Isaiah: A Personal Devotional Journal–13

Isaiah 4:4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgement, and the spirit of burning. 5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence. 6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding place from inclemency of weather and from rain. (LXE)

How to Parse This Paragraph?

A simple list of the phrases the writer chooses in this passage reveals the theme of the Holy Spirit:

  • wash away the filth
  • purge out the blood
  • spirit of judgement
  • spirit of burning
  • and he shall come
  • a cloud overshadow by day
  • the smoke and light of fire burning by night
  • upon all the glory shall be a defence
  • a shadow from the heat
  • a shelter and a hiding place

Light from the New Testament

First, from the New Testament, Matthew 3:3 identifies John the Baptist as the forerunner whom Isaiah prophesies in later chapters. Matthew 3 in its entirety speaks of a washing with water (John’s baptism) for repentance from sin (See in particular Matthew 3:2, 6, 7, 8, 11.)

Secondly, Intertwined with the washing with water, John intertwines declarations of cleansing with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will bring this purging Spirit of fire and judgment whom Jesus will bring (See Matthew 3:10, 11-12). Malachi, the last of Israel’s Old Testament prophets, picks up the theme of the purging Spirit of judgment and burning in Malachi 3:2-3, also quoted by Matthew in 3:2.

Additionally, Jesus after his ascension partially but mightily fulfilled these prophecies in Acts 2:1-4 on the Day of Pentecost. There, the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame resting on each of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, praying.

Further, the letters of Paul and others reveal the sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of all believers (See Romans 6:22, 15:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; and 1 Peter 1:2). Repentance is essential to Christian salvation (See Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32; Acts 2:38, and 5:31, among many other verses). Therefore, all believers have a sense of their sinfulness before God, a desire to be cleansed, and a longing and determination to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord, i.e., a life of ever increasing holiness. The Holy Spirit performs these purifying activities throughout the daily lives of all believers.

Last, Revelation 20:10-15 records the final fulfillment, when Jesus consigns all that is unholy to the “lake of fire.” This purging by fire secures the eternal holiness of the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-4). It is the final state of all that is unholy–there will be no further redemption.

Light from the Old Testament

The Old Testament contains many references to the cloud and the fire. First then, in Numbers 9:15-23, the writer summarizes how the cloud by day and the fire by night protected, sheltered, and guided the Israelites throughout their entire wilderness journey, which lasted forty years. Nehemiah 9:12 specifies the way the cloud and fire guided them. Psalm 105:39 describes how God spread the cloud to cover them. Liddell-Scott uses the synonyms “shelter” and “protection,” to define how the Greek phrase functions. Brown, Driver, and Briggs (BDB) write for the Hebrew, “covering, large cloth spread (מָסָךְ) over well to hide persons within.” Psalm 105:39 also states that the fire gave them light at night.

Are these symbols (types) indicating the presence of the Holy Spirit among the Israelites? The eyes of faith say, yes. Light is a universal symbol for truth and knowledge, while shelter and protection need no explanation. A bit further on, in Isaiah 63:10-11, Isaiah links the presence of the Holy Spirit among them with Moses and the Exodus.

But they disobeyed, and provoked his Holy Spirit: so he turned to be an enemy, he himself contended against them. 11 Then he remembered the ancient days, saying, Where is he that brought up from the sea the shepherd of the sheep? where is he that put his Holy Spirit in them? (Isaiah 63:10 LXE)

Nehemiah also writes, You imparted your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths; you provided water for their thirst. (Nehemiah 9:20 NET)

And from the mouth of the Psalmist, Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God; thy good Spirit shall guide me in the <1>  straight way. {1) Alex. and Heb. ‘land of uprightness’} (Psalm 143:10 LXE)

Speaking of Messiah, Isaiah writes, And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2 ESV)

There are many verses to choose from in the New Testament, but here is just one of them from John, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV)

Binding the Old and New

Isaiah 4:5 states, And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defence.

