ISAIAH 40:1 – 42:25 and HEBREWS 9:1–28
We now come to the portion known as the New Testament of Isaiah. This covers chapters 40-66 which align with the 27 chapters of the New Testament. There are several messianic chapters the first of which is seen in chapter 40. The ministry of John the Baptist will be referred to as he will help to prepare the way of the Lord. Isaiah once again speaks words which have a dual application. There are words of comfort spoken which would certainly apply to King Hezekiah and Judah after the threats of the Assyrians. There is a greater fulfilment which will take place at the time of the Lord’s 2nd coming. The consolation will be brought to Israel after great warfare and oppression. It will be the time when they will be restored to the Lord as the church age comes to an end. It will certainly be a time of great comfort (vs 1-2).
A direct reference to John the Baptist is given in verse 3 as he is announced as the one preparing the way of the Lord. It is a picture of a ministry and message that will come to ripeness in the last days as His return draws nigh.
Luk 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
The spirit of Elijah and the ministry of John the Baptist are compatible. It is those who have a heart for restoration and righteousness who may well be used in making ready a people for the Lord. John the Baptist pulled no punches; his was a message of repentance and preparation. The more we study and come to know about John the Baptist the better acquainted we will be with what is to come. His was a message that helped to prepare the hearts of the people. The more we take in the message that John brought forth the greater impact that will be made upon our lives. The rough places will become a plain, the valleys will be exalted and the mountains will be brought low. This is how the fallow ground of our hearts can be broken up (vs 4). If we allow this work to be done it will make a way for the glory of the Lord to come forth. In verses 6-8 the brevity of life and time is contrasted with the Word of the Lord that lives forever. There are other occasions in scripture where such parallels are made. Moses cried out for the numbering of days so that his heart can be applied unto wisdom. The Apostle James saw life like a vapour that appears for a moment and is then gone (Jam 4:14). We must never lose this sense of perspective regarding the commodity of time. Isaiah speaks of life as being likened to grass or to a flower that grows and fades. In all of this the Word of the Lord stands and endures forever.
Another one of the first charismatic songs I learned was verse 9 where it speaks of Zion, Jerusalem and Judah hearing the cry of beholding their God. This is something we as believers experience when we are born again and it will later apply to Israel at the time of the Lord’s return. What a triumphant shout that will go forth in the midst of battle when Israel will be told to not be afraid while declaring the coming of the Lord. In verses 10-14 we see descriptions of the greatness of God and how there is no one who can be likened to Him. The enemies which are imposing and impossible for us to come against in our natural strength are but a drop in the bucket to the Lord. There are added qualities spoken of the Lord in verses 15-28. There are many similar statements seen in the Book of Job where the Lord declares His name and ways to Job (Job 33-40).
The familiar verses of 29-31 help to give an understanding of the meaning of the Rest of God. The Lord comes to the aid of those who have come to the end of themselves. It is here where the renewing can come; where grace can bring forth the enabling strength that man does not have within himself. The breaking down process is real and painful. There is that sense of hopelessness as the enormity of task seeks to overwhelm God’s people. It is here where the enemy works overtime to get people to give up or turn away from God. He strikes when we are weakened. This is why there must be vision and perspective to help hold steady at such times. There must be that assurance that God’s Word is true and that it will prevail in the end. The Rest of God is what allows us to be brought to new heights outside of our limitations. It can only be appreciated when our strength is tapped and removed. This helps for us to fully appreciate that it is God and not us that accomplishes the task. It’s true that God will go to great lengths to help us remain reliant on His grace and mercy. The renewing of strength and spiritual vitality will result in great joy and triumph. The range of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry once again shows forth both extremes. There is the wearied limitation of man contrasted with the grace and renewing strength of God. It is a picture of the Rest of God that He is making available to His people (Heb 4:9).
This chapter begins with a continuation of thought of renewing one’s strength. It is the purpose of God in seeking to bring us from strength to strength (Psa 84:7). In verses 2-3 there is a reference to a man from the east who is called righteous and who will be a ruler over nations. Who is this man from the east? It is a reference to Cyrus, king of Persia. This is just one of several references to this man. He was a great man who was raised up by God to increase the Persian Empire and put to an end the Babylonian empire. It is God who raised Him up and who is allowing for him to prosper in his efforts. The heathen nations that were to oppose the Persian army resorted to their idols for help. If this were not bad enough they went about making newer idols thinking that they may be of help. Whom do we turn to in time of trouble? Is it our bank account or some other refuge of safety or is it to the Lord? Man is constantly looking for ways of relief to get out of dire situations. It seems nothing ever changes as the years go by.
