O.T. Handout 40: Isaiah, Ahaz, Suffering Servant, Millenial Covenant, Zion/Jerusalem, Eunuchs, Strangers Nov 2014
Isaiah’s prophetic ministry begins in 742 B.C. at Jehovah’s appearance to him in the temple, although he is forewarned that his people’s reception of him won’t be favorable (Isaiah 6:1–13). Isaiah nevertheless faithfully performs his role as Jehovah’s oracle. As was the custom in Israel, his early prophecies are likely spoken inside the gates of Jerusalem or its temple in the hearing of Judah’s elders (cf. Joshua 20:4; Jeremiah 7:2). Isaiah’s giving his sons prophetic names during Ahaz’ unrighteous reign, however (Isaiah 7:3;8:3, 18), may indicate that at times he is prevented from openly declaring his people’s evils and their consequence ( Isaiah 8:16–17).
In view of the great provision of vicarious atonement through the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), the prophet announces the consequent blessings: the expansion of Israel, the blessings of safety and peace, and the portion of righteousness. This chapter anticipates the salvation and restoration of Israel, begun in part at the restoration of the exiles from Babylon in 536 B.C. but for the most part yet in the future, for as this chapter unfolds it will become clearer and clearer that that return did not exhaust the promises. There yet remains the final culmination of all of God’s covenant promises at the end of the age. In fact, as these chapters progress to the end of the book, the vision gets more glorious, and so more eschatological (end times) in its scope.
We have Isaiah’s glimpse at the promises of the “new” covenant. He does not provide the details of Jeremiah 31 or Ezekiel 36, but he complements what is there. The passages on the new covenant promised:
• a restoration to the land for Israel and to the pure worship and spiritual service as priests
• conversion of Israel to faith in the Messiah,
• the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh so that the Law was in their hearts,
• the end of war and oppression in the land and in the world, and the reign of the Messiah in righteousness.
Beginning with the restoration from exile, some of this was fulfilled, but not all; with the coming of Christ, more was fulfilled, but not all; with the sending of the Spirit, some of that promise was fulfilled, but not all. Only with the second coming will all these things be completely fulfilled. Isaiah 54 lays out some of the promised blessings, but does not say when they will be fulfilled in part or completely.
Theme of Ch. 54: Jehovah’s millennial covenant is a composite of all covenants made with his people and individuals.
Several types of God’s government anciently come together to create an idea of what God’s government will be like in the millennial age. One of these is the government of Moses and Israel’s judges: “I will restore my hand over you and smelt away your dross as in a crucible, and remove all your alloy. I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as in the beginning. After this you shall be called the City of righteousness, a faithful city” (Isaiah 1:25–26; emphasis added). The parallel phrases “I will restore” show God’s simultaneous appointment of his End-Time servant—God’s hand and righteousness—and additional judges.
Isaiah 54:1–8. The Bride of the Lord Is Prepared
Once again the figure of a marriage is employed. Israel is called a barren wife because of her inability or unwillingness to produce spiritual offspring for the Lord. But in the end, when she is gathered once again, there will be more children from the “desolate,” or temporarily forsaken, wife than when she enjoyed her wedded status in ancient times (Isaiah 54:1). This being true, space must be found so that the latter-day “tent” of Zion can be expanded to accommodate them all. When one wishes to make a small tent larger, one must pull up the stakes and move to a further distance from the center pole. This is what is meant by lengthening the cords and strengthening the stakes (v. 2). Israel’s latter-day growth through conversion and gathering is represented as breaking “forth on the right hand and on the left” (Isaiah 54:3).
Isaiah 55:1–2. “Come Ye to the Waters . . . Buy, and Eat”
This passage is repeated by Jacob in his sermon on the Atonement and forms the basis for his plea that all will come and partake of the blessings of redemption. The Book of Mormon passage has some additions that are significant. Carefully compare Isaiah 55:1 with 2 Nephi 9:50–51.
The meaning of the scriptures is clear. Jesus is the “living water” and “the bread of life” (see John 4:13; 6:47–51), and His gracious gifts to men are free. The invitation to come unto Christ and obtain those gifts without money and without price suggests not that they can be obtained without effort but that one does not need the goods of this world to obtain them.
Theme of Ch. 55: As a witness and lawgiver to the nations, Jehovah’s servant mediates the new covenant with his people. (vs 8-9)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says Jehovah.
But as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Theme of Ch. 56: Jehovah curses the blind watchmen of his people but exalts the lowly who hold fast to his covenant.
Disloyalty and Loyalty (See Isa. 28-31, 55-59)
Toward the end of chapter fifty-five people are called to repentance. But one must go on from there, not just forsaking old, sinful ways and thoughts, but going on to do good. It says “eat what is good,” in verse two, chapter fifty-five. We must keep covenant all way, not just the beginning phase. Justice and Righteousness, are, of course, the foundation of all good and covenant blessings, and are the foundation of the covenant. Covenant keeping is defined as righteousness, or righteousness is defined as covenant keeping.
