ISAIAH 64:1 – 66:24 and JAMES 2:1–13
A familiar verse heard in many churches where the cry is for the Lord to rend the heavens and come down. It is a cry birthed out of a deep longing for God to manifest His presence in the midst of strong opposition from the enemy. Isaiah is feeling the burden of His people; he has an understanding of what will come upon Israel in the days ahead. It is not limited to the upcoming Babylonian captivity but includes the cry of Israel in the last days when they are besieged by many foreign forces. It is a cry that will echo through the saints resulting in the Lord vindicating Israel at the 2nd coming. As the chapters go by it appears that Isaiah is having increased revelation of Israel’s future. This would include their upcoming captivity in Babylon as well as the events surrounding the last days. With this increased revelation comes an increased burden and you can feel the sense of that burden in these closing chapters.
One of the primary cries of Isaiah is for the release of God’s judgments upon the adversaries of Israel. It will be a prayer that God will answer. There are similarities to the time of the Passover in Egypt. After a prolonged period of time God answered the many prayers of His people as He moved against Egypt in judgement. In examining the prophetic ministry of Isaiah one gets the sense that there will be many such prophets in the last days. Let us never forget the price this man paid for this privileged ministry.
This leads up to a verse that Paul will later quote in the New Testament. The context of what Isaiah is prophesying helps to give context to this passage. He speaks as to how men have not seen or heard the great things that God has prepared for His people. Can you imagine how refreshing this promise is in light of the burdens that he has been carrying? God is going to go above and beyond anything man could ever imagine. Here we see how important it is to have perspective; to have a view of the overall big picture. God’s ways are not man’s and He often hides His intent when we are going through a trial. God is faithful in revealing treasures in darkness to those who fervently pursue after Him (Isa 46:10). These verses should encourage us and help provoke us to press on.
Isaiah assumes a priestly prayer in verses 5-6 by confessing the sins of the land. What is a priestly prayer? It is a prayer where one assumes responsibility for the sins of the land. We see this with Daniel, Ezra and others when they pray on behalf of their people. This is what Jesus did as our great high priest in taking responsibility for the sins of all mankind. The prophet is also aware that all men have sinned and that man’s righteousness is nothing more than filthy rags. It’s only the covering of Christ through His blood where righteousness can be attained. It is because of man’s sin that the face of the Lord is hid from man. Oftentimes the prayers of men are not heard due to their iniquity and sin that has not been confessed.
Isaiah then continues his priestly prayer in verses 8-9 where he beseeches the Lord to remember that men are but clay. He cries out for mercy and pleads that God would not remember iniquity for ever. It is this kind of prayer that can help bring revival to a home, a church or nation. Isaiah was a chastened vessel who acknowledged truth yet he is consumed with the burden of Israel. It is his prayer of intercession that helps to make a difference for them; his prayer touches God and helps to move His heart. This is what Moses did when he interceded on Israel’s behalf when God was about to destroy them. Isaiah goes on to remind the Lord of the former beauty of His house; the holiness and righteousness that was upheld during the reign of David. Isaiah represents the manner of prophet and intercessor that needs to arise in these exciting and challenging days before us.
The Lord is making a clear reference to the church in verse 1 as the nation that will replace Israel due to its turning from God. This Word is a confirmation to what was spoken through Moses back before Israel entered into its inheritance (Deu 32:21). It is amazing to see how the Lord has confirmed His Word throughout the whole of Biblical history. God confirmed through Moses that Israel would come to the place of provoking God through idolatry long before it happened. This prophetic accuracy further confirms what we can expect in the last days. This truth is also alluded to in the calling forth of Cyrus who was a Gentile king who was to be the one who would destroy Babylon after the 70 years of captivity.
The primary reason why God turned to the Gentiles was because of Israel’s stubbornness and determination to walk in their own ways. How is this paralleled today? The church for the most part does not serve idols like Israel of old. Is it possible however that it may be charting its own course? Saul ultimately lost the anointing due to disobedience. He could say he was effective in defeating the Amalekites but he did not do what God told him to do (1 Sam 15:22-23).Today’s Word of Faith movement has similar traits. I have struggled on this thought of PRESUMPTION in recent weeks. In the midst of our ministerial busyness we can begin to presume what we should be doing or presume what it is God is doing. It may seem logical and it may seem right but is it what God is saying? The failure oftentimes lies in our inability to enter into His Rest. It is from a Position of Rest where we have an opportunity to hear what God is saying which may be contrary to how we feel or how things look. It allows God to speak and it helps to insure that we do not presume God’s will in a situation. There are modern day counterparts to the ills that befell Israel and we must recognize and correct them.
There is the problem of pride that must always be guarded against that was seen in Israel (vs 3-5). In the midst of their rebellion they had a “holier than thou” attitude towards everyone else. Pride is such a blinding force and it must be rooted out from all of our lives. This “holier than thou” attitude is also an enemy because it produces an exclusiveness type of nature which alienates more than it does to effectuate the body of Christ. There are sobering reminders of what happens when one generation sins resulting in the generations to come to bear its consequences. Is this not being seen today when viewing the economies of the world? We are saddling future generations with an enormous debt as result of our foolish and self-indulging spending habits of today. It is even worse when considering the sins of which we are guilty of. Israel was about to suffer the consequences of the sins of their fathers as they enter into captivity. There are the sure mercies of David which we celebrate but there are also the certain perils and consequences of sin that will come upon the generations to come.
