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Isaiah 49:22 says,
22 Thus says the Lord God [Adonay Yahweh], “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations and set up [rum, “lift high”] My standard to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their bosom [khotsen, “bosom, lap”], and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.”
The sons of God will be held in honor in that day. Many interpret this verse with an Old Covenant mindset, thinking that this speaks of Gentiles assisting Jews in returning to the old land. But the overall context seen since Isaiah 40 is the New Covenant “comfort” by the Holy Spirit.
It is through the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, that the sons of God are begotten and brought to birth. Paul makes a clear distinction between the natural man and the spiritual man, as each has a different father. An Old Covenant mindset interprets this in terms of the “old man” who is descended from Adam, the living soul; a New Covenant mindset interprets this in terms of the “new man” who is descended from God through the Spirit.
Therefore, these “sons” are not merely genealogical descendants of Abraham but are instead the sons of God—the true Israelites according to God’s definition Israel.
God’s Hand Signal
The prophet says that God will lift up (nasa) His hand to the nations (not against the nations), signaling to them to follow some course of action. The signaling hand of God is said to be a “standard” (nas, “ensign, banner, standard, flag, that which is lifted up”).
The prophet uses this term (nas) many times. Isaiah 5:26 says, “He will also lift up a standard to the distant nation,” a reference to exiled Israel and Judah. Again, Isaiah 11:12 says, “He will lift up a standard for the nations and assembled the banished ones of Israel and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
The word picture is about the return of Israel and Judah. As we have seen, the Israelites had been exiled and dispersed to Assyria during the prophet’s lifetime. The prophet saw the temporary reprieve of Jerusalem when the Assyrian army was destroyed, but yet he foresaw Jerusalem’s ultimate captivity to Babylon (Isaiah 39:6).
Israel and Judah
The common view today fails to distinguish between Israel and Judah. The Israelites were not the Judahites. After the kingdom was divided, Israel no longer included Judah, and the prophets clearly distinguish between the two, as we see in Isaiah 11:12 (above). Modern Zionism was a Jewish movement, not a return of Israelites. It was a political decision to name their state Israel incorrectly in order to trick Christians into supporting their movement as if it fulfilled the prophecies of the restoration of the ten tribes.
The real “return” of Israel is much different, for it is based on New Covenant promises, whereby God promised to cause the people to repent (i.e., “turn” to God). Their faith would beget Christ in them and turn them into sons of God, allowing them to transfer their identity from the old man of flesh to the new man of the Spirit.
The Old Covenant mindset, on the other hand, seeks to fulfill the prophecies in a fleshly manner, as if flesh and blood can inherit the kingdom of God. The early Dispensationalists—even Dr. Bullinger—taught two paths of salvation, one for Christians and one for Jews. This later led to Dual Covenant Theology, where Jews were said to be saved by one covenant and Christians by another. Ultimately, this meant that Jews did not have to accept Christ in order to be saved.
This perversion of the gospel has blinded the eyes of the church as well as the Jews. If they had simply recognized the difference between Israel and Judah (“Jews”), they might have avoided this blindness. On the other hand, I recognize that this blindness was part of the divine plan, for it was necessary for the cursed fig tree to come back to life without bearing fruit. It was also necessary for Jacob to return the birthright (and its name, Israel) to Esau-Edom, in order to allow the Edomites time to prove themselves unworthy.
Nonetheless, Paul tells us that those who are truly “the elect” see and obtain the promise, while “the rest were blinded” (Romans 11:7 KJV).
Isaiah 49:23 continues,
23 Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”
Those of an Old Covenant mindset love to interpret this carnally, as if God were forcing all non-Jews to worship the Jews. That viewpoint goes totally against everything that Jesus and the apostles taught in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul would have been the first to contend with such a viewpoint. Paul quoted from Isaiah more than any other prophet, yet his teachings had no resemblance to what is taught by Old Covenant minded people.