Isaiah 56:1–8. Who Are the “Son of the Stranger” and the “Eunuch”? What Is Their Significance?
Sabbath. Modern readers think only of Sunday, or the Lord’s day, as the Sabbath, but for ancient Israel Sabbath had a wider meaning. The weekly Sabbath was only one of several days called the Sabbath. All of the feast days, including Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, and the day of Atonement, were also called Sabbaths. Thus, to “keep my sabbaths [plural]” (v. 4) implied a keeping of the whole law of Moses, since the various feasts covered many aspects of the Israelites’ commitment to God. Also, keeping the Sabbath was a sign of the covenant between Israel and God (see Exodus 31:13, 16–17).
Strangers. “A stranger in the Mosaic law, and in the Old Testament generally, means one not of Israelitish descent dwelling with the Hebrews, as distinguished from a foreigner temporarily visiting the land [Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 16:29; 17:8;2 Samuel 1:13; Ezekiel 14:7]. The stranger was not a full citizen, yet he had recognized rights and duties. He was under the protection of God, and the Israelites were charged to treat him kindly [Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:18–19].”
Eunuchs. Under the Mosaic law, anyone who had been sexually mutilated was not allowed into full fellowship in the house of Israel (see Deuteronomy 23:1–2). The law was likely written because wholeness of body typified or symbolized spiritual wholeness.) A priest or Levite who was a eunuch could not function in the priesthood offices (see Leviticus 21:17–23).
Theme of Ch. 63: At his coming Jehovah takes vengeance on all whom he had redeemed but who yet rebelled against him.
While on the subject of the coming of the Lord, in chapter sixty-two, verse eleven, where he comes with salvation, his salvation is for the elect, or for the righteous, for those who repent, who are holy, the holy and valiant ones who escape destruction. But his coming also portends the destruction of the wicked, and punishment for them. Edom, in chapter sixty-three, verse one, is also mentioned in chapter thirty-four, verse five, it talks about the slaughter of the nations, “like the slaughter of the beasts of Edom. The sword that drinks its fill in the heavens, it shall come down on Edom in judgment, on the people I have sentenced to damnation.” The Lord’s rage is upon all nations, upon all their hosts. He has doomed them, consigned them to the slaughter. The Lord has a sword that shall engorge with blood. Disinheritance and Inheritance.
Isaiah 63:10–19 depicts a people gone astray, a people who have broken their covenants with the Lord. These verses explain the great judgment of the earth described in verses 1–9. Verse 17 in the Joseph Smith Translation contains a significant alteration. Instead of “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways and hardened our heart,” it reads, “O Lord, why hast thou suffered us to err from thy ways, and to harden our heart?” God does not compel people to sin or to harden their hearts. It is possible that the last part of verse 17 is a plea for the Lord to restore the lost tribes of Israel to the lands of their inheritance (see D&C 133:23–33).
Theme of Ch. 64: Unsealing the sealed book of Isaiah overturns the learning of academics and exposes spiritual error. As Jehovah’s coming draws near transgressors suffer for their misdeeds at the hands of their enemies.
Now these people are appealing to the Lord to come down again and rescue them from their enemies and adversaries. In effect, “Let our enemies be burnt up, in your presence,” as they were anciently. The problem with that is unless they are purified and sanctified and prepared meet God face to face, they will be burned up in his presence, just as they were anciently. God can’t come too soon. He can’t come until these people have gone through the Refiners fire– his people have gone through the Refiners fire– and are ready, in fact, to meet their God.
Theme of Ch. 65: As the millennial age dawns blessings and curses separate Jehovah’s servants from their oppressors.
(11-12) As for you who forsake Jehovah and forget my holy mountain, who spread tables for Luck and pour mixed wines for Fortune, I will destine you to the sword; all of you shall succumb to the slaughter. For when I called, you did not respond; when I spoke, you would not give heed.
You did what was evil in my eyes; you chose to do what was not my will.
Isaiah draws a contrast between the holy ones, or between the chosen or servants and those who are theirs, those to whom they minister, for whom they are proxies and saviors after the pattern of King Hezekiah in concert with the Lord’s servant. They are contrasted with the ones who are lowest on the scale. Basically you have only those three groups – the Servant category; the Zion/Jerusalem category, the one that inherits the land in the millennium; and then this category that’s destroyed. Why are they destroyed? Because they forsake the Lord and forget his holy mountain, or his holy nation.
The sword and the slaughter are in parallel. Sword: metaphor describing the king of Assyria; he is the fire and the sword that destroys the wicked. They are given into the power of the king of Assyria to their destruction. Slaughter is a term used in chapter 34 of the beasts of Edom, represents those who sell their birthright for a mess of pottage.
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