The Lord Jesus Christ is prophesied of in verse 9 as the seed out of Jacob and Judah who will inherit the mountains. The beautiful scenes of the future millennial reign of Christ are highlighted in verses 9-10. In verses 11-15 the Lord contrasts those who remain faithful to the Lord as opposed to those who forsake the blessings of Zion. The faithful will eat of the fruit of the land with great rejoicing while the wicked and rebellious will be cursed. Isaiah again shifts his prophetic timeline by looking at a millennial promise in verse 16 where the people of God will be able to worship God in truth and the removal of all the former hindrances, sorrow and despair. He then speaks of the period after the millennium in verse 17 where there will be the new heavens and new earth. This will be the time of the Great White Throne judgement. In verses 18-19 we see the great rejoicing and gladness that will be the portion of God’s people in both the millennial period and at the time when the heavens descend from above (Rev 21). All the torment, sin, and memories of old will be remembered no more as God establishes His eternal reign with men. What a beautiful picture this is. The reality of God’s Rest is revealed in verses 20-23 which is yet another depiction of the 1000-year millennial reign. The chapter concludes with another beautiful truth concerning the millennium. The animal kingdom will be at Rest with God’s creation. The lion and lamb will be able to lie together. The creation and the earth which was corrupted at the time of man’s sin are now coming into a place of Rest. It is a fulfilment of Rom 8:19-23 where the creation of God was looking and longing for the manifestation of the sons of God. I personally feel that God is looking to give His church a taste of that which is to come if we can learn to come into that position of Rest; to have the ability to step aside from life’s daily torrential current and seek to hear that still small voice.
The Lord speaks similarly to what He did with David over the issue of building Him a house (1 Chr 17:4-5). How is it possible for God to be contained in any kind of dwelling place? The characteristics required on our part in being able to dwell with Him include having a poor and contrite heart coupled with a love and reverence for His Word. In verse 3 it is evident that the Lord takes no pleasure in the shedding of the blood of animals. There is an ever growing bloodlust in culture today. The entertainment industry continues to churn out the most graphic filth and violence. It is also seen in video games. This is an extension of the shedding of blood of animals as seen in excessive hunting. It is best to allow the Lord to deal with any leanings in these pursuits now seeing that it will have no place in the millennium.
A sobering warning is presented in verse 4 regarding the Lord sending delusions to those who refuse to obey His voice. Can you see how dangerous this is? If God is allowing for delusions it means that God is answering people according to what is in their hearts (Eze 20:25). This is why the last days will be so filled with deception. This is why the very elect have the potential to be deceived. It will be the person of the antichrist who will seize upon this opportunity (2 Thess 2:10-11).
There is vindication to those who have held firm to the truths of God’s Word. There are times when those who maintain a standard are ostracized from those who do not uphold Truth. It is here where the Lord comes on the scene and brings great joy to those who have looked for Him. There is something about the Lord coming into the midst of His people. There will be righteous judgement and there will be the Fear of the Lord in evidence (vs 5-6). In verses 7-8 Isaiah speaks of that which John saw on the island of Patmos. It is a picture of the man-child company of believers seen in Rev 12:5. What prophetic insight Isaiah has; it is simply incredible that he can speak of things past present and future with such accuracy. This travailing to bring forth speaks of an overcoming company of saints that prevail with Michael in the heavenlies while birthing a natural seed of Zion that will reign with the Lord through the future millennial period. This will be followed by a great rejoicing in Jerusalem when the Lord turns their captivity. Here is another dual fulfilment seeing that this happened after their Babylonian captivity in addition to what will be seen in the last days. In verses 11-13 we see the combination of the Gentiles and Jerusalem flowing together in the purposes of God. Jerusalem is likened to the spiritual mother while the Gentiles are nourished by her blessings.
There is another description given of the 2nd coming of the Lord as He comes in judgement against those who served idols and practice wickedness. The trigger event is the abomination of desolation which will take place in the midst of the last 7 years. The 2nd Coming is a resemblance of what took place upon the Cross. It was there where the Father judged sin once and for all through His Son. The 2nd coming is where the Son will execute judgement against iniquity that has become ripe with His accompanying saints. The Lord will allow nations to gather together for this end time slaughter which again can be likened to the sin of all mankind being placed upon the Passover Lamb at the Cross.
A point that has been made throughout these Biblical commentaries is that the priests of God will figure prominently in the Millennium (Rev 20:6). This is emphasized again in verse 21. The final warning in Isaiah is one to take special note of. There will be rebellion amongst those born during the millennium reign of Christ. In fact, there will be several reminders as to what will happen to those who choose not to follow the Lord. There will be an open viewing portal into hell where people will be able to visibly see the eternal torment of the damned. How is it possible that people would still think of rebelling against God? Perhaps this helps us to better understand this well-known discourse between Lazarus and the rich man.