In verse 8 we see levels of relationship that one can enter into with God. Abraham had the privilege of knowing God as a friend. He had access to revelation and secrets of God that no other man had. It speaks something of God and His desire in being intimate with a people. He loves to share His secrets and make known His ways to those who love and desire Him above all others. This is a level of relationship that Jesus made available to some of His disciples (John 15:14-15). In verse 10 the comforting words of the Lord are given to those who will be taken away to Babylon. It is a comforting message to those who choose to heed to his message of captivity. The majority of the people would later take issue with the words of Isaiah and other prophets like Jeremiah concerning his intent for them. God makes clear that there will come a time when Babylon; their future oppressors will be destroyed. It will be the named man Cyrus who will be raised up of God to perform God’s pleasure. In verses 13-14 the Lord gives the assurances to Israel that he will help them. He even goes to the length of calling His people a worm which is the lowest of animal forms depicting how Israel would feel amongst their enemies. In verses’ 15-16 this worm (Israel) is suddenly transformed into a sharp threshing instrument for the purpose of destroying their enemies. God is one who restores and He does so in a way that takes us from beauty to ashes. In verse 17 we see a picture of the first beatitude.
Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord is drawn to those who cry out in a hunger and thirst after Him. Jesus cried out to those who had a hunger and thirst and gave the promise that He would satisfy them (John 7:37-38). This hunger and thirst then paves the way for the Lord to open rivers and springs of water in dry places. We each have a well within us and to the extent we stir up those wells will be to the extent the Lord will allow those springs to gush forth. This was seen earlier when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert.
Num 21:17 Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:
The Lord returns to the theme of what is getting Israel into trouble in the first place. It is idolatry. Can these idols predict the future; can they do what God can do? This is essentially what the Lord is saying to those who worship these idols. He reminds His people that He is promising deliverance to those who look to Him and put his trust in him in the midst of captivity. He also serves a warning to those who continue in their idolatrous ways that there will be no one who will be able to deliver them. God is going above and beyond to convince His people as to what will take place in the days to come. Isaiah’s prophecy comes forth with great power, accuracy and clarity.
This chapter is prophetic of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact you can find the first three verses quoted in Mathew’s gospel (Mat 12:18-21). These verses are prophetic of Christ but they also are meant to be fulfilled by the church in advance of the 2nd coming. There are some important truths and insights that can be drawn from these verses. A couple of questions could be asked such as whether the church should get involved in politics. The church is called to be a voice but how far do you take this; do you speak up on all issues or should one just keep quiet and pray fervently behind the scenes? How did Jesus handle such situations? I quoted verse 2 to one of our senior pastor’s in India over an incident that took place in 1994. This pastor went to jail for sounding out publicly on a perceived injustice that involved the church. I am not saying the matter was trivial but his response was clearly out of line; it actually brought more reproach to the church. I found it interesting that he would carry around a newspaper that carried the article of his being imprisoned. This newspaper was like a badge of honour and he only used it to draw more attention to himself. In the end I told him that he deserved to be arrested for his conduct. I then showed him Isa 42:2 where it speaks of the Lord not making unnecessary noises in the midst of his ministry. This is a danger with many today as well. There are times when we have to speak up and take a stand but there are times when we need to pursue God in wisdom and learn how to navigate effectively under the radar screen. The point is this! One can take a very righteous stand but do it in a way that draws unneeded attention.
In one other example there was an American evangelist who came to India to do several crusades. He was warned that certain areas had restrictions and that it was illegal to stage meetings etc. This evangelist took the position that we are servants of God who have every right to take authority over these matters and not be bound by the enemy’s devices. It sounds good, much of what he says is true but what was the result of his approach to these meetings? He was sent back to the USA and blacklisted from returning to India. Secondly, it put the Indian brethren who were involved in hosting his meetings under greater scrutiny. Finally, he wore his blacklisted passport as badge of honor. There is a time when our voices are to rise up and be heard publicly but it is wisdom to pursue God fervently in the manner and way that He chooses. The church needs to constantly pray for those in governmental authority but steer clear of being intertwined with them. Let the church become the head on God’s term’s not man’s.
The primary burden of the Lord when He comes will be the establishment of righteous judgement upon the earth (vs 4). The Lord allowed the Father to prepare Him to be a polished shaft during his hidden years. It is a process we too need to allow God to work out in our lives. Oftentimes, the ones making the most noise in the streets (vs 2) are those who have not allowed God to work deep within their own hearts. God is after obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22-23). He also is called to be a light to the world and Gentiles. We see in verse 6 that the Gospel will indeed go forth throughout the earth. He will set those who are captive free. He will also speak that which He will do in the earth beforehand to his servants. This helps us to appreciate the ministry of the Holy Spirit and His ability to help reflect on that which has passed while providing insights in that which is to come (John 16:13).
