How have the godly fared (Isaiah 33:16)? What is their greatest reward (Isaiah 33:17)? What will be absent in those days (Isaiah 33:18-19)? Who will Himself be unto them what the best earthly conditions of church and state in this world could only anticipate (Isaiah 33:20-24)? Whom does Isaiah 34:1 summon? To do what? What are they to hear/heed (Isaiah 34:2)? What is coming upon all nations (Isaiah 34:2-3)? And upon whom else (Isaiah 34:4-5)? With what word picture do Isaiah 34:6-7 describe the carrying out of the Lord’s vengeance? For whose benefit/vindication does this also occur (Isaiah 34:8Isaiah 34:17c–d)? What exchange will His and their enemies (characterized here as Edom) endure (Isaiah 34:9-15)? Where has He declared the certainty (Isaiah 34:16a–b) of the blessing of His people and the certainty of the accursedness of His enemies? Where was the certainty established (Isaiah 34:16-17b)? How does Isaiah 34:16c teach that the accursedness of the one and the blessedness of the other must go together? How do Isaiah 35:1–2d describe their blessedness in the new creation. What is the greatest part of their blessing (Isaiah 35:2e–f)? How should those who are hoping for this respond to this (Isaiah 35:3-4, cf. Hebrews 12:12–13)? What disabilities will no longer exist then (Isaiah 35:5-6)? What else will be corrected (v7, 9a–b)? Who will inhabit this place (Isaiah 35:8Isaiah 35:10)?

What does the end of history look like? Isaiah 33–35 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these fifty-one verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the end of history is assured wrath upon all the wicked of heaven and earth, but assured blessedness in a new heavens and new earth upon those sanctified and glorified ones who have the beauty and glory of the Lord Himself as their reward. 

The King in His beauty, Isaiah 33. These three chapters makeup the “sixth woe” in the section from chapters 28–35. The whole of chapters 1–37 set the Lord’s promised King over-against the kings of Israel and Judah, and of the nations. Man’s guilt before God has been compounded by his pride in himself, in which he refuses to submit to God as his help and hope. Each of the first five woes have addressed some aspect of Israel’s own failure to submit, as a warning to all of us of the danger of such pride. Now, the sixth woe turns its attention squarely against the arrogance of those who thought they were untouchable in power, as they ruthlessly pounded the people of God (Isaiah 33:1). 

God will route the oppressor like a rampaging, plundering army (Isaiah 33:3-4). And He will do so in response to His people’s prayer (Isaiah 33:2)—His people who have now been turned from all other hope and security to find hope and security in Him Himself. The Lord shows His exaltedness (Isaiah 33:5a, Isaiah 33:10) both by the destruction of the enemy (Isaiah 33:3-4Isaiah 33:11-14) and by the transformation of His people (Isaiah 33:5-6Isaiah 33:15). 

The reward of God’s people is not merely peace and provision in earthly things (Isaiah 33:16), but God Himself (Isaiah 33:17). Paradise is not so much in the absence of their oppressors (Isaiah 33:18-19), so much as the presence of the King in His beauty.  Paradise is not in the lack of invaders (Isaiah 33:21c–d, Isaiah 33:23) or illness and iniquity (Isaiah 33:24), so much as in having the majestic YHWH Himself (Isaiah 33:21a) as the government of the place (Isaiah 33:22). 

God’s glory in the ultimate vengeance and ultimate redemption, Isaiah 34. We dwell in the earth and see the need of God’s vengeance in this world (Isaiah 34:1–3). But perhaps we forget that the Lord is preparing not just a new earth but also a new heavens. Not only are there wicked men upon whom His vengeance will rain (Isaiah 34:5-7), but wicked spirits as well (Isaiah 34:4-5a). 

Throughout Scripture and history, God’s vengeance upon the wicked (Isaiah 34:8a) is bound together with His vindication of His people (Isaiah 34:8b). “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9). These two things are “mates” (to use the language/picture of Isaiah 34:16c). So the dreadfulness of Isaiah 34:9-10 (and barrenness of Isaiah 34:11-15) goes hand in hand with the blessedness that will be described in chapter 35. The two have a mutual certainty, being concluded in the determination of God (Isaiah 34:17) and declared as a certainty by the Word of God (Isaiah 34:16). 

Responding to the joyfulness and certainty of the everlasting blessing that is coming, Isaiah 35. Again, the new-creation blessings of God’s people (Isaiah 35:1–2), and their vindication in His vengeance (Isaiah 35:4c–e), are secondary to that greatest blessedness: seeing the glory of YHWH Himself (Isaiah 35:2e), seeing the excellency of God as “our God,” the God Who has bound Himself to us in covenant (verse 2f)! 

If we know this is the sure outcome of whatever difficulty we are in, we will respond to present pains with determined resolution (Isaiah 35:3-4b) that looks forward to the time when all of our weaknesses will be eliminated (Isaiah 35:5-6b) together with the elimination of the creation’s groaning (Isaiah 35:6-7). 

This is why the creation longs, with us, for us to come into our own resurrection (cf. Romans 8:18–23). And this is why every moment of pain is a reminder to press forward for that holiness that we must have on the day that we finally come to see the Lord Himself (cf. Hebrews 12:11–14). These apostolic expositions of Isaiah 35 were not new ideas (they are taught in Isaiah!), but the revelation of God Himself in Jesus Christ has revolutionized for us what this means. When Philip asked for Isaiah 33–35 blessedness, Jesus declared Himself to be the King in His beauty, Himself to be the glorious YHWH and excellent God (cf. John 14:9). 

In the new heavens and the new earth, there will not be any danger (Isaiah 35:8-9a–c). There will only be the redeemed (Isaiah 35:9d), who have been perfected in holiness (Isaiah 35:8b), so that the most “foolish” among them will be completely wise, holy , and secure (verse 8b, e–f). The days of sorrow and sighing will have come to an end, replaced forever by days of unmitigated joy in YHWH Himself, our King (Isaiah 35:10)!

O, dear reader, this end of all things is absolutely sure in the determination of God. And the sufferings that we now endure have been specifically designed to bring it about (cf. Romans 8:18–23, Hebrews 12:14). There has never once been an unnecessary moment or pang of pain for one of the Lord’s elect. Let us, then, pursue the holiness that He Himself is pursuing in us, even as we ask Him to sanctify unto us every trial and quickly bring the trial itself to an end.

What oppression do you currently experience? What outcome has the Lord ultimately determined for that? What outcome has the Lord ultimately determined for you? What difficulty or pain or trouble are you currently in? What is the Lord determined to use it to do to you? What should you be determined to gain by it? How do you plan to do gain it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for telling us of the certainty of Your vengeance. Please forgive us for how still, we have been unmindful of Your justice and despaired over what we see done by those who seem to have power. Thank You for telling us of the certainty of our blessedness in holiness. Please forgive us for how little we have employed our troubles as opportunities in the pursuit of holiness. And thank You, most of all, for presenting to us Yourself as our great reward in the beholding of Your beauty and glory. But, O Lord, please forgive us for how often we have been content to set our hearts upon lesser things, apart from You. Forgive us, Lord, and cleanse us, until we have come into that holiness and delight that the Lord Jesus has had as our substitute. Conform us, now to Him, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH471 “The Sands of Time Are Sinknig”

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