The judgments of God in the whole earth. Isaiah 24-27.
Our prophet has foretold the judgments, of God against the nations that formed the world-power of Israel’s own limited world. But he cannot be allowed to put the period here. For this world-power would continue to reappear through the ages under different names. If therefore prophesy was to afford real comfort to God’s oppressed people, it had also to come with the gladsome message that one day this world-power would be swallowed up in victory, that is made to pass away with such finality as to be gone forever. And so our prophet by the vision that is now given him next prophesies of things that shall come to pass in the last day, the gospel period of the world. The reach of the prophecies of these chapters again extends to the end of time. Certainly if God’s prophets spake God’s own word and not their own, there could be no reason that they could not foretell what even the remotest future holds in store for the church and for the whole earth and all its inhabitants.
It is true that their discourses are lacking in that definiteness that characterizes written history. The total of their predictions are like a glass in which we behold but darkly what is to be the working of God through the ages. This in part is due to the fact that in the point of view of time the prophets did not space the events that they foretold. The result is that in their discourses these events, the near and the far, flow together, so to speak, and are seen as one event,—the near such as for example the destruction of the Chaldean world-power of the prophet’s day and the turning of Judah’s captivity, and the far event—of which the near was the prophetic type—the final passing away of the world at the appearing of Christ and the gathering of the church in this gospel period culminating in the appearing of the church in glory at the return of Christ. But it is also due—is this enigmatical character of prophecy—to the fact that in the prophetic discourse these last things are set forth in the symbolical-typical language of the prophets own land—the holy land—and in the language of his own experience, age and world. It is the only language that he knew and understood. Hence it was also through the instrumentality of this language—God’s own creation—that He communicated to the prophet the thoughts of His heart. It was through this language that God spake to the prophet of the heavenly things of Christ’s kingdom.
Prophecy therefore was bound to be relatively obscure. But the purpose of the prophetic vision was nevertheless always fully achieved. And this purpose was not to satisfy men’s curiosity by a detailed unveiling of the future, but to set forth in broad outline the sovereign decrees of God for all the ages to come,—definitely the purpose was to shed always more light on the promise—in order that, as things should come to pass, God’s believing people might be in the possession of the indisputable evidence, valid, of course, only for faith, that the course of history is indeed directed by Him, the God of their salvation, that He does all His good pleasure, and that therefore His promise to His people cannot and will not fail but shall surely come.
And so this tendency of prophecy to be obscure with regard to the things whereof it speaks only establishes that it is prophecy in the true sense and not human speculation based on human experience or observation. Thus it shows—does this obscurity—that the knowledge of these things had its origin not with a man but with Him to whom all the future is as an open book in that He works all things according to the counsel of His will.
Let us now return to the thread of our prophet’s argument.
The devastation of the surface of the whole earth.Isaiah 24:1-12.
The Lord empties, lays waste, depopulates the whole earth (vs. 1): and the inhabitants are swept away without respect of persons (vs. 2). And this destruction shall be complete; for so has the Lord spoken (vs. 3). The inanimate creature mourns and the proud of the earth are dispirited and fade away (vs. 4). All this is to be expected; for the earth has been corrupted by its inhabitants through their sins (vs. 5). Therefore has the earth been devoured by the curse and the inhabitant, with the exception of a remnant, consumed (vs. 6). The choice fruits of the ground, such as the wine have vanished and with them all joy from the earth (vss. 7-9). The “city of confusion,”—Babylon, the anti-Christian world-state,—is in ruins; its houses are closed and unoccupied (vs. 10). Its streets resound with crying for the excellent products of the earth such as the wine that makes glad the heart of man and all joy is departed (vs. 11). Nothing but desolation is left in the city and its gate is destroyed (vs. 12).
The second stage of the catastrophe: the destruction of the globe of the earth. Isaiah 24:13-23.
But there are a few men that are not harmed. They are the remnant according to the election, and they appear in the vision under the image of olives that have remained on the tree after the shaking thereof, and of grapes that are still found on the vine when the vintage is done (vs. 13). They sing praises to the Lord God of Israel and glorify His name for His majesty. Their shouts of jubilation are heard from the uttermost parts of the earth; and the theme of their song is: Glory to the righteous one (vss. 14-16a). This is the signal for new woes. So terrible is now the vision that the strength of the prophet wastes away. But the destruction must go on because of the perfidy and faithlessness of men (vs. 16b). The second catastrophe will consist in a succession of different acts, and they that survive the first stroke will certainly be destroyed by the second or the third. For as at the time of the deluge the windows of heaven are open and the foundations of the earth shake (vss. 17, 18). The globe of the earth is shattered. It dissolves. It moves violently. It reels like a drunkard and swings like a hammock. As overloaded with its transgression it falls never again to arise (vss. 19, 20) implying that there shall be new heavens and a new earth upon which shall dwell righteousness.