Luk 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
Luk 16:28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Luk 16:29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
Luk 16:30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
Luk 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
There is much from the Book of Isaiah that we can learn and glean from. There is the great joy and promises that awaits those who seek the Lord fervently. There are also the many warnings to those who rebel against God culminating in the reminder of the eternal pit in verses 23-24. Isaiah was a most unusual prophet having the widest range and scope of any other prophet. May the Lord help us to apply the many keys and insights that he provides to the church of the last days.
The problem of partiality is addressed in chapter 2. One easily sees favouritism employed in the working of the world especially along economic and ethnic lines. It also happens in the area of family. The Biblical example of Eli the high priest is a case in point. Eli did not do the atrocious things his sons were guilty of but he did not exercise his priestly authority in dealing with them. In other words, he preferred his sons over God in the area of judgement. I have seen this first hand myself in a modern day version of Eli. This is one of the greatest tests for a minister of God; he will be tested in the area of family issues. Will such a priest deal with a family matter in the same way they would deal with others? It is a severe test.
There are many dangers in partiality because we tend to judge and assess people by the natural eye. God often uses people who are uneducated or of low social status to achieve His purposes. If we are partial, we may well overlook such people. We do well to pray that we always seek to judge righteous judgement and to see people and situations as God sees them. As it says in verse 1 we must not be a respecter of persons. This was a lesson that the early church Apostles had to learn when the Gospel went forth to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34).
In verses 2-4 we see the potential for partiality in giving more attention and favor to the rich while giving little or no heed to the poor. Make no mistake this is still a major problem in church circles today. In my early years as a believer I learned this lesson in observing my senior pastor. He judged a situation in the church which affected the wealthiest member resulting in this member leaving the church with about half the congregation following in tow. It was painful for my senior pastor and the church but he sided for that which was right. After many years of observation, I easily see the fruits of not being partial but being true to God and righteous judgement. Who were those who heard and received the teachings of Jesus when He ministered? It was the poor (Mark 12:37) while the empowered and rich Pharisees took exception and opposed Him (vs 5-6).
James speaks on the subject of the Law of Liberty. What is the Law of Liberty? It refers to the inner law of love as expressed in Romans 8:4. It is the righteousness of the law being fulfilled within the life of a believer. It is the fulfilment of the 2nd of the two great commandments; loving others as we have learned to love ourselves (Math 22:39).
It is important to remember that the way we treat others is often the way the Lord will treat us. If we are a merciful person then God will extend mercy to us. This is why it is vital to allow the Lord to do an inner work of grace within us so that we can have compassion and true love for others. The first Adam was quick to cover up his transgression and quick to point the finger of blame elsewhere (Gen 3:12). This is still the case in the majority of churches; the failure to assume and take responsibility.
James now picks up on a primary theme of his epistle where he discusses the relationship between faith and works. Works alone do not save us however works are a reflection that the faith of God is at work in our hearts. In verses 14-17 James asks a very practical question. What good is faith if there are no outward works to accompany faith? I may be a believer in Christ but do I manifest good works? Do I reach others with the Gospel message; do I reach out to the poor and needy? In verses 18-20 James makes the point that faith and works are inseparable; you cannot have one without the other. It is our belief and faith in God that produces the fruits of righteous living within us. There are the two sides to this subject of faith and works and it is to this that James is making these points. There are those who feel they can gain salvation by works alone. One can live their whole life doing good deeds for others, being a good citizen and yet not be in the kingdom of God. The reason is that the salvation of God only comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith is the foundation of everything we do as believers (2 Pet 1:5, Heb 11:6). Salvation and the forgiveness of sins can only be appropriated by faith. James now is making the statement of Abraham being justified by works when he willingly offered Isaac upon the altar. Is this not a contradictory statement to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans (Rom 4:1-8)? No, not at all because Paul and James are disclosing two different aspects of faith. There is the initial justification that comes by faith as seen in Romans 4-5. If you read on in the Book of Romans, you will find that Paul touches on the justification of works in chapters 6-7. In these chapters one is confronted with having to make choices; is the message of the Cross to be embraced, is the law of God to have its full effect, and to whom will we yield our members? Will we serve the works of the flesh or the works of the Spirit? Paul and James are not being contradictory at all. Our Christian walk begins with being justified by faith. Our Christian faith is then enhanced and released into its fullness as we learn to choose to appropriate faith in our daily walk.
1Jn 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
James confirms this truth by saying that Abraham confirmed his faith unto perfection by his obedience and by his works that were built upon the foundation of faith in his life. This is why he has the title of being known as the father of our faith. Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness (vs 23). James then uses the example of Rahab the harlot to validate his point. She believed the spies that God was at work in giving the land of Canaan to Israel. She put her belief into action by hiding the spies when they came at great risk. Her works justified and confirmed her faith. Let us never forget that we are saved through faith, not of works but because it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). The point that James is making is that faith needs to be justified by works that reflect the faith of God in one’s life.