ISAIAH CHAPTER 66.
The Passing of the Old and the Rise of the New Church.
THE ABOMINATIONS OF A DEAD WORSHIP AND THE BIRTH OF THE NEW CHURCH. — V. 1. Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool, a majestic declaration of His almighty power and rule; where is the house that ye build unto Me, and where is the place of My rest? The Lord desires neither the Temple nor the worship of such as have forsaken Him; they are an abomination in His sight. V. 2. For all those things hath Mine hand made, everything that men might offer to Him was His even by virtue of His creation, and all those things have been, saith the Lord, heaven and earth with all their creatures having been brought into being by the word of His power, wherefore the hypocrites and believers in name only have nothing upon which they might pride themselves; but to this man will I look, such a one the Lord will regard with favor, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, whose heart is filled with genuine repentance, and trembleth at My Word, who stands in awe of God’s holy Word and will and shuns a dead orthodoxy as well as a religion of works. Upon such a person the Lord looks with merciful compassion, him He accepts with a full and free expression of His grace. The loathing which the Lord feels with regard to a mere external observance of the forms of religion is now set forth. V. 3. He that killeth an ox, in an act of sacrifice which is nothing but a dead custom, is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb as if he cut off a dog’s neck, as if he insulted the Lord by the sacrifice of a dog; he that offereth an oblation, a drink-offering, as if he offered swine’s blood, the sacrifice of which was forbidden in the Law of God; he that burneth incense, with a heart not turned to the Lord in true faith, as if he blessed an idol. The Lord feels nothing but the deepest loathing and horror of the sacrifices and the worship of the apostate Jews. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, different from those prescribed by God’s holy will, and their soul delighteth in their abominations, that being their condition of mind. V. 4. I also will choose their delusions, picking out and appointing to them misfortune, and will bring their fears, all the misery that men dread, upon them; because when I called, bidding them come to repentance, holding out to them the riches of His grace, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear, but they did evil before Mine eyes and chose that in which I delighted not. Cp. chap. 65, 6. 7. 12-15. Thus the Lord sets forth and rebukes the abomination of a dead worship. He now turns to the believers, His children, and announces to them the full glory of the Gospel comfort. V. 5. Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His Word, in a wholesome awe, in the reverence engendered by a childlike faith: Your brethren that hated you, the hypocrites and godless people whom the Lord has just exposed, that cast you out for My name’s sake, for in opposing the Lord they also became open enemies of His confessors, said, in giving expression to the bitter mockery of their hearts, Let the Lord be glorified, let Him reveal Himself in a miracle of punishment upon them! These scorners would find that the Lord would indeed glorify Himself upon them. But He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed, so Jehovah comforts His people. The sentence may also be constructed to read, in the jeering call of the unbelievers, Let the Lord by all means glorify Himself, that we may see your joy! the Lord’s retort being: They shall be brought to shame. The revelation of Jehovah’s glory in founding and establishing His Church in the Messianic era is now described. V. 6. A voice of noise from the city, of a great uproar, a voice from the Temple, the seat of Jehovah, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to His enemies, on the great day of vengeance, the time of deliverance of His children, which is so often referred to in Isaiah’s prophecies. V. 7. Before she, Zion, the bride, the Church of the Lord, travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. V. 8. Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? The event to which the Lord has reference is unheard of. Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Is a whole land or nation thus brought into being? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, with the first show of labor, she brought forth her children. V. 9. Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth? so that the birth is not completed, saith the Lord. Shall I cause to bring forth and shut the womb? saith thy God. This description fits all the great crises in the history of the Church, the birth of the Christian Church, the reformation of the Church in the sixteenth century. When traditions and customs obscure the true life of the Church and bring about a condition of dead orthodoxy or of false teaching, the Lord comes with His mighty, merciful intervention and brings about a rebirth, which renews His Church to an extent that makes it almost a new creation. What the Lord has once undertaken He carries out to His own glory and that of His Church.
THE HAPPINESS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH. — V. 10. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, so the prophet calls out to all believers, and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her, all those who formerly shared her misery and tribulation, v. 11. that ye, as the spiritual children of Zion, may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations, enjoying her spiritual blessings and treasures to the full; that ye may milk out, drain the riches of the Gospel mercies, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. V. 12. For thus saith the Lord, Himself the covenant God, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, in great quantities, and the glory of the Gentiles, all the power and the gifts which they possess, like a flowing stream, which threatens to overflow its banks; then shall ye suck, drinking in full measure; ye shall be borne upon (her) sides, and be dandled upon (her) knees, the Lord Himself taking His children into His arms and extending to them the fullness of His mercy. V. 13. As one whom his mother comforteth, like a mother consoling her grown-up boy with true maternal sympathy, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem, whose glory is now the means of the divine consolation. V. 14. And when ye see this, realizing, to some extent, the riches of God’s mercy, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish, be filled with new life and strength, like an herb; and the hand of the Lord shall be known toward His servants, in love and kindness, and His indignation toward His enemies, who would feel His wrath in an everlasting punishment. V. 15. For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, with a devastating punishment, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire, for fire is mentioned throughout the Bible as an instrument of God’s avenging anger. V. 16. For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh, carrying out the sentence of His justice upon all men; and the slain of the Lord shall be many, because all unbelievers make themselves the objects of His wrath and heap damnation upon themselves. V. 17. They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, that is, the idol-worshipers who anxiously observe all the ceremonies of cleansing under the direction of some priest or master, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, some other forbidden meat, and the mouse, also Levitically unclean, Lev. 11, 29, shall be consumed together, by the judgment of His wrath, saith the Lord. V. 18. For I know their works and their thoughts, or, “so far as their works and their ideas are concerned.” It shall come that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory, which would be revealed in the Lord’s judgment upon the reprobate Jews, this warning being intended to prepare the way for the spread of the Gospel among the heathen. V. 19. And I will set a sign among them, performing a miracle in their midst, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, these messengers being the few who escaped His great punishment upon the apostates, brands snatched from the burning, to Tarshish, Tartessus in Spain, in the extreme West, Pul, in Northeastern Africa, between Egypt and Ethiopia, and Lud, the Libyans of Africa, that draw the bow, renowned warriors, to Tubal, in Asia Minor, south of the Caucasus, and Javan, the Ionians of Greece and Asia Minor, to the isles afar off that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory; in short, His Gospel-message was to be carried into all the world; and they, the Lord’s ambassadors, shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. V. 20. And they shall bring all your brethren, the so-called dispersion among the heathen, for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations, these being brought to Him as a precious gift, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, low and comfortable wagons, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, dromedaries, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. V. 21. And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord, there being no difference in the Church of Christ between Jews and Gentiles, all of them being of equal rank as spiritual priests before the Lord. V. 22. For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make, the new creation of which He spoke chap. 65, 17, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain, namely, that of the believers, the spiritual children of Israel, gathered from Jews and Gentiles alike. V. 23. And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, with clocklike regularity, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, all the members of the new, wonderful kingdom of the Messiah, saith the Lord. V. 24. And they shall go forth, namely, the members of the Church of the Lord, represented as coming out of the Temple of Jehovah, engaged in His worship, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me, as the people of Jerusalem had a view of the carcasses in the Valley of Hinnom; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. Thus the punishment which comes upon the enemies of the Lord will be both a source of satisfaction to the believers and an example of warning. Op. Matt. 13, 42. To this day and hour the words of the Lord hold true: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16, 16.