These judgments will overtake the devil and his angels, “the hosts of the high ones that are on high,” as well as the kings of the earth that; are hostile to God. All shall be shut up in prison, cast into the abyss. But after the expiration of a certain time they shall be visited (vss. 21, 22).* Then the moon and the sun shall be darkened. But during the process of the fulfillment of these prophecies of doom, the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem (that is above) and to His ancients, that is his saints, shall be glory.
Our prophet’s song of praise for deliverance. Isaiah 25:1-5.
Mindful of the fact that the Lord’s counsels are faithfulness and truth and that there is no limit to His power to save, and accordingly contemplating the final deliverance of the church as already accomplished, our prophet exalts his God and praises His name for the wonderful things set before his eye by the vision. The Lord has made cities, regarded impregnable, a heap and a ruin, so that they shall never be rebuilt (vss. 1, 2). He has thereby even prepared for Himself praise in the mouth of His vanquished enemies (vs. 3). But to His afflicted people He has been a stronghold and a refuge from the storm (vs. 4). And He has silenced the raging of their enemies against them (vs. 5).
Zion shall be a place of feasting for all nations, but Moab, here representative of the hostile world-power, shall be destroyed. Isaiah 25:6-12. In Mount Zion the Lord shall prepare for all people a feast of the choicest products of the ground (vs. 6). In this mountain the Lord will remove the veil of unbelief that is spread over the heart of all people and nations. Death shall be swallowed up in victory so that it shall not anywhere be found anymore in all God’s holy mountain. Tears shall be wiped away from their faces. And the reproach of God’s people shall be taken away from the earth. And however incredible from the point of view of nature, all shall come to pass. For the Lord has spoken it (vss. 7, 8). And in that day it shall be said, Behold, this is our God, meaning that they who thus speak will want to know, serve and love Him only in rejection of all other deities—Him for whose salvation they have waited and now rejoice in. And His hand will rest in this mountain to sustain and perpetuate it forever (vss. 9, 10a). But He shall tread down Moab as straw is trodden down in preparation of its being cast on the dunghill. And Moab’s pride shall be humbled as also the spoil of his hands. His fortresses shall be leveled to the ground and reduced to dust (vs. 10b, 12).
The strong city and the nation that enters in. Isaiah 26:1-11.
The prophet recites a song that in that day the redeemed will sing in Judah. Its teaching is this: God’s people have a strong city. Its walls and bulwarks are the salvation of their God. Its gates are open only to the righteous nation that keeps truth, whose mind is stayed on the Lord, and that trusts in the Lord as understanding that in Him alone is everlasting strength. This nation the Lord will keep as certainly as He debases them that dwell on high, lays to the ground and crushes to the dust the lofty city that it may be trodden by the feet of the poor and the needy, His afflicted people. (vss. 1-6).
Seeing that the way of the just (nation) is uprightness—and this the Lord, who is upright well knows, as He weighs their path—they, the just, have waited for Him in the way of judgments; the desire of their soul is to His name and to His remembrance; with all their soul they desired Him in the night, and with their spirit they seek Him early, also because when His judgments are in the earth the world’s inhabitants learn righteousness, much to the delight of the just (nation), they being righteous (vss. 7-9).
But this does not apply to the wicked (reprobate). He always deals unjustly, even in the land of uprightness, and even though favor should be shown him. He will not learn righteousness. He will not behold the majesty of the Lord. When the Lord’s hand is lifted up, he will not see. But he shall see to his shame the Lord’s zeal for His people. And fire shall devour him (them) the Lord’s enemies (vss. 10, 11).
On the other hand, the Lord will establish peace for His people, the righteous nation, as He has wrought all their works for them, performed the thing that they could not do themselves, that is redeem them (vs. 12). There had been other lords, sin, death, Satan, the world and its devil-gods—lords to whom His people had been in bondage and whom they had willingly served; but the Lord had destroyed them all and made their memory to perish and thereby delivered His people. Therefore they now make mention of His name only (vss. 13, 14).
The Lord has increased the (righteous) nation; He has extended (its) boundaries to the end of the earth, called the church from the four corners of the earth in the gospel period of this dispensation (vs. 15).
* This is an obscure statement not understood perhaps by our prophet himself. It may have reference to the loosing of Satan out of his prison that he may go forth to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth (Rev. 20:7).