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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 10:20 says,
20 Now in that day the remnant of Israel and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.
Here the prophet turns his attention to “the remnant of Israel,” laying foundations for some very important New Testament teaching. First, Isaiah tells us that these people “will never again rely on the one who struck them.” This was a reference to Hezekiah’s alliance with Egypt in the attempt to withstand the Assyrian onslaught (2 Kings 18:21). Hezekiah did repent and seek the word of the Lord from Isaiah during the siege (2 Kings 19:1, 5), and God then destroyed the Assyrian army.
Isaiah will have much more to say about this later, beginning in Isaiah 30:1, 2,
1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord, “who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin, 2 who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt.”
Previous to this, Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, had relied upon Assyria to assist them against the armies of Syria and Israel. So Isaiah 10:24 chides them for relying on both Egypt and Assyria.
It is a spiritual principle that whenever we rely upon ungodly nations, their gods become our god. God then uses those false gods to judge and oppress us. False gods themselves are thus proven to be both unreliable and oppressive.
Isaiah 10:21, 22, 23 says,
21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. 23 For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord God of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land.
There are two groups of people mentioned here: Israel and the remnant. God had decreed “a complete destruction” upon Israel as a nation, based upon their violation of their Old Covenant vow in Exodus 19:8. However, because God had also made a vow of His own, based on a New Covenant, He had to find a way to overcome the effects of Old Covenant failure and to bring salvation by a new path.
The divine plan was to destroy the nation itself but to give grace to a remnant that He had chosen by His sovereign will. This remnant had first appeared more than a century earlier in the days of Elijah, when God identified 7,000 men who did not worship Baal (1 Kings 19:18). Paul identifies them as the remnant of grace (Rom. 11:4, 5).
Paul understood that the nation of Judah had been cast away on account of its rejection of the Messiah and that Jerusalem was soon to be destroyed after its 40 years of grace were completed (30-70 A.D.). Nonetheless, Paul tells us in Rom. 11:1, 2,
1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scriptures say in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
Paul does not contradict Isaiah’s account that called for “a complete destruction” of Israel, nor does he dispute their casting away (i.e., exile). Instead, he focuses upon the fulfillment of the promises of God through the remnant. His argument that God had NOT cast away His people is proven by the preservation of the remnant—not the preservation of the nation as a whole.
Whereas Isaiah was speaking primarily about Israel, Paul applied the principle to Judah and Jerusalem, knowing Jesus’ prophecies of the coming destruction (Matt. 22:7; 23:37, 38). No doubt he also knew what Jesus said in Matt. 22:14, “many are called, but few are chosen.” In other words, the nation of Israel had been “called,” but only the remnant was actually “chosen.” The apostle tells us in Rom. 11:7,
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened [or blinded].
The remnant, Paul says, were “those who were chosen.” The rest of the Israelites were merely called, not chosen, and so they were “hardened” (NASB) or “blinded” (KJV). What had happened to Israel in the days of Isaiah was also happening to Judah in the days of Paul.
For this reason, it is not proper to say that either Israel or Judah as a whole are “God’s chosen people.” They were called, but not chosen. Just because someone might trace his or her genealogy back to Abraham does not make anyone chosen. Paul certainly did not rely upon his own genealogy. His status as part of the remnant was based upon God’s apprehension of him on the Damascus road and upon his Abrahamic faith “that what God had promised, He was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:21).
One might say that the many who are called have Old Covenant faith, for it is based upon the will of man as seen in Exodus 19:8; but those who are chosen have New Covenant faith that is based on the promise of God and His will (John 1:13). The faith of the remnant, therefore, responds to an act of God and believes that God Himself is able to fulfill His promise.
Abrahamic faith, then, is the “return” of the remnant. The Hebrew word shuwb means “to return, turn back, repent.” So Jer. 8:4 asks,
4 … Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away [shuwb] and not repent [shuwb]?”
In Ezekiel 14:6 we see something similar,
6 Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Repent [shuwb] and turn away [shuwb] from your idols and turn [shuwb] your faces away from all your abominations’.”
The term shuwb can refer to someone returning from a journey or returning to God in what we would call “repentance.” Hence, the translators render shuwb either way in order to express the mind of the prophet.
The return of the remnant is pictured in different ways, depending on which mindset a person has. The Old Covenant mindset pictures Israelites or Judahites returning physically to the old land. The New Covenant mindset pictures them repenting and returning to God, as Paul shows in Romans 11. It is the remnant of grace that returns to God, while the rest blindly continue rejecting Christ, straying from God.
The majority of the church understood this until the 1850’s, when a new and novel viewpoint called Dispensationalism arose. This view adopted the Jewish Old Covenant hope of a physical return to occupy the old land of Canaan (Palestine). Jewish salvation meant that they would inherit the earth, while gentile salvation meant that they had an inheritance in heaven.
At first they believed and taught that the Jews would first repent and then return to the old land. However, when the Zionist movement occurred without widespread Jewish repentance, and when the Jewish state was established in 1948 without the Jews accepting Jesus as the Messiah, they prophesied that the Jews would turn to Jesus Christ within seven years.
When that belief failed to materialize, the Dispensationalists altered their teaching to accommodate Jewish unbelief. Having already accepted the new view that Jews are chosen by race, the next inevitable evolution was that the Jews are saved by the Old Covenant apart from Christ. This is known as Dual-Covenant Theology.
By not understanding the concept of the remnant, the church has thus fallen into serious error, essentially establishing two paths of salvation, one for the Jews and one for gentiles, according to one’s race or genealogy. This has been a violation of the divine law that forbids partiality (Exodus 23:3, 9; Acts 10:34, 35; James 2:9) and rejects Paul’s assertion that the dividing wall was torn down by Jesus Christ to create equality as “one new man” (Eph. 2:14, 15).
Such teachings depart more and more from the theology of John and especially Paul. But instead of repenting (or returning), they seek to discredit the New Testament. Many truly hate the Apostle Paul because of his opposition to their own heresies. These only show that they are among the blind who are not part of the chosen remnant of grace.