Lesson 36: The Glory of Zion Will Be a Defense
The Seventies’ course for 1933 covers some of the same ground as this year’s lesson on the opening chapters of Isaiah.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Isaiah was the prophet of holiness. Sitting one day in the Temple at Jerusalem during a period of profound meditation he had a vision of God enthroned in heaven. Then it was that he dedicated his life to the Lord. His problem was to make his conception of Jehovah’s holiness the regulative ideal of conduct. He devoted his life in lifting the nation’s religion of ceremonial into a religion of character. Holiness to him was the outstanding characteristic of God, and Isaiah gave to Him the title of the Holy One of Israel. The multitude of Israel would fall away, yet through a faithful remnant, the divine purpose would be accomplished. In Isaiah 6 this is all expressed in the glowing light of a transcendent vision.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphims: Each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he did fly.
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: The whole earth is full of His glory.
And the posts of the door moved at the voice of Him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar.
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Then said I, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.
And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: As a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: So the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
The Power of Righteousness Over Sin
Isaiah declared that northern Israel would be destroyed and Jerusalem would be purged and punished by Assyria. And yet Assyria would in its turn be punished for its pride and wantonness. Ultimately, a remnant of the faithful would return from all quarters of the earth and Zion would be the center of a universal religious dominion “in which there shall be peace between man and animals.” Truth came to him in visual form, it was a vision which he saw. “Sin was not an abstract conception; it was scarlet, forgiveness washed one white.” ‘Wickedness burneth like the fire; righteousness is a girdle’; even the judgments of God are the ‘eyes of His glory’; a great man is the ‘shadow of a rock’! What more forcible statement of the helplessness of nations could be made than this: ‘As one gathereth eggs that are forsaken, have I gathered all the earth, and there was none that moved the wing, or that opened the mouth, or that chirped.
In five verses (5:26-30) Isaiah described the swift movements of an invading army more concisely and vividly than any other poet has done.
And He will lift up an ensign to the nations from afar, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: And, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken;
Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: Yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea; and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
Isaiah the Statesman
Isaiah lived at a time when Israel was freed from the terrible wars of the Assyrians – the eighth century before Christ – and when Judah obtained control of the valuable red Sea trade which meant commercial contact with Arabian, African, and Indian merchants. His work extended over a period of forty years. A resident of Jerusalem, he was a member of the upper class and was a frequenter of the court and a friend of the kings. Isaiah ranks as one of the greatest politicians and prophets of all Israel, and in using the word “politician,” we mean one who fulfills the definition of Aristotle when h defines “politician” as one who understands “the science of government.” Isaiah understood government in all its meaning and scope, and he had that insight into political life which constitutes statesmanship. yet he was not less a prophet. He looked at the problems of his nation from a religious view point, and his messages from God to his people are among the most epochal of prophetic history. He had a sublimity of imagination, and not only makes one see the truth, but he glorifies it in all his writings.
His political policy alone has challenged the thought of some of the greatest writers on political science. He taught that justice lies at the root of all good government when he writes: “Justice shall rule the hearts of the people, the spirit of mercy shall be the ideal of the children, and reverence, which is the recognition of the voice of God, shall be the guiding principle of all men. … We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nations, which keepeth the truth, shall enter in.”
Judah to Trust in God
Even in times of distress, Isaiah admonished Judah to take advantage of its isolation and to trust in God’s purpose and character rather than in political intrigue and expediency for safety. (Isaiah 1, 6, 11) Isaiah’s whole being was illuminated by a sublime faith in the true and living God, and a knowledge of the coming of Him, the Messiah, who would redeem the world and vouchsafe unto every living soul, salvation in God’s Kingdom through obedience to the laws of God. A Messiah, an anointed one, shall work the wonder of redemption:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon His shoulder: And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty of God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of the roots; and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:1, 2)
The Assyrian Army Withdraws from Jerusalem
Isaiah lived in some of the most troublesome times that the kingdoms of Judah and Israel ever witnessed. To the east in the valley of the Tigris river, the powerful empire of Assyria was preparing for war and conquest. The army threatened Damascus in the north, and invaded Galilee west of the Jordan River and finally laid siege to Jerusalem. There seemed to be no hope for the people, for they would be starved out, even if the walls were not taken by assault. Yet in the end this did not happen. Isaiah’s faith was a greater power than kings and armies. A plague swept over the Assyrian camps, and rumors came to king Sennacherib that insurrections had broken out among his people at home. The people of Jerusalem were saved, and Isaiah’s faith and hope that Jerusalem should be exalted as an exemplar and a torch bearer of the spirit among all nations, became a renewed inspiration to his people. “The departure of the Assyrian army for Judea had vindicated the promises of the Prophet Isaiah given in the name of God.” In Isaiah 20, you will discover how the Egyptians and the Ethiopians who had attacked Judah, were led away captive by the Assyrian army.
It is now that Isaiah rises to his glory as prophet, who understood the spirit of the times. Judah suffered by the fire and blood of war. Patriot as well as seer, Isaiah grieved over the desolation of his country by the invaders. He pleaded with his people against the depravity of the times and strove to arouse them to reformation by a touching presentation of Jehovah’s love and mercy. Isaiah 1 forms a background for the wonderful prophecy found in Isaiah 2, one of the finest in Holy Writing. In it we see that Isaiah could not conceive of the redemption fo the world except through the political sovereignty of Mount Zion. What a vision and prophecy, too, of these the last days:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain fo the Lord’s house shall be established in the top fo the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills: and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall be and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain fo the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword again nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Therefore thou hast forsaken thy pe9ple 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.
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 also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:
And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself; therefore forgive them not.
Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.
The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,
And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up,
And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall,
And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.
And the idols He shall utterly abolish.
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, and to the moles and to the bats:
To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.
Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils:
For wherein is he to be accounted of!