Exploring the Gospel of Isaiah; the Law and the prophets all testify of Messiah – specifically, however, the book of Isaiah was written for the express purpose of remaining a mystery to those who could not percieve the Messiah (Is. 6:9 & 10). The book was initially written to the Jews to that purpose; Isaiah’s entire message is of an era which was still to come in his day. Isaiah speaks throughout the book of the New Covenant era and dispensation, however, he is using the language, the types, and the forms of the Old Testament to communicate that era and dispensation which was still to come in his day but which is the present reality in our day. In the first chapter, for example (feel free to review my post on it, link is above) Isaiah prophesies the establishment of New Jerusalem, and the foundation of the church. yet he describes them in language which would probably have implied the affirmation of the NATION of Israel to his contemporary Jewish readers. He didn’t lie to them, but the meaning behind his words were shrouded in mystery (and still are, for only in Christ is the vail taken away (2 Cor 3:16)) – this is in fact, the very fulfilment of Isaiah’s commission.
Last post I discussed chapter 1, which chapter contained a single prophecy; please bear with me as I dive into the next few chapters. Like many of the prophets, Isaiah doesn’t break down into chapters very well; the book is better seen as a number of prophecies than chapter blocks. Whereas chapter 1 contains a singular prophetic utterance, the second prophecy of the book is lengthier, and broken up into four chapters. Chapters 2-5 are a single prophetic uterance but as I am working through these prophecies in blog post format, I’ll need to go through it more or less a chapter at a time. For context, and and overview (to understand the prophecy as a whole), I’ll need to periodically retrieve thoughts from other portions of the prophecy (i.e. from the other chapters of the prophecy) lest we mis-interpret a verse whose meaning is more fully elaborated in a later part of the same prophecy.
This second prophecy is laid upon the context of the previous one.
An important awareness for us to have about Isaiah’s perspective as we move into looking at the second chapter is this: the Old Testament prophets considered the coming dispensation of Messiah to be the ‘last days.’ As Christians in a dispensational era which has already lasted about 2000 years, we have a different view of the ‘last days,’ (which will finally culminate in Messiah’s SECOND coming) but to the Old Testament prophets, and to the Jews (both of then, and of today (for the orthodox do not believe Jesus was the Messiah – they seek another Messiah who is not Jesus)), the ‘last days’ begin when Messiah appears. And so it is, for even in the New Testament – despite the fact that this dispensation is 2000 years old – the Apostles affirmed that we are living in the ‘last days’ described by the Old Testament prophets (see Heb 1:2; 1 John 2:18).
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out, signifying the commencement of the dispensation of the last days as Joel had prophesied, and Peter affirmed: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I wil pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…’ (Acts 2:17) We are in the last days since the outset of the New Testament era for it is the era of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Just as in chapter 1, Isaiah prophesied (accurately) the condition of the nation of Israel when Christ was to come, the judgment to be met upon it for their rejection of Christ, and the establishment of New Jerusalem, chapter 2 picks up chronologically after that, and speaks of the era of New Jerusalem: the church era, the ‘last days.’
The entirety of this prophecy (Isaiah 2-5) is similar to the prophecy of Isaiah 1 in that it is about Christ’s coming to judge the people who called themselves by His name, and establish the church. This becomes most apparent in the last two chapters, chapter 4 for example, references that those remaining in Jerusalem are those ‘written among the living’ (Lamb’s book of Life); even more tellingly, Jesus used a parable taken directly Isaiah from chapter 5 to pronounce judgment on the Sanhedrin (that is, he appropriately applied the prophecy of Isaiah to declare that He was ending the nation of Israel to establish the Church (New Jerusalem Matt 21:33-45); so that the religious rulers understood that the lesson was spoken of them (Matt 21:45).
