The Prophecy of Isaiah chapter 6 is pivotal to the understanding of the progress of God’s plans in early New Testament times. We have mentioned this before, showing how the blindness, deafness, and hardness of heart predominated in Jesus’ day, and sadly, it continued afterwards during the preaching of the 12, and then the preaching of Paul. However, Paul’s eyes were opened to see that Israel’s failure became the doorway to faith for the Gentiles until “the fulness of the Gentiles” was achieved. He also saw that there was something beyond that point in time. He said quite emphatically that God was able to graft the natural branches back in again, and would do so under certain conditions. In this number we shall have another look at Isaiah 6 and see the prophecy within its context.
One may divide the chapter into the following important points –
- The death of Uzziah
- The heavenly vision
- The announcement that the earth is full of God’s glory
- The prophet’s enlightenment as to his own condition
- The cleansing by fire on his lips
- “Who will go for Us?” Question and answer
- The prophecy of judicial blindness
- “How long?” Question and answer
- The Holy Seed in the stock of the Oak Tree.
- The death of Uzziah could easily be passed over as insignificant apart from giving a date line. But this is not so. Uzziah was a good king of the southern Judaean Kingdom, and filled his 52 years’ reign with deeds that pleased the Lord. However, this tended to go to his head, and finally he committed the unpardonable sin of burning incense in the Temple, forbidden save to those of the house of Levi. The judgment of God fell, and he spent the rest of his days a leper, in his own house, and was not permitted to be buried in thesepulchre of kings. Uzziah represented the rulers of the people, and his condition was reflected in the Sanhedrin of Jesus’ day.
- The heavenly vision, where Isaiah saw the Lord “high and lifted up” is very similar to the vision Saul of Tarsus saw. The effect of the vision was identical upon both Isaiah and upon Saul. Both were alerted to their own sinfulness, as in Item 4. Both men were prophets. Both were given an apostolic-style ministry, as in Item 6. Both were cleansed in readiness for that mission, as in Item 5.
- The glory of the Lord throughout the Earth. This was always God’s supreme goal, and He called upon His Seraphim to declare it, showing that it rested upon God’s holiness thrice voiced. Whereas both Isaiah and Paul were called upon to announce a judicial blindness to the Israel Nation, each had a light at the end of the tunnel of darkness.
- The judicial blindness indicated God’s prevention of restoration from taking place. They were being laid on one side, untouched by heavenly understanding, and imprisoned in darkness. This may sound supremely unjust to untrained ears, even those of God’s people who have been saved by grace, but God is never in the business of destruction, always that of restoration. He may preclude the disobedient from major blessings. He may demote some from being “written in heaven” to being “written in the earth,” but no one is ultimately bound for a scrap heap. People are placed on the earth in varying degrees of privilege and responsibility, and unto whom much is given much is expected. This is a sorting out process in preparation for the coming day of God’s Kingdom, where He takes those who have been obedient to the heavenly vision, and who have been prepared and trained under rigorous testing, and in resurrection grants them authority, as the Master said, “one over ten cities”, another “over five cities”, and so on. But those who have been disobedient, and whose eyes have been shut judicially, will find in the day of God’s Kingdom that their best expectations have been cut asunder, as they “see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom”, but themselves shut out. The excluded ones are not destroyed, but are placed under government, instead of being part of the government.
- “How long?” cries the prophet Isaiah, and he is given a picture of total and absolute devastation to the nation. Even the smallest part left, amounting to perhaps ten percent, will eventually be consumed. Just a few years before this prophecy was given, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken away into captivity. Years ahead the same judgment would fall on the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and for some time the land of Israel would know of no Israel Nation. Hosea was told that they would be “Lo Ammi”, “Not My People.” But there was always a promise of return, not just as a reflection of the grace and lovingkindness of God, but also because of the on-going outworking of His plans towards all of mankind, until “the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.” The Apostle Paul also wanted to know “How long?” This time it was to know when the Lord would return, and the question is very topical for us in this series, hence this present analysis. Once again a devastation was announced for the Israel nation, (which occurred in A.D. 70) but a positive note was added in its place. Once the Lord had achieved his “bundle of Gentile saints” something very wonderful would happen – “all Israel will be saved.” And looking back over nearly two millennia of Israel again being Lo Ammi, we are required to see that God has not forgotten His ancient nation.
