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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 4

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 28, 29: Ephraim and Judah

Chapter 23: God Does Not Judge Forever

Isaiah 28:22 says,

22 And now do not carry on as scoffers, or your fetters [mosar, “bonds”] will be made stronger; for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts of decisive [charats, “to cut, wound, point sharply, determine, decide”] destruction [kala, “termination, completion, perfection, destruction”] on all the earth.

The men of Judah and Jerusalem scoffed at Isaiah, comparing his word to baby-talk, as seen earlier in Isaiah 28:13, 14. Even so, when King Hezekiah appealed to the prophet for help in the face of the Assyrian threat, God delivered Jerusalem. But a century later, the people again scoffed at Jeremiah when the Babylonians threatened the city. 2 Chron. 36:15-17 says,

15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. 17 Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans…

In that case, the judgment of God was increased from a wooden yoke to an iron yoke (Jer. 28:13), and the people were required to serve their sentence in a foreign land. In other words, their fetters were made stronger, because the judgment of the law was to increase in intensity to whatever level necessary to break their stiff necks, so to speak.

We see the same problem in the New Testament, where those who followed the teachings of Shammai (rather than Hillel) taught the people to rebel against the Roman yoke. Their resistance again broke the wooden yoke (Jer. 28:10) but ensured an iron yoke for another 1,900 years. They did not understand that God Himself had sentenced the nation to serve four beast systems in succession and that Rome was the fourth beast in Daniel 7. To revolt against Rome was to revolt against God Himself.

The Pharisees scoffed at Jesus (Luke 16:14), and Peter predicted that there would be scoffers in the last days as well (2 Peter 3:3). In both cases, their scoffing strengthened their fetters, or bonds, making their condition worse than it might have been otherwise.

True Justice

Isaiah 28:23-26 appeals to the people,

23 Give ear and hear my voice; listen and hear my words. 24 Does the farmer plow continually [kol] to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground? 25 Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cummin and plant wheat in rows, barley in its place and rye within its area? 26 For his God instructs and teaches him properly.

The farmers in those days knew how to prepare the ground and how to plant each type of crop properly. God had taught their ancestors how to farm the land. Hence, he does not plow or harrow endlessly, for the purpose of preparing the ground is to plant seed for harvest.

God had also taught their ancestors how to remove the chaff from the grain after they have harvested it. The prophet continues in Isaiah 28:27, 28,

27 For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; but dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club. 28 Grain for bread is crushed; indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever [netsach, “continually, perpetually”], because the wheel of the cart and his horses eventually damage it. He does not thresh it longer.

Each type of grain is treated differently. So also does God treat each type of person differently as He removes the chaff (sin) from their lives. John the Baptist understood that the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s baptism of fire was to eliminate the chaff from their hearts and from the nation as a whole (Matt. 3:12).

Furthermore, Isaiah says, just as men know how to remove the chaff from each type of grain (dill, cummin, barley, rye, and wheat), so also God knows how long and how severely to judge the people in order to remove their chaff. The underlying principle of divine judgment is to restore that which the victims have lost and to correct the hearts of sinners. Hence, “he does not continue to thresh it forever,” because too much threshing will “damage it.”

This is why the judgments of the law are limited to forty lashes (Deut. 25:3). Again, working to pay off one’s debt (sin) is limited to a maximum of 49 years by the law of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10). God’s reasoning is based upon His love for His children, however wayward they may be at the present time.

Love does not thresh the grain forever. Psalm 103:9 says,

9 He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.

The reason for this is found in Micah 7:18,

18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.

The judgments of God are based in the “unchanging love” of His very nature. So He puts pressure upon sinners through His judgments to cause them to repent so that He can save all mankind in the end. In this way His love manifests itself even in the midst of judgment.

The Marvelous Wisdom of God

Isaiah 28:29 concludes,

29 This [limitation of judgment] also comes from the Lord of hosts, Who has made His counsel [atsah, “advice”] wonderful [pala, “wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary] and His wisdom great.

The prophet was in awe of the wisdom shown by God’s limited judgments. Men are not so merciful, nor even is the church. While many church creeds insist upon everlasting punishment, God’s limited judgments are manifestations of His love. His wise judgments are designed to correct the sinner and to restore him to the purpose for which he was created.

The judgments of God, therefore, are said to be olam (Hebrew) and aionian (Greek). Olam means “hidden, unknown, indefinite, an age.” Aionian carries the same meaning in Greek. When applied to time, the words do not mean infinite time, but indefinite. Olam can be as little as three days, as in Jonah 2:6 or three hundred years, as with the covenant of peace that God made with Phinehas and his priesthood (Num. 25:11-13). Olam is indefinite because its time is not fixed to any specific period of time. Hence, the root word is alam, “to hide.”

Applying this to divine judgment, Isaiah says that God does not plow continually, nor does he thresh beyond measure, for such judgments would lack both love and wisdom. Instead, the wisdom of God has devised a plan from the beginning whereby He is able to reconcile and restore all things to Himself.

In this way His love is satisfied, and He will not remain unhappy or unfulfilled for eternity while men burn in hell. The Apostle Paul understood this as well when he wrote in Rom. 11:32-36,

32 For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Paul was overwhelmed by the wisdom of God. Fortunately, no man gave God counsel, for then, if this were possible, He might have assigned most sinners to eternal threshing or unending judgment. But instead, Paul says, all things came into being “from Him” (that is, out of Him); all things in history go through Him, and ultimately, all of creation returns to Him.

Only the wisdom of God could have devised such a plan.

This is Paul’s summary of the history of creation. It begins with God creating all things out of Himself (God Particles). Then comes the history of sin, division, and suffering, which He Himself feels. But in the end, the unfathomable wisdom of God will reconcile all things to Himself, making peace “through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).