A common contemporary interpretation of the begining of chapter 2 is that it is speaking of natural Israel, and/or the ‘millineal reign’ because of some of Isaiah’s utopian language. However contextually we will find that is expressly NOT an accurate interpretation; chapter 5 contains a lot of clarifying content to chapter 2, some of which we’ll reference further here. The final verse of the prophecy as a whole (chapters 2-5) gives one pertinent tid-bit that the propecy as a whole (or throughout) is not speaking of Palestine, or the earthly nation of Israel; indeed Isaiah’s implication is that such an interpretation is deception in the last days. Speaking in context of the people God will call together ‘from the ends of the earth’ (spiritul Israel) Isaiah declares: ‘…and if one look unto the LAND [that is, the earth, the natural… THE LAND for their hope], behold darkeness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.’ (Is. 5:30) (Isaiah even prophesies to the land in a later prophecy interestingly, he does not call it not ‘Israel,’ but ‘Palestine’ (see 14:29-32)).
Without further adue:
The text, itself, will be in italics; my commentary un-italicized, and in brackets wherever inserted into the text. Any emphasis (bold, or underlined) by me.
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
If you recall in chapter 1, I pointed out that though the book of Isaiah was written after Israel, and Judah were divided into two seperate nations. Isaiah lived and ministered in Judah, the southern kingdom. In many places this is important because often (as in chapter one) Isaiah prophesies to Israel as though it is a single kingdom. Here it is also important but for a different reason. Prophetically Judah often represents the elect, or the ‘remnant,’ this is because for two primary reasons: 1) the family line of David (to whom Messiah was promised) remained the dynasty of the nation of Judah, 2) Jerusalem, and the temple were in Judah.
In this prophecy (which begins in chapter 2, and ends in chapter 5), the emphasis is on Judah, and Jerusalem as the spiritual leadership of the nation; in this prophecy (whose content is similar to chapter 1), Isaiah speaks to Judah and Jerusalem as the accountable leadership of Israel.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established [or ‘prepared’] in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
The verse describes the commencement of a new era, an era in which the mountain of the Lord’s house would be established as a presiding spiritual haven to which all nations would flow.
In isaiah chapter 1, we find that God would establish New Jerusalem in the Messianic era. In fact, He would destroy the earthly type of Jerusalem and its councilors by judgment, and establish new judges and councilors who held no civil authority, but all spiritual authority (Matt 28:18). Messiah’s coming marked three things 1) the commencement of the last days, 2) the establishment of the spiritual Kingdom of Christ 3) the destruction by judgment of the typological illustration of Christ’s kingdom.
Recall that I mentioned the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as theologically denoting the outset of ‘the last days’? Here Isaiah declares that ALL NATIONS shall flow to it. This is the promise of the founding of the church: New Jerusalem; the prophet Joel declared that the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon ALL FLESH. The key sign of the outset of New Jerusalem was the gift of tongues. The foundation stones of New Jerusalem began to miraculously call together the people of all nations. In fact, the early church being made up of Jews had to be trained by the Holy Spirit to let gentiles into the church! The New Testamment era was to be marked by the inclusion of Gentiles into the plan of salvation; in the Revelation we find people from every nation, tribe and tongue worshipping God before he throne (Rev 7:9, 10). This verse predicts the heavenly city that Christ prepares for His people, and salvation extended to all peoples of the world: the establishment or preperation (not yet the utter fulfillment) of New Jerusalem.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Verse 3 continues the line of thought, as ‘many people’ from every nation will turn to the Lord so they may learn His ways. The earliest biblical fulfilment of this was of Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) where the Apostle (remember, foundation stone of New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14; Mat 16:18)) Peter declared: ‘Of a truth I percieve that God is no respector of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.’ (Acts 10:34, 35) When Peter preached, the gentiles recieved the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues ((Acts 10:46) the sign which was given the church age to show God was calling all nations unto Him) wherefore, Peter had them baptized (v. 47).