However, a very important distinction must be made here. Whereas today the evangelistic call of the Church is always personal, a time is coming when God will begin to deal with nations. In these last days of the Church, before it enters into the Kingdom, “there is neither (an individual) Jew, (an individual) Gentile,” etc., but each one becomes a “living stone” in the structure of God’s spiritual house. God is not dealing with nations yet, even though the Jews have become a nation again of recent years. He is still calling men and women to respond to His call, and be grafted into His Vine. But see now the nature of the coming days in the last Item.
- “As an Oak or Terebinth whose stock (trunk) remains when they are felled, so the Holy Seed is the stock thereof.” Even though the nation of Israel has been cut down like a tree, and only the stump left, which to all who observe, seems quite lifeless, yet we are told that within that dead-looking tree stump dwells the Holy Seed. What is the Holy Seed? It is the Lord Jesus Himself, the One promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. What is it but the fulfilment of Isaiah 11:1-2? “There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him . . .” But even our Lord Himself was “cut off and had nothing” for a brief time, (Dan;9:26) but the grave was not able to contain Him. His branch has borne fruit in resurrection ever since.
A very beautiful description of the life of the tree is given in Job.14:7-9. “There is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud, and put forth boughs like a plant.” This, I believe, is the present condition of Israel, and Gentile Christian believers need to understand that in a coming day God is going to perform a major miracle with the Israel nation. Like Saul of Tarsus, who was “born before the due time”, they will also “look upon the One whom they pierced, and will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son.” Yes, and in that mourning they will be as thoroughly saved as was Saul in his day. I believe God will do this as aspecial miracle, to show that He has never discarded His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The judgment of God in the wilderness caused the whole nation to miss seeing the promised land. But 40 years later their children saw it. The whole nation was taken into captivity in Babylon, but seventy years later their children returned under Ezra and Nehemiah. Why should it not be believed that the same God can bring back out of dispersion a people scattered and tormented, after all this long time? They may still be enemies of Christ. They may still spit at the mention of His name. But the dead trunk contains the Living Holy Seed. And they are still “beloved for the fathers’ sake.” (Rom.11:28)
What has God in store for them as a saved nation? Some will declare that the Gentiles will then be put back into second place, and Israel will become what it was before, and will alone reign with Christ, but I do not see it like that. It is not even that the Church has the special place that others will insist upon. It is God’s elect remnant, from Adam to the present day, that will reign with Christ and be His king-priests in the Millennium. Just as there was an elect remnant within Israel, so also there is an elect remnant within the Church, and many of the others within the world-church will be angry when the time comes, that they will be excluded from reigning with Christ.
What then for the saved Israel nation? What was the mission of Paul, who served “before due time”? He was the minister to the Gentiles. But this was God’s original plan for His Israel nation. They were meant to be a light unto the nations, to bring the righteousness of God to the knowledge of the Gentile peoples. Why should not God now insist that they become an evangelistic nation, and perform that which they have signally failed to do ever since they became a nation? God is not mocked. In their new-found joy with their Messiah, will they be required to review their great responsibility, and under the guiding hand of God’s resurrected saints, be sent forth to bring light and life to many peoples? I like that vision, even though it will probably be at odds with both the Replacement theologians and the Israel-only group. I can see some truth in both, but neither has a fulsome grasp of Paul in Romans 11.
Let us see again what Paul was saying. As far as the Gentiles are concerned –
By their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
Their failure means the riches of the Gentiles.
Their rejection means the reconciliation of the world.
Hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles be come in.
They are enemies of God for your sake
As far as Israel is concerned –
If their failure means the riches of the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean?
If their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
When the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, then all Israel will be saved.
Although enemies of God for the sake of the Gentiles, they are beloved for the sake of the Fathers.
How much more (easily) will they (Israel) be grafted back into their own Olive Tree?
Because of all these things, I can look upon the Jewish people in a fresh light. I will see them as having been placed in a state of judicial blindness in order that we Gentiles may be saved. I cannot in any sense look upon them in any other way. God has placed them there for our advantage in this age. But He asks that we shall be careful not to boast against them, because through unbelief we may just as easily be broken out of His Olive Tree, and cease receiving the “fatness and richness” of God’s favour. We are reminded of God’s “kindness and severity.”
One final thought. We are concerned in this series to try to establish what will happen just prior to the Lord’s return. I believe that the miracle of the removal of Israel’s blindness must occur either at, or just before the main body of resurrection. I base this conclusion on the question Paul asked, “what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” and “when the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, then all Israel will be saved”.