Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 3 2019 - Isaiah 2:1-18; 4:2-6 – God's purpose beyond judgment

The section we have read from Isaiah 2 is a chapter of contrasts. The picture of the nations streaming up to Jerusalem to learn God's ways and walk in his paths is very similar to that painted by Micah (see Micah 4:1-4). The people of Judah believed that in the last days God would visit his people and pour out his blessings upon them – blessings that would flow out into all the earth.

God had called the descendants of Abraham to be a light to the nations – a people through whom all the world would come to see the glory of the God of Jacob and come in faith to him. At the moment Israel is surrounded by hostile nations, but in those last days, they argued, the nations would abandon their warfare and come in peace to worship the Lord and listen to his word.

Isaiah takes this prophetic picture, which was treasured by the people of Judah, and turns it into a message of judgment. He begins by declaring, "Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord" (2:5). They can hardly hope to be a light to the Gentiles and encourage them to walk in God's ways if they are failing to do so themselves. As someone has wisely remarked, "You can't sell what you haven't got!"

Isaiah then goes on to show that far from being a light to the Gentiles – teaching others of the living God – God's people are adopting all kinds of pagan practices from their neighbours: "They are full of superstitions from the East; they practise divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs" (2:6).

In place of the glorious last days they have longed for, the Lord is planning a day of judgment for his people (2:12). It is a day when all that is exalted will be humbled: "The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear" (2:17-18). Judgment will begin with the people of God (note how 2:10 later finds an echo in Revelation 6:16). Their idols will be stripped away so that these people may become the source of blessing to the world, just as God intended.

Isaiah 4 returns to the theme of the day that is coming. "In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel", writes Isaiah (4:2). What or who is this "Branch of the Lord"? This term is used to point to the Messiah in his kingly and priestly offices (see Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). The picture is a bit like a branch in a family tree. Here is one who is going to come from David's line and will wash away the filth of his people and "cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire" (4:4). He will come in judgment, but it is judgment that will purify and cleanse. "Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night" (4:5). The Lord will be visibly present among his people as when he led them through the wilderness by the pillar of fire and smoke.

We know that these prophetic scriptures find their fulfilment and realisation in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Lord come to visit his people and he is David's greater Son. He has come to cleanse his people from their sin, providing cleansing through the shedding of his own blood. Now he comes to us in the power of his Spirit like a blazing fire which burns away all the filth of our uncleanness so that he might "present [us] to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27). And his Spirit remains within us to assure us that Christ our risen Saviour is always with us, leading us in the path he would have us walk.

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus and for the forgiveness and cleansing that is to be found in him. Help us by your Spirit to walk in the ways you have prepared for us, following in the footsteps of the Saviour himself. And may the glorious fire and light of your presence so fill us that others may come to learn of the living God whom we know and love. So may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Peter Misselbrook