We shall study the thirteenth chapter of Isaiah, beginning with the very first verse.
Here, as in other chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy, you will notice that a part of the chapter (in this instance, the first seventeen verses) speaks of the sins of ancient Israel, the fathers of antitypical Israel, and of their fall from power. But the remainder of the chapter speaks of Israel in the latter days, the days in which antitypical Israel rises to power. Let us now consider
Isa. 30:1, 2 – “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of Me; and that cover with a covering, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at My mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!”
Evidently God’s people in those days were guilty of these sins. Instead of trusting in God to deliver them from their enemies, they trusted in Pharaoh. What a poor support to lean on! As a result they were plainly told:
Verses 3-7 – “Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes. They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach. The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them. For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.”
This, as you know, is exactly what befell God’s ancient people. How much better it is to sit still, to wait on the Lord for help when you are helpless, than to solicit the help of His enemies!
Verses 8 – “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.”
True, they killed the prophets for warning the people of their sin, but God decreed that the prophets’ writings against the existing sins must remain intact to be read as object lessons by the generations that were to follow thereafter. God’s people of today, therefore, have no excuse for repeating the mistakes of their predecessors. If they do repeat the sins of those who have gone before them, however, then their guilt will bring upon them even greater doom than was brought upon the Jews. And if no one can deny that Isaiah’s prophecies against the Jews were fulfilled, then who can dare say that they will not be fulfilled against us if we fail as they did?
Verses 9, 10 – “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.”
By killing the prophets for their frank speaking, God’s ancient people were in effect saying, Prophesy unto us deceit. Tell us smooth things, we do not want to know the truth about us. Does this thing still exist among us? – Let me tell you an incident that will quickly answer this question.
Just the other day from a brother minister I received a very kindly written letter, in which he sincerely expresses his opinion of our literature. He very politely explained that all he has against it is that in it we speak of the sins and mistakes which the leaders of the church commit. If you have love for them he said, you will speak only good of them.
I do appreciate this brother’s sincerity in this matter, but I do not appreciate his judgment on it. If he will re-examine the literature, I am sure he will find that we have said nothing but only what the Scriptures say on the subject for our time. Therefore his burden in actuality is directed, not against us but against God Himself!
Our business, Brother, Sister, is not to find fault with either the ministry or the laity, but to truthfully bring to light what the Scriptures have to say to God’s people of today. We cannot do otherwise, God helping us. Ezekiel’s charge is our charge:
“When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” Ezek. 3:18.
When the Jews found fault with the prophets for speaking of the sins in which the priests were indulging, they actually said:
Verse11 – “Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”
Spiritual blindness is a cruel thing. Its victims can hardly be made to see either their sins or the righteousness of God. They misinterpret and misapply everything that is intended for their own good.
Verses 12, 13 – “Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this Word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.”
If the spiritual eyes of God’s ancient people could possibly have been opened, if they could have seen that their sins were undermining the foundation upon which they were standing, they would not have spit upon the faces of the prophets for warning them of their plight. Indeed not. Instead, they would have welcomed the prophets.
Verse 14 – “And He shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; He shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.”
Who dares deny that their kingdom thus fell? All these things came upon them only because they refused to hear the prophets.
Verses 15-18 – “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill. And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.”
Because there was nothing that could have been done to save our ancestors from shame, the Lord let the nations beat His people and scatter them to the four winds. He nevertheless left a promise that He would wait until they as a people have gone through their period of prodigality, until they as individuals discover their mistakes and give the Lord opportunity to display His grace to them. Those who wait for Him are certainly to receive His blessings.
With the eighteenth verse comes the dividing line between the account of God’s ancient people and the forecast of His people’s future in the latter days. Up to this point is the record of the former; now concerning the promises to the latter, we read:
Verse 19 – “For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when He shall hear it, He will answer thee.”
What is the reason that God so patiently waits? and why does He promise His grace so abundantly to His people? – Because He is determined that they shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem. His aim is to take them back there, and to give them rest. His purpose is to end their weeping, to hear their prayers, and to grant their needs.
So it is that while God’s ancient people faced destruction, punishment, and desolation, we now are facing restoration, pity, and grace. Today we have the same promise that the people had in Moses’ day – yes, greater.
Verse 20 – “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers.”
Although God anciently permitted the peoples’ teachers (their prophets) to be pushed into a corner, abused, and slaughtered, He will permit it no longer. The eyes of His people shall see their God-appointed teachers as they are brought to the front.
Verse 21 – “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”
There is therefore no need for any of us to go wrong. There is no excuse for making mistakes which we ought not make.
Verse 22 – “Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.”
No, God’s faithful people will not hold to anything that displeases the Lord. Not only will they cast away all idolatrous things, but they will actually hate them.
Verse 23 – “Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.”
When we comply with all God’s requirements, then it is that we will prosper. Then it is that the devourer shall be rebuked, and the curses kept back from us. We should therefore now realize that prosperity does not depend merely upon one’s ability, but that it depends even more upon God’s approval of one’s deeds.
Verse 24 – “The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.”
If our cattle are to have clean feed, then how much more important that we ourselves have spiritual food that is winnowed by the Spirit of Truth. This they are to have.
Verse 25 – “And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.”
Obviously, when God’s waters of salvation cover the earth – even to the tops of the mountains, so to speak – then the watch towers (the pulpits), which the people have on their own initiative built, will fall. Doubtless the day of slaughter is the great and dreadful day of the Lord. So again we are brought face to face with the reality that Truth does one of two things – if It cannot save, It destroys.
This Truth to which you are listening today will verily spread throughout the world as fire spreads in stubble. Matters not who attempt to stop God’s Truth, I know that all such will stumble and fall and not be found, but that the Truth shall cover the earth.
Verse 26 – “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of His people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.”
Were this not a figure of speech, were the sun actually to become seven times hotter than it is, then the earth itself would go into flames. Obviously the sun in this instance is used figuratively to illustrate that the light of God’s Word now while He is binding the “wound” of His people, is to increase sevenfold – all the light that there is will burst upon the earth as does the sun after a cloudy day. Moreover, the moon (the church), the agency which reflects the rays of the sun into the dark places of the earth, will as a result accommodate the people, not much better than she has heretofore, but perfectly. Already we see the light of God’s Word rising higher and higher with each passing week.
Verse 27 – “Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with His anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire.”
Look! commands the Lord, the unveiling of these truths indicates but one thing – that we are approaching the great and dreadful day of the Lord, the day in which there shall be but one Lord, and His name one.
Verse 28 – “And His breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.”
The Lord’s breath, His written Word, will rise (revealed Truth will increase) up and up until It shall reach to the “midst of the neck,” as it were, to sift the nations. The vain shall fall, but the humble, those that wait for the Lord, shall stand.
Verse 29 – “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel.”
Yes, the rejecters of God’s Word may lament and gnash their teeth in outer darkness, but the obedient, those who wait for the Lord, shall sing as when a holy solemnity is kept, and shall, as it were, play with a pipe instrument “to come into the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord.”
Verse 30 – “And the Lord shall cause His glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of His arm, with the indignation of His anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.”
God is about to thus manifest His power and vindicate His cause. The days of His silence are almost past.
Verses 31-33 – “For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will He fight with it. For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; He hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.”
If God’s people in ancient days had believed what the prophets told them, what a difference it would have made! Their mistakes must now become our knowledge, our stepping stones of escape.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house…. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard It. Again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Heb. 3:1, 2; 4:1, 2, 7.
Our forefathers preferred deceit. We, though, ought to now gladly respond to Mercy’s plea, and thus obtain grace.