Notice he specifies ‘to the house of the God of Jacob’ – this specific phrase is important to the context, which we’ll see as we get to verse 5 – specifically it denotes that the gentiles now recognise that the Messiah of the Jews (the house of Jacob) is the True God. Notice the text does NOT say: ‘the God of the house of Jacob,‘ (as Jacob’s house) but ‘the house of the God of Jacob’ (as God’s house.) This is important for two main reasons:
1) The gentiles’ access to God is not through Judaism in the era of which Isaiah here prophesies, rather salvatiton is only attained by putting faith in the God of the Jews. Our access to God and His Kingdom is direct, and express through Jesus Christ, not through the Jews, or Judaism (that is: not through the Law, or anything else that may be construed as the ‘house of Jacob.’) Under the Old Testament dispensation (the era Isaiah lived in), salvation could only be attained by gentiles who came to know God through the Jewish Law; but Isaiah prophesies a day when all nations have access to the God of the Jews.
2) According to verses 5-9, the ‘house of Jacob’ is not serving their God during the days described.
Isaiah prophesies that in the last days, the eternal kingdom will be established on the basis of the people of the nations coming unto the God of the Jews; which is of course, fulfilled personally in Jesus Christ: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ (John 14:6)
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people [Christ will work in all nations, and people from all nationalities will He judge, train, and correct]: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
This is among the most utopian sounding verses of the passage in particular, but Isaiah is not describing the earthly, or natural condition of the nations in the coming era, he is describing condition of all those of the nations that join themselves to the God of Jacob (as he has established it in verses 2 & 3 and as will be further evident as we continue reading the prophecy); he is speaking of the spiritual reality of the church in the New Covenant era. Those who recieve Christ learn the Way of peace with all men – they beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks.
5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Notice that Isaiah, having just described a utopian era in which the people of he nations of the world come to God and learn peace, he now specifically calls out the Jews ‘O house of Jacob,’ and calls them also to come walk in the light of the Lord as ‘the nations’ (gentiles) have learned to do.
6 Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
Now, here is an interesting statement: Isaiah has just declared that many gentiles will turn to the God of Israel, but accuses the ‘house of Jacob’ (Jews) of being ‘replenished from the east,’ participating in witchcraft, and delighting in ‘the children of strangers.’ While nations of the world are turning to the God of Jacob, the house of Jacob is turning to the pagan customs of the nations.
7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:
‘Their land…’ whose land? The land of the house of Jacob: Palestine. Whereas Isaiah has just used the terms ‘Jerusalem,’ and ‘Zion’ (v. 3) to describe the ‘place’ to which the nations will go to learn the ways of the God of Jacob, he is now declaring their LAND (where earthly Jerusalem, and Zion are) to be a snare. Confusing? It shouldn’t be if we understand that the fulfillment of this prophecy is in Christ, not the expired earthly inheritance of land. Remember this prophecy ends with the words: ‘…and if one look unto the LAND, behold darkeness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof [even that spiritual meaning, and substance which was applied to the land had under the Old Covenant as a shadow of the age to come is removed].’ (Is. 5:30)
One very interesting thing about verse 7, however, is this: our setting is the new covenant era, and we know from the prophecy in chapter 1 (as well as from history) that the nation of Israel was decimated near the begining of it (70 A.D.) according to Christ’s final judgment of the nation (Matt 23), however, this prophecy of Isaiah speaks of the house of Jacob (who remain unconverted to the God of Jacob) filling their land with gold, silver, treasures, horses and chariots. Israel today is one of the most wealthy nations in the world; it is a world power, having nuclear weapons, and one of the most powerful militaries in the world. Yet they walk not in the light of Christ; Isaiah is calling the modern house of Jacob back to the Lord. Thus this part of the prophecy predicts the contemporary nation of Israel, yet not in the utopian sense – rather in the negative sense, which equates Zionism with idolatry.
8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:
9 And the mean man [‘mean’ is the word for ‘comon’ in King James; that is: ‘the common man’ or ‘the people, generally’] boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.
Now being replenished from the pagan nations, the land becomes filled with idolatry; in fact the old types and shadows which were of the Old Covenant become the new form of idolatry to the house of Jacob. The outward signs, and rituals which were meant to prophesy the coming Christ are exalted, and the fulfillment of them: Jesus Messiah is rejected. They worship the works of their own hands, the types and the shadows that their own hands have made.
To contunue reading: Isaiah 2:10-22 The Gospel of Isaiah, pt. 3