The verse above is not about Jews and non-Jews; it is about the nations and the overcoming remnant, the sons of God, those who have been given a new name/nature called Israel. This foreshadows the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, when the overcomers are changed into the likeness of Christ and are immortal and incorruptible.
The overcomers have learned how to exercise authority in the way that Jesus did. Jesus never required anyone to “lick the dust” of His feet. That phrase, of course, is a Hebrew metaphor that refers to kissing someone’s feet. Nonetheless, we do have an example of this which occurred after Jesus was raised from the dead in glory. Matthew 28:9, 10 says,
9 And behold, Jesus met them, and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
These were Jesus’ disciples whom He loved. Jesus acknowledged their devotion but did not use it against them, nor did He look down on them. In fact, His message encouraged them, because ultimately these same disciples were to be His body and receive of His glory. In fact, those who receive His glory are those who will be honored by the nations, kings, and princesses—all who failed to receive His glory in the time of the first resurrection and ascension of the overcomers.
It is not genealogical Jews who will be so honored, but “those who hopefully wait for Me.” Paul understood this as well, for he wrote in Philippians 3:20,
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The kings of the earth in that day will be subservient to Christ, recognizing Him as the Heir of all things. More than that, the glorified ones “will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). They could not “reign” if the kings of the earth had the same authority. Monarchies will continue to function as rulers over nations, but they will recognize a Higher Power and enforce the laws of God, rather than the traditions of men.
Hence, also, “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (revelation 21:24), that is, into the New Jerusalem that has come down from heaven. This is not a picture of oppression but of liberty in Christ. It is not a picture of Jews enslaving the world (as the Talmud predicts). In fact, only those who have been changed into the likeness of Christ are qualified to rule in His Kingdom. Overcomers are those who have the same nature and character as the glorified Christ.
The kings will be “guardians,” not bootlickers. The overcomers will be given the responsibility to teach all nations the laws and ways of God, so that they too might attain the blessings of immortality and incorruption.
Taking Captivity Captive
Isaiah 49:24, 25 says,
24 “Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?” 25 Surely, thus says the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.”
The tyrants of the earth, including Assyria and Babylon, took the Israelites and Judahites captive. Their situation seemed hopeless, but God is stronger than all tyrants. He will indeed rescue them, for He is able. The question is HOW? What strategy does God employ? Again, we must interpret this through the power of the New Covenant.
God rescues and saves through faith in Jesus Christ. God is not merely interested in rescuing people from physical captivity. He is rescuing them from the power of sin which operates through the flesh, that is, the old man. Ephesians 4:8-10 says,
8 Therefore it says [in Psalm 68:18], “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all things, so that He might fill all things.)
In other words, the captives were bound by death. Christ ascended to release those captives, taking the captivity captive for Himself, so that they might change their citizenship from Babylon to the New Jerusalem, or from earth to heaven. The idea is not to enslave these people in a carnal way but to give them freedom in Christ.
Isaiah 49:26 concludes,
26 “I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh, and they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Once again, this cannot be taken literally, for it was a violation of God’s law to eat one’s own unclean flesh or to drink blood (Leviticus 17:10). The prophet was speaking from a New Covenant perspective. The law of God judges men according to the severity of their crime. It is “eye for eye,” in the sense of equal justice. Hence, when men act in a fleshly manner toward others, they were said (metaphorically) to “eat” each other. So we read in Galatians 5:15,
15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Essentially, God judges the oppressors “with their own flesh.” They are judged by the same standard of measure by which they judged others (Matthew 7:2). Such judgment may be severe, but it is also restorative, for there is no judgment of God that lasts forever. The beatings are limited to forty lashes, and the long-term enslavement is limited by the law of Jubilee.
Over and beyond this, of course, is the mercy factor that is built into the law. The law of victims’ rights gives every victim of crime the right to prosecute or to forgive. Though a judge has a duty to sentence men according to the severity of the crime, the victim has the right to forgive. It will be interesting to see what happens in that day of judgment.