In verses 13-15 we the dual fulfilment of prophesy as God will deliver His people from the future bondage of the Babylonians. It also speaks to the deliverance that will be seen in the last days as well. When Cyrus came and took the city he did it by diverting the course of the Euphrates River which dried up their river beds (vs 15). What prophetic insight Isaiah had. In verses 16-20 we see evidence as to how the Lord will lead His people back from their Babylonian captivity. They will be purged of their idols and they will be led down a new path where crooked things will be made straight. Those who have been deaf and blind will have greater spiritual insight and a people will come to know the heart of God (Jer 24:7).
In verse 21 we see another important fruit of what takes place after their captivity. The Law is elevated and becomes honourable once again. The reason why Israel had problems from the very beginning was their failure to uphold God’s Law. It was stipulated over and over again throughout the Book of Deuteronomy in the need to keep and observe the Laws of God. Once they are diluted the walls and hedge of protection begins to break down. The Lord was One who made the law honourable again when he came to minister. He did not come to destroy the Law but to show men how it can be fulfilled. It is up to the church of the last days to once again see the Law of God elevated and lifted up, where it becomes honourable as opposed to being a target of ridicule by the redefined church of the last days. Are we getting the message, are we perceiving what it is God is actually doing? In verse 25 it was only people like Daniel and a few others who truly understood what was taking place. Can we cry out that we dare to be the Daniel’s of our day?
In this chapter Paul is going to place emphasis on the blood of Christ as being far superior to the blood of animal sacrifices that have been used as part of the Old Covenant. Paul will teach on the significance of Moses Tabernacle. He begins by referring to some of the tabernacle furnishings followed by the divisions which speak of the way of approach into His presence. Paul in essence is spiritualizing what the Old Testament order of service was all about as seen through the Tabernacle of Moses. He brings his focus into the Holy Place and Holy of Holies which were places where only the priests could have access. The Outer Court is where the general congregation could congregate but it was the priests alone who had access beyond the Outer Court. The candlestick symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The 7 candlesticks refer to the anointing of the 7 spirits of God as seen in Isa 11:2-3. There was then the table of showbread which speaks of Christ as being the bread of life (John 6). It also speaks of a deeper revelation of the Word of God. It is interesting to note that the Altar of Incense is not mentioned here in Paul’s account. In the Old Testament it was situated before the entering into the most Holy Place. Perhaps it is now moved into the Holy of Holies itself as result of Christ now seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession on our behalf.
Rev 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
Paul then speaks of the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. He speaks of the Ark of the Covenant which refers to the presence of God and the three items that were contained in the Ark. The golden pot of manna which speaks of the hidden truths of God, Aaron’s Rod that budded which speaks of authority and resurrection power and the two tables of stone which refers to God’s law with The Mercy Seat covering the Ark. Paul then speaks of the ministry of the priests who attended to the service of the Ark. Paul reminds them that only the high priest could have access to the Holiest of all once a year under the Old Covenant. Up till now Paul is reaffirming the method of Old Testament service as it pertained to the Tabernacle of Moses. The way into the holiest of all was not yet made available before Christ’s death on the Cross.
Paul now is going to shift gears and demonstrate that all of the practices pertaining to the Old Testament order of service was fulfilled through Christ. He is the greater sacrifice and His blood is far greater than the shed blood of animals which were only figurative of the greater sacrifice to come. He continues throughout chapter 9 to speak as to how powerful the blood that was shed upon Calvary’s cross truly is. It has the power to purge consciences from the guilt and weight of sin. The blood of bulls and goats could not do this. The blood had to be sprinkled around the Mercy Seat once a year by the high priest for the sins of the people and the nations.
The shedding of the blood of Christ upon the Cross was a once for all sacrifice. The blood that was shed upon the Cross now opens the way for all believers to have access into the holiest of all. In the Old Testament only the high priest could do this once a year on the Feast of Atonement. This does not mean that we can presumptuously enter into the holiest of all whenever we want. There is a way of approach. The Bible makes clear that as we walk in the light as He is in the light the blood of Jesus then cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7). Yes, the sacrifice at Calvary was a once for all sacrifice but there is an application of the blood that was shed that comes when we choose to walk in the path and light of where God leads us. There is an appropriating that can take place as we acknowledge our need in times when God is dealing with that old nature within. The blood of Jesus has the ability to make us righteous and to make us holy; it is a process that comes by a choosing to die daily in our relationship with God (1 Cor 15:31).
To summarise, Paul is taking the Old Testament order of service that was exercised through Moses Tabernacle to portray Christ as the fulfilment of all that was prefigured. His audience would know well the history of the Tabernacle, the furniture and order of service. They would know well the constant shedding of blood that needed to be made to make atonement for sin. In chapter 9 Paul gives meaning to these shadows and types by presenting Jesus as the great high priest, the greatest sacrifice whose blood was far superior to that of all animals. Paul has such ability in bringing to life the shadows and types of the Old Testament order into New Testament reality.