God’s Victory: Chapter 60 Flows from Chapter 59
Septuagint Isaiah 59:21 is one of the more amazing verses in all of Isaiah. It follows upon chapters and chapters of judgment upon both the nations, the two kingdoms of Israel, and most recently, God’s remnant people themselves (Septuagint Isaiah 59:2-10). Then Isaiah repents on behalf of God’s people (59:13). The exact translation, “We have sinned,” occurs only here and once again in 64:5. (The Greeks words for “sin” differ in these two verses.)
The Lord in chapter 59:15 responds to Isaiah’s heart of repentance by searching for someone to restore judgment (a strong and accurate sense of right and wrong in every dealing, followed by doing what is right.) The Lord finds no one (verse 16). So, he decides to “do it himself.”
16 And he looked, and there was no man, and he observed, and there was none to help: so he defended them with his arm, and established them with his mercy. 17 And he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and placed the helmet of salvation on his head; and he clothed himself with the garment of vengeance, and with his cloak, 18 as one about to render a recompence, even reproach to his adversaries. 19 So shall they of the west fear the name of the Lord, and they that come from the rising of the sun his glorious name: for the wrath of the Lord shall come as a mighty river, it shall come with fury. (Septuagint Isaiah 59:16-19)
God Loves Gentiles
In this portion of Isaiah (Volume 2), God does not “hate” Gentiles. Gentiles, per se, are not the enemy God deals with. As in Ephesians 6:11-18, the enemy is spiritual. God welcomes repentant Gentiles into his Israelite family. It is, I believe, this basic misunderstanding of God’s intention for his people, as concerns the inclusion of Gentiles, that leads so many to think that the above passage deals with the Lord’s coming a second time to overpower them for the sake of Israel.
No, the enemy, remember, is sin. As developed so carefully and extensively in previous posts, God’s intention is to fill out the numbers of Israel’s believing “remnant” by summoning multitudes of like-minded believers from the “isles,” or the Gentile nations (1). The enemy is sin, nourished by Satan’s wicked activities. Sin is spiritual. It is not a concrete-physical item that can be touched.
It will profit us at this point to look back on what Isaiah writes elsewhere concerning inclusion of Gentile believers.
Septuagint Isaiah 51:4 Hear me, hear me, my people; and you kings, listen to me: for a law shall proceed from me, and my judgment shall be for a light of the nations. 5 My righteousness speedily draws near, and my salvation shall go forth as light, and on my arm shall the Gentiles trust: the isles shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. 6 Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my righteousness shall not fail.
Septuagint Isaiah 54:1 Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her that has a husband: for the Lord has said, 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and of your curtains: fix the pins, spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pins; 3 spread forth your tent yet to the right and the left: for your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and you shall make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
Victory Over Sin
Isaiah 53 develops in great detail how God’s Servant conquers sin. This is not a military battle. It is an infinitely mysterious sacrificial death of God himself that brings victory. One of the magnanimous consequences of God’s victory in his Servant is God’s new covenant with his people (2 Corinthians 3:6; 3:16-18; Hebrews 7:22; 8:6), The elements of the covenant are “My Spirit” and “the words which I have put in your mouth,” “for ever” (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21).
The Very Next Thing
The very next thing to happen in Isaiah is this wonderful victory celebration over God’s splendidly glorious achievement through his Servant on behalf of his repentant, believing people (chapter 60). Why would God immediately jump from his once-in-all-of-creation achievement (Septuagint Isaiah 59:21) through his Servant to a “second coming,” as though his first were insufficient for Israel? Readers of Isaiah, and most especially, those who lived in his own day, have barely begun to grasp the significance of the incarnation, let alone immediately to jump to something which some 2,500 years later still has not occurred. It is this fixation on the physical, concrete military victory for Israel which obscures the brilliance of the spiritual.
2 Corinthians 3:10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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. (ESV)
A Personal Statement of Belief
Yes, I believe that Israel is very special. I agree with the Apostle Paul when he writes:
Romans 9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
I also believe strongly that God’s Servant/Christ is coming again.
Revelation 22:11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” 12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done… 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price… 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
What I do not believe is that Isaiah writes about a “second coming” here in Isaiah 60. Here, he celebrates the first coming.
Words that Celebrate Victory Already Achieved
God’s victory is not yet complete. There is eternity yet to come. This is the “already not yet” so popular in Christian writing today. But the major portion, the most difficult part, has already been achieved.
John 19:30 … “It is finished” …
Let us give God our “selah” and pause to celebrate with him and Isaiah in chapter 60.
1 See, for example, Devotional 2.54. See also Devotional 2.35.
…to be continued