“Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the house without man, and the land be utterly desolate. And the LORD have removed man far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land….” Isaiah 6:11-13
The Divine Timetable for Judgments in the Goodly Land
We should never forget that the land of Canaan was truly a goodly land. If even a part of the earth could be singled out as being in a unique sense “God’s Country,” it was the land of Canaan, the accursed son of Ham in his generations. In this choice of God there was Divine wisdom and prudent foresight displayed. It was the historical manifestation that, when Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem, he would dwell with Shem in the land of Canaan. Here we see displayed what Moses teaches in Deuteronomy 28:8b: “He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Compare Acts 17:26.)
This land God established as being His heritage. In possessing this little part of the inhabitable world of men, He also claimed the whole earth was His, and that the glory of salvation would, from out of His holy temple, fill the whole earth (vss. 1-30). In this land God will plant His people as a goodly vine, initially in calling Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and four hundred thirty years later by bringing them in by His servants Moses and Joshua (Gal. 3:16-18). It is in this land of promise that Israel-Judah is planted by the LORD as a goodly vine (Isa. 5:1-4).
To receive an insight into the spiritual nature of this goodly land we must read Romans 9:4, 5, where Paul explains the real, high and lofty, fertile soil on which Israel, the vine of His planting, was placed. There he writes of Israel this:
. . .Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law; and the service of God, and the promises. Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the fresh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Truly God as the great owner of the Vineyard, which is His peculiar people, could justly ask:
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore when I looked that if should bring forth grapes, brought if forth wild grapes? Isaiah 6:4
Yes, Israel dwelt in the land of Immanuel, God with us. The land belonged to God; it was His heritage. Writes Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2:7:
And I brought you info a plentiful county, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.
And now the LORD announces wrath and condemnation upon those who heard all these good words but spiritually understood1 not their spiritual import as being the land of which His Son is the Heir. And when they did see the Heir-Son pointed out in the temple and on the throne, they killed Him as the Lord of glory (I Cor. 3:7-9; Matt. 21:33-46).
Such was the essence of the sin of Israel.
It was the rejection of the Lord most high, the owner of the Vine yard as this was centered in the Temple-worship, in the keeping of the Sabbaths. They refused to enter into the Lord’srest! They were like the people at Meribah and Massah. Of these the Lord swore in His wrath that they would not enter into His rest (Heb. 3:7-11; Ps. 95:8-11). Of others God swore that they would enter into His rest (Heb. 4:3ff.).
With these words the Lord’s answer to Isaiah agrees. The question was this: how long, Lord, must this preaching (“hear indeed and understand not”) continue? The answer is not an arbitrary whim on the part of God, but it is the realization of His oath that unbelievers will not enter into His rest at all!
This “until” has in it a note of hope for the believers. Indeed, there shall be great and prolonged judgments in Israel’s history. Such was the announcement of Moses to Israel of his day. He speaks to Israel which breaks the commandment concerning the Lord’s Sabbaths. In Leviticus 26:2 we read, “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.”
There were various “sabbaths” given to Israel. These were regulated by the lunar calendar, and were all controlled by the number seven: the seventh day; the second sabbath; the fourteenth day; the seventh week; the seventh month; and the year of Jubilee, the first year after the forty-ninth year, the year when every man again received his inheritance in Israel. These sabbaths must be kept, and this could only be done by reverencing God’s sanctuary. Israel must by faith enter into the completed work of God’s redemption. They must rest from their labors on these sabbaths with thankful rejoicings.
But this had not been done. Now the Lord comes in His wrath upon Israel in ever increasing tempo and intensity. Four times we read that the Lord will punish them or will chastise them “seven times more.” (See Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24.) And then the end of the Lord’s predicted judgment comes upon unbelieving Israel. It is the end God has in mind when He tells Isaiah how long the preaching to this people must continue by him and all the prophets, as this culminates in the crystal clear authoritative preaching of the Christ of God in the fullness of time.
This word we ought to heed, which was spoken concerning the consummation of the judgment upon the pleasant land. We read: “…and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the land” (Isa. 6:11, 12).
By whom will this forsaking of the land be? It will be a forsaking of the land by the LORD of the land, Who sits on the throne in holiness, and of Whom the Seraphim sing, day and night in His temple: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD God almighty, Who fills the earth presently with the glory of His grace.
The form of this forsaking will be such that God’s eternal covenant will stand forever, and His kingdom will come which has no end (Dan. 7:27). For we must notice that when God finally cleanses the house of the Lord from evil-doers, and destroys the earthly temple of Solomon over their heads, then the true children of God have already been given a temporary SANCTUARY in all the lands where they have been scattered. The great burning question, the great issue was “where is the church?” Is it, at the time of the final forsaking of the land, in Babylon, or is it represented in Jerusalem?
Such was the question. This question arose because there was a twofold taking captive of Israel. The first was in the days of King Jehoiachin, when Nebuchadnezzar carried off the king with his mother and his servants and his officers. He then took the gold of the temple, taking with him all the nobility of the people of Judah, the holy seed, some ten thousand captives, among whom were also the four God-fearing young men: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, men who by faith stopped the mouths of the lions, quenched the violence of fire. God took His church out of the hot boiling pot of Jerusalem. Yes, He will forsake the land utterly, but in such a way that He will not forsake His people whom He foreknew (I Sam. 12:22; Heb. 13:5). He will in no way cast off His people whom He foreknew. There is ever the remnant according to election of grace (Rom. 11:1, 2). The classic example of this faithfulness of God is iterated by God to Elijah His prophet in the mount (I Kings 19:18). Paul quotes this memorable passage in Romans 11:2-4. And the great conclusion is this: “Even so then at this moment there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more of grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:5, 6).
So God made a distinction between the two seeds in the execution of the judgments upon the pleasant land!
Such a making of the distinction is the constantpattern of the holy place. There is mercy in each judgment for the meek in the earth. We hope to see this when we take a closer look as to how these judgments were punishments for the reprobate unbelievers in Israel, and how they were chastisements from the hand of the Father of lights for His Son Whom He loves (Heb. 12:2-12). Truly, the holy seed had reason to lift up their hands .which hang down, and also the feeble knees (Heb. 12:12; Isa. 35:3).
God makes this distinction very emphatically in the final destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when the Roman hordes sack the city. Where is then the church? Oh, they are safely sheltered in God’s Sanctuary, in the churches gathered from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Just as God made a little sanctuary in Babylon, a shelter in the time of storm, so here in the final desolation of the temple and land God makes a permanent sanctuary, which sanctuary is the church itself, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Yes, the word of the promise is fulfilled: God laid a Stone in Zion, elect, precious. This Stone is Jehovah God, Jesus, the Savior of the world (John 4:21-23, 43).