Today: [Isaiah 32] The Long View of the Prophet. In chapter 32 of Isaiah we see that Isaiah is a prophet that takes the long view. He looks down so deeply in the lens of prophetic insight that he sees beyond the immediate challenges to the ultimate consequences regarding what will happen if the people do or do not repent. The message of Isaiah calls for more than just seeking relief from difficult times in our lives. Isaiah compels us to look at the systemic causes of much of the pressure we face and from that standpoint he urges us as he did his contemporaries to come out of complacency and become sincere at a deeper level in our faith in God.
[Isa 32:1-20 KJV] 1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. 2 And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. 3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. 4 The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. 5 The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said [to be] bountiful. 6 For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 7 The instruments also of the churl [are] evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. 8 But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.
Chapter 32 of Isaiah begins by describing the happy times that follow the destruction of the enemies of Jerusalem at end of chapter 31. Commentators extrapolate this passage as applying to the millennial reign of Christ at the end of the age. The comparison is made of king Ahaz now dead giving way to the rule of Hezekiah as a king who will now rule in righteousness and a prince that will reign in judgment. Hezekiah and the day he lives in is a type of the last days. There was great evil and apostasy during Ahaz’ rule including the deep desecration of the temple, all of which was reversed in Hezekiah’s time. We can look around in our day and think how will we ever see the ungodliness that is so systemic in our culture be turned back to God or to holiness?
It would be good to remember the recent history of the last few centuries. After the fall of Rome the world descended into a dark and chaotic time in which the church was the very center of evil, intrigue and brutal persecution of the saints. Then one day a man named Martin Luther initiated a dialog by posting a 99-point thesis for discussion on the door of the Wittenberg chapel. Luther’s aim was public discourse but God’s aim was the launching of the Protestant reformation of which we are all beneficiaries in ways it would be difficult to exaggerate. This helps us to remember that God is in control. God can take a simple act such as tacking a piece of paper to a public bulletin board and change the world as we know it.
The time of Ahaz was very disappointing and grievous to those in Jerusalem who were faithful to God. Can you imagine going to worship and do sacrifice only to be reminded upon every visit to the temple by the doors that Ahaz had removed and the pagan altars he had erected in the Holy Place next to the altar of incense, the table of showbread and the golden lampstand? They might of despaired of things ever changing but change did in fact come under the reign of Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s time was a restoration greater than any other king of the line of David except Solomon himself. From the ashes of the very dark days of Ahaz came a veritable season of enlightenment and purity under Hezekiah. In our own history in the early days of the democracy many of our founding fathers and 1000’s of people heralded the blasphemous writings of Thomas Paine in “Age of Reason” to be the veritable wisdom of our time. Paine was a modern day false prophet whose writings to this day deeply influence the godless, yet out of the popularity of Paine’s sacrilege the Great Awakening was spawned. Therefore we in our time as Isaiah did in his, can look with great hope for a time of revival and restoration of piety, humility and trust in God that often comes out of the ashes of confusion, godlessness and hedonism as has dominated our culture for many decades.
9 Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. 10 Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come. 11 Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird [sackcloth] upon [your] loins. 12 They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. 13 Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns [and] briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy [in] the joyous city: 14 Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; 15 Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. 16 Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. 17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. 18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; 19 When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place. 20 Blessed [are] ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth [thither] the feet of the ox and the ass.
In verse 9 Isaiah calls the people up out of complacency and careless living. This is often the case when there is regime change over a nation and the consensus of the people is that a godly ruler is now in power. Isaiah warns that this is a time to tremble in sackcloth and ashes, and not be swallowed up by self-interest, indulgence and self-focus. Because the people in Hezekiah’s time lapsed even further into lukewarmness there came about the rise of king Manasseh after Hezekiah at whose evil reign even Ahaz would have blushed. The only greater threat than when God is decried and marginalized in the halls of power is when His name is mentioned and honored and the people of God nod off to sleep for another 4 years, thinking that the world is safe for democracy and the cause of Christ because their political ally is in power. Nothing could be further from the truth. Evil never sleeps. The enemy continues to go about as a roaring lion and as Isaiah challenges us – we must be ever prayerful and vigilant.
We can make the application of these truths to our own life. Isaiah sees Ahaz removed and Hezekiah set in power. To his alarm the people then become even more complacent than they were under Ahaz reign. Often when we are under pressure and facing great challenges in life, we reform our prayer life, and increase the works of our own personal piety with great motivation to establish our testimony and credibility before God from whom we hope to receive deliverance. Then when deliverance comes, the trial is past, we relax and fall back into the lackadaisical attitudes toward the things of God that landed us in the midst of peril and fiery trials in the first place. If anything can be said of Isaiah he is a prophet who always took the long view. He looked far beyond the immediate challenges of the day and he compelled the people of Jerusalem to look as well and to learn. Isaiah didn’t just want relief for God’s people from immediate pain and suffering, he was lobbying for radical, soul deep, nation transforming change. There will come a time in Isaiah’s life that he will suffer deep depression because he realizes that on the whole his message was not, and would not be heard by his generation. The question for us is will we pause and think about what God is saying to us by placing this book in our canon of scripture and heed its message – or will we suffer the same fate as Isaiah’s generation?
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