Today: [Isaiah 4] The Seven Churches in Isaiah. In chapter four of Isaiah the prophet shifts from pronouncing against the sins of the people to declaring the glories of Christ at the end of the age. He describes the church as seven women who in the latter days begin as being more wrapped up in personalities and denominationalism but who will ultimately find her identity in the Branch that will be glorious round about her. The prophet speaks of the church as the daughters of Zion cleansed of all filthiness comprising an assembly on mount Zion where the people find a refuge and protection from the rigors of the turbulence of history all around them.
[Isa 4:1-6 KJV] 1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach. 2 In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth [shall be] excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. 3 And it shall come to pass, [that he that is] left in Zion, and [he that] remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, [even] every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: 4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. 5 And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory [shall be] a defence. 6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
In this chapter Isaiah takes a total departure from his prophetic words in previous chapters. In chapter one he indicts the city of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom as a sinful nation laden with iniquity. He pronounces the city Sodom and Gomorrah and declares it is full of murderers and idolaters. In chapter two he declares the land is full of idols and their lofty looks will be brought down. In chapter three the Lord defines his chastisement of the nation by strapping them with immature leaders who will plunge them into all-out war. Suddenly however in chapter four it is as the microscopic lens by which the sins of the people is being fully found out and exposed is pulled back to the wide angle perspective of time and eternity. The message is that of the Branch of the Lord that will be glorious and of the millennial kingdom from which the Lord Jesus Himself will rule the earth from the city of Jerusalem and all nations will flow into it. There is reference as well to the people of God in the New Covenant who are the substance of God’s economy cast by the shadow of the Old Testament saints.
Verse 1 begins with an enigmatic statement that describes a day when seven women will lay hold on one man saying “we will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel, only let us be called by thy name and take away our reproach”. What might this conceivably refer to? Viewed only from the Old Covenant perspective it might be suggested there is only a literal interpretation due to chapter three speaking of the balance of marriageable men being decimated by war brought on by king Ahaz and also Manasseh who succeeds Hezekiah and ultimately martyrs Isaiah by ordering him to be sawn in two. Looking at this verse from a New Covenant perspective what might the seven women represent?
In Rev. 1:4 Jesus in speaking to John on Patmos addresses the seven churches. In Rev. 1:12 John turns to see who speaks to him and sees Jesus standing in the midst of seven candlesticks that represent the seven churches. The beginning chapters of the book of Revelation are addressed to each of the seven churches in turn. Job 9:9 and Job 38:31 speak of the star system Pleiades as being held by the star Orion. Pleiades is also known from antiquity as the seven sisters and Orion a type of Christ Himself shepherding His church. Pleiades or the seven sisters represent the church. So, if the seven women of Isaiah 4:1 speak of the church what does that tell us?
The seven women laying hold of one man speaks of the churches that having no security or identify in themselves look to a man to take away their reproach and give them a sense of belonging? What does this speak of? Does this not describe denominationalism and the condition of the church being driven by enslavement to personality driven dependencies rather than upon Christ Himself? Refer to the words of Jesus in John 15:
[Jhn 15:5-6 KJV] 5 I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned.
If we abide in Christ we find our identity in Him and bring forth the abundance of the fruit of the spirit. Jesus is the vine and the branches are the churches. If a church or a people or individual do not abide in Him what happens? They are cast forth and MEN GATHER THEM and they are cast into the fire or burned. Is this speaking of hell? No it is speaking of a church wanting to identify who they are with the ministry of a man or a movement and then become fuel for the agenda of that movement rather than purely belonging to Christ. Throughout church history churches have sprung up clinging to a man or a founder and often never able to grow being that identity. Think of the Lutheran church bound to Martin Luther. Methodism bound to John Wesley. The Baptist churches bound to John Calvin or Billy Graham. Modern churches molded and mired in their sense of who they are around the late Kenneth Hagin, or Kenneth Copeland. All of these men are monumental giants of theology and spiritual truth – the error is not theirs but the churches who have laid hold on them and become more identified in themselves by the life and character of these men rather than Christ Himself. Paul lamented this in his day:
[1Co 1:10, 12-13 KJV] 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. … 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
This is the church and the condition that Isaiah describes going on to declare that in that day of insecurity and immaturity among the people of God there shall be (v. 2) a “glorious Branch, excellent and comely for all those that have escaped” the idolatries and immaturities that will bind the people and the churches in that day. Remember Gal. 4:6 identifies the church as the Jerusalem that is above. The natural city of Jerusalem is only the shadow of which the heavenly Jerusalem (the church) is the substance. When you read in the prophets of the city of Jerusalem it is not only addressing the national identity of the Jewish people but just as centrally the church of the living God in type and in shadow.
Isaiah goes on to declare:
3 And it shall come to pass, [that he that is] left in Zion, and [he that] remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, [even] every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: 4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
Who are the daughters of Zion? Again the daughters of Zion are the churches of the living God. What is it that cleanses and purges our lives and makes us clean? Consider the words of Jesus in John 15:3:
[Jhn 15:3 KJV] 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
There are many ideas and suggestions as to how to become clean and live clean spiritually and morally. God chastises us through His word. He cleans us by His word that is as “refiner’s fire and fullers soap” (Mal. 3:2). God’s first choice in transforming His people is according to His word. I chastising circumstances or situations come after it is because we have failed as the people Isaiah prophesied to ultimately failed to heed His regard in the words of truth and verity that would have spared them what ultimately became their fate. Today much of theology suggests that God’s means of chastising His people is by the brutal consequences of failing to heed the words of God by His spirit and by His prophets. They don’t stop for one moment to suggest that if we will listen to the words of God we will be protected and overshadowed in times of difficulty because we have found our identity in Him and given up the false dependencies of outward security.
5 And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory [shall be] a defence. 6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
God will create assemblies (or churches) upon mount Zion. What is Zion? It is the precinct around Jerusalem where the kings lived and were venerated. It is simultaneously the “parched place” and the “sunlit place” where the illumination of God’s word exposes and withers that within us that is contrary to God’s character and illuminates for us the path of righteousness we are to walk in. The cloud and smoke by day is thought by Catholicism to be the cloud of the witnesses of their venerated saints but it is in fact the directive presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives comforting us and leading us as the cloud comforted and led the children of Israel through the wilderness, sheltering them from the blistering heat. The shining of the flaming fire by night is the pillar of God’s inward witness – the God who is a fire from his waist upward and his waist downward who fills us with His zeal and His passion and lights our way through times of darkness and unknowing that we might take sure steps when others are stumbling and reeling from one crisis to the next. This is the picture of the church as God desires it. A tabernacle that shelters its people from the heat of turbulent human affairs. A place of refuge and a covert from storm and a cistern to retain the rains of the Spirit as the come to refresh us from time to time.
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