Today: [Isaiah 52] The Real Jerusalem. In chapter 52 Isaiah calls upon the city of Zion and Jerusalem to put on her beautiful garments. As New Testament believers, we understand that Hebrews 12 teaches us that the church is the Jerusalem from above just as the actual city of Jerusalem is established upon the earth. The garments of the church speak of the new birth experience for us. Other religions call for their followers to adopt philosophy and ritual but our faith is not based on religious culture but upon living and vital personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.
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[Isa 52:1-15 KJV] 1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, [and] sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. 3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. 4 For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. 5 Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day [is] blasphemed. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore [they shall know] in that day that I [am] he that doth speak: behold, [it is] I. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! 8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion. 9 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. 11 Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean [thing]; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD. 12 For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel [will be] your rereward. 13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for [that] which had not been told them shall they see; and [that] which they had not heard shall they consider.
When Isaiah calls for the city of Jerusalem to awake and put on her beautiful garments, what does that mean to us as New Testament believers? References to Jerusalem in the Old Testament do not just apply to the natural location of Jerusalem. Col. 2:17 tells us that the things of the Old Testament (people, cities, situations) are the shadow of which the New Testament is the substance. The writer of Hebrews identifies the church as Jerusalem in Heb. 12:
[Heb 12:22-23 KJV] 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
What are the garments then of the church? Garments are something we wear to protect and beautify ourselves. Isaiah 61:10 tells us that God clothes us with garments of salvation. Eph. 6:10-13 tells us to put on the armor of God to withstand the wiles of the devil – beginning with the garment of salvation. Salvation for us is more than believing a doctrine. Salvation is an experience we call the new birth. In clothing ourselves then we are wrapping ourselves up in spiritual experiences of which being born again is the preeminent example. Other religions may lay down doctrines or philosophies as that which must be adopted to become an adherent to their beliefs but in our faith personal, dynamic experience with the Savior is held in our highest regard. Without personal experience with Jesus nothing else in Christianity carries any weight.
Verse 1 also speaks of the uncircumcised being excluded from the city of God. When you understand the meaning of this statement from a New Testament standpoint it is very challenging. As Christians, we know that there is no covenantal or spiritual value in circumcising male infants. Outward religious ritual then is of very little value to us. Paul spoke very clearly on this subject in his letter to the Romans:
[Rom 2:28-29 KJV] 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.
The circumcision we value is circumcision of the heart. The Holy Spirit through Isaiah is saying that there is a time that will come when the uncircumcised in heart will be excluded from the community of Christ. What does this mean specifically for us? The primary difference in the Old Testament between the circumcised and the uncircumcised was the question of idolatry. The nations around Israel, those that were evicted from Canaan where those that worshipped idols. Are you circumcised in heart? Has every outward dependency and outward affection for earthly things been excluded from your heart in reverence to Christ? Is He first in all things, or is He simply a spiritual supplement to a life little changed by the transforming power of the cross?
Verse 6 speaks of the work of the evangelist and predicts the time when the gospel would be spread throughout the known world, literally on the feet of those that went out from Jerusalem after the day of Pentecost preaching the gospel. We also see that the heart of the gospel message is that our God reigns – a kingdom emphasis on Jesus as Lord and king, not just as a savior. Verse 8 tells us that this will be a time when the watchmen will rejoice together and see eye to eye. That is very much a missing aspect of Christian leadership today. Pastors and leaders have very little to do with one another, setting themselves in conflict and competition in the city – vying for one another’s members and adherents. It is the dearth of Christian culture that leaders maintain very poor relations one with another but Isaiah says it will not always be that way. When our leaders become circumcised in heart there will be humility, harmony and unity among them. Of this unity king David wrote in Psalm 133:
[Psa 133:1-3 KJV] 1 Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 [It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3 As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.
Verse 2 of the psalm speaks of the oil that runs down the beard of Aaron. Leaders had to be mature men in Moses’ day or they could not serve. A lack of unity, a refusal to serve in one heart is a sign of immaturity among leaders and not distinction. When a leader denigrates other leaders, and does not seek points of agreement and mutuality it indicates a need to mature and points to a lack of God’s blessing. The place of unity is where God commands the blessing and outside of unity there is a decided lack of the benediction of God upon our labors.
In verse 11 the Lord speaks through Isaiah to those that “bear the vessels of the Lord” that they touch no unclean thing. This is a mandate as well for leaders to live holy lives. What, or who are the vessels of the Lord? That speaks of the believer, of you and I. Some vessels in the house are vessels of honor, some of lesser honor but we are all vessels of the house of God and our leaders and pastors are charged with our care. If the vessels are holy then those that serve and care for those vessels must also be holy and touch not the unclean thing. Are you a leader? Then you are to set an example of godliness, piety and purity in life according to a higher standard than those that you serve. Others may, you cannot. You are set apart and you are called to demonstrate a crucified life. If we will as leaders accept this charge then the promise of God in verse 11 is that the Lord will go before us and will be our rearguard, taking care of us in all things, making us an example to the people of the blessing that rests upon those that commit their all to Him who has saved us and called us to leadership in His kingdom.
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