This verse illustrates why I love the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation)–it speaks of Christ. Versions which translate the Masoretic text (the Hebrew text) leave off the Greek phrase, “And he shall come…” Instead, nearly all major versions write, “…the Lord will create…” the cloud, and so forth. Yes, indeed, the New Testament does teach that both God the Father and the Lord Christ sent the Holy Spirit. Yet, in the Septuagint (LXX) translation, there is a prophecy with reference to the Lord himself as a person, “And he shall come…” The cloud and fire follow in the text.

How can readers determine who is this “he” who “shall come”? In this context, he could be the person of the Holy Spirit, or he could be the Messiah whom the Holy Spirit accompanies. Most of the biblical uses of the word speak of persons who come (see Luke 13:35, Matthew 21:9, and Psalm 118:26). Therefore, it is unlikely the text speaks of God the Father, since nowhere does Scripture teach that God the Father shall “come” in what appears to be a physical context.

Where else has Isaiah mentioned a “he” in the passages covered so far?

  • And many nations shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will tell us his way, and we will walk in it: for out of Sion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3 LXE) Note: One of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is that Christ is for all people, all nations everywhere (Luke 24:47).
  • And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into sickles: and nation shall not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn to war any more. (Isaiah 2:4 LXE) Note: This verse and the previous occur in the passage concerning “the latter days,” (See the prior post @ and scroll down to the paragraph about the “latter days.”) This time frame references the advent of Christ in all the New Testament period.
  • For he has forsaken his people the house of Israel… (Isaiah 2:6 LXE). Note: The “he” in this verse is the same as began this pericope (segment) in 2:2, “the mountain of the Lord” and in 2:3, “he will tell us his way.”
  • The segment ends in 2:6 with, For he has forsaken his people (Isaiah 2:6 LXE).
  • Now therefore enter ye into the rocks, and hide yourselves in the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might, when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth (Isaiah 2:10 LXE). Note: A prior post ( explains how Revelation repeats this verse in connection with Jesus.
  • Isaiah 2:19 and 2:21 are similar to the verse just above.
  • Finally, there is Isaiah 4:5, “And he shall come, … ” as above.

Is This Passage About Messiah?

My faith embraces this prophecy of Messiah in Isaiah 4:5, “He shall come.” Additionally, biblical support elsewhere is bountiful. In fact, the sea change in moving from the Old Testament to the New is the arrival of the Holy Spirit to live among humanity again. Matthew 1:23 shouts out, “God with us,” at the advent of Jesus the Christ. It helps to couple this verse with John 14:16-18,  16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you, (John 14:16-18 ESV). Our God is three-in-one. God is “with us” in Christ in the Holy Spirit. We are not alone.

Finally, the last phrase in verse 5 states, “and upon all the glory shall be a defence,” (Septuagint LXE). Paul cements this verse to the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 and 3:18, And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, (2Corinthians 3:18 ESV).

Although the Greek in this verse is difficult, the sense is the same as that seen earlier in the verse. The cloud that overshadows is a “defence,” a shelter. The glory of the Lord shall cover, hide, conceal, and protect the whole region of the mountain of the Lord, or Mount Sion, that is, Christ’s kingdom and his people. And, as mentioned earlier, the Greek grammar is difficult, but it appears that the glory itself shall be protected.

Why Is This a Joyous Passage?

Good news always brings joy. “What good news?” someone asks. “Didn’t we just see an uncounted number of people and fallen angels get thrown into an eternal fire?” That is correct: the Bible always presents the essential fork in every road. One path leads to life. The other leads to death. For those who choose life, the knowledge of Messiah’s presence among his people to cleanse, protect, and heal is absolutely, fantastically, good and joyful news. It’s joyful, because he is the ultimate, Good King. For those who choose death, Jesus is bad news indeed. At the very least, the folk who turn their backs on Jesus will not have the joy of knowing intimately this wonderful Creator-Savior God.

Which path are you on? Your story doesn’t end until it reaches its very last page. After the last page, there are no more pages to turn. You’ve run out of pages. But part of the good news is that God is gracious, and he does receive death-bed prayers of repentance. But please, don’t wait until then. As the famous preacher in the movie Pollyanna said, “Death comes unexpectedly!” Choose life today.

And may God bless your meditations with life.


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