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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 5

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 30, 31: The Spirit of Truth

Chapter 4: Horses from Egypt

Isaiah 30:15 says,

15 For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing.

The godly solution is simple but not easy, especially in the face of an Assyrian invasion and the expectations of the people that King Hezekiah faced. If he had followed Isaiah’s advice, would the people have entered a state of “rest… in quietness and trust”? It seems more likely that if Hezekiah had obeyed the word of the Lord, the military would have killed him and replaced him with an army general in whom the people trusted.

Virtually all nations have faced the same dilemma throughout history. When enemies threaten to invade, they invariably put their trust in the military. The patriotic people rush to defend their homeland. Those whose strength is “in quietness and trust” are condemned as “doing nothing.” So one can hardly blame Hezekiah, whose nation was being threatened.

Few people in Hezekiah’s day (or even today) truly believe that God is sovereign. Most believe that God helps those who help themselves, as they say. The flesh must do something in order for God to be successful. They think God needs some help from the flesh, much like Jacob believed until he wrestled with the angel.

God had made a covenant with all Israel. Having redeemed Israel from the house of bondage, God was their new master, according to the law of redemption in Lev. 25:53. Israel was thus God’s slave and was responsible to serve and obey Him. If they obeyed, God would protect them. If they disobeyed, God would sell them into the hands of foreign nations (Judges 3:8).

The law is clear on this. The problem is that a disobedient and unrepentant people simply did not believe this, even though they may have given lip service to the law. So when God raised up the Assyrians to bring judgment upon Israel and Judah, they chose to fight God’s army. In essence, they did not believe that God Himself had raised up the Assyrians, nor did they believe that God was leading the Assyrian army. Their response was to mount a defense against divine judgment.

The irony is that if the people had rested in God and if they had put their trust in God to defend them, God would have saved them. But few Israelites believed that God was able to do this. They thought they had to depend upon the flesh for their salvation. They did not believe that repentance would save the nation, because, in their state of lawlessness, they thought that they had a right to violate the laws and commands of God. They did not believe that God was truly sovereign, nor did they believe that they were obligated to serve and obey Him.

The salvation of a nation is accomplished in the same way as the salvation of an individual. Isaiah, the Prophet of Salvation, knew this, but few in his day were able to hear his words. As individuals, we are not saved by the power of flesh that comes through an Old Covenant mindset.

There is nothing we can do that can change our hearts. We can only change our behavior, and even this depends on our level of self-discipline. Our own well-intentioned vows and promises to God will always fall short. Only God’s vow, oath, and promise will succeed fully. Hence, salvation comes not by works or by the will of man but by resting and trusting in God to fulfill His promise in us.

This is New Covenant salvation. The heart of Isaiah’s message is this: “In repentance and rest you will be saved.” Few understand this simple principle, because the flesh blinds us with its accusation that simple faith is “doing nothing.”

Trust in Horses

Isaiah 30:16, 17 says,

16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,” Therefore you shall flee! “And we will ride on swift horses,” therefore those who pursue you shall be swift. 17 One thousand will flee at the threat of one man; you will flee at the threat of five, until you are left as a flag on a mountain top and as a signal on a hill.

Egypt was known for its horses and chariots. Its military was strong when fighting on a plain, though chariots were useless in the hills and forests. No doubt, Judah’s ambassadors were sent to enlist the aid of Egypt’s cavalry. Isaiah knew this and condemned the leaders for putting their trust in horses rather than in God.

But God had instructed the kings of Israel not to depend upon the horses from Egypt. Deut. 17:16 says,

16 Moreover, he [Israel’s king] shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never again return that way.”

God’s intent for Israel was to leave Egypt and never again return to its oppression and slavery. Here Moses said plainly that any attempt to rely upon the flesh—such as horses from Egypt—would mean that they were returning to a system of slavery. The same great truth is seen in one’s dependence upon the will of man for salvation.

A horse was the symbol of salvation. Hence, the fleshly saying arose that the army was “saved by the cavalry.” The Hebrew word for horse is sus. The constellation Pegasus means “Chief Horse.” This constellation Pegasus, when interpreted according to its original God-given name, was a prophecy of Jesus (Yah-sus), “Yahweh’s Horse.” By implication, it meant, “the salvation of Yahweh.”

Isaiah shows the contrast between fleshly horses and God’s Salvation (Yeshua) in the two paths that the nation might follow. They could follow either the fleshly horse for their salvation, or they could put their trust in the Salvation (Yeshua) of God (Psalm 50:23; Luke 3:6). Here in Isaiah 30, the prophet only briefly touches on this topic, but in the next chapter he reveals much more about it, and so we will study it further at that time.

God’s Grace

Isaiah 30:18 says,

18 Therefore the Lord longs [chakah, “waits, tarries”] to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.

God could have opened their eyes immediately so that they would quickly turn to Him in repentance. God really is that sovereign. In Deut. 29:4 Moses implied this when he told the people that God had not yet given them eyes to see. Those who understand the sovereignty of God know that God does not wring His hands in heaven, waiting for us and wishing that we would heal our own blind eyes. Instead, God “waits to be gracious.” It is all about timing.

Meanwhile, God Himself has raised up a remnant of grace, a tiny minority which, in the days of Elijah, numbered only 7,000 (1 Kings 19:18). The Apostle Paul quotes this in Rom. 11:4-6,

4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way, then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

These 7,000 men were “a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” They were not merely good men that God chose on account of their faith. God exercised His sovereign right to choose a remnant and to instill in them New Covenant faith.

If God had chosen those who were good, then His choice would have been based on their works and their will, rather than by grace. But these 7,000 were like Jacob, who was chosen before he was even born in order that it might be by grace and not by works (Rom. 9:11, 12).

In other words, like Jacob, the 7,000 were chosen by God before they were even born. That is grace.

God’s gracious choice” is by the will of God alone, and the result is seen in the lives of the remnant, whose faith is a response to God’s will. Their faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), but no man can hear unless God first speaks. Hence, faith is a “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8) and “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9).

Therefore, when Isaiah tells us that the Lord is waiting (tarrying) to be gracious to us, we should understand that He has already been gracious to the remnant and that He is waiting for the proper time to be gracious to the rest of the people. Their time will come, though not in their lifetime but in the age to come. At the Great White Throne, when all are raised and summoned to appear before Him, their eyes will be opened, and they will know the truth. Then every knee bows and every tongue will profess Christ as Lord.

The prophet says that God “waits on high to have compassion on you, for the Lord is a God of justice.” He is not waiting for us to conjure up sufficient faith. He has His own timeline and plan for the salvation of the world. When the time is ripe, God will pour out His Spirit and open the eyes and ears of the people. They will then repent, and this will mark the time of deliverance. God is “a God of justice,” which means that He follows the principles given in His own law.

The law reveals that God’s salvation comes only after men repent. Repentance comes through hearing, and hearing depends on God speaking. So we understand that repentance is the great barometer of the Spirit’s activity, and when men repent, we see this as evidence that the time for God’s “compassion” has arrived.

Our prayer, then, is that He will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, so that they will receive the gift of faith by which they may be saved. Though God has promised to save all mankind by His New Covenant oath (Deut. 29:12-15), His salvation is subject to time and is not applicable in a practical way until He causes them to repent.