The Gospel According to Isaiah

The Gospel According to Isaiah

The Gospel According to Isaiah.

WANTED: An imaginative scribe who can write exquisite poetry. A faithful, articulate believer in Yahweh who can switch from one extreme to another at the Lord’s command… from a sublime vision of God’s glory to a ridiculous demonstration of shameful nakedness; from confronting the people over their sinfulness to comforting people with hopefulness; from being an outspoken messenger one minute to a living object lesson the next; from having one foot in the immediate surroundings one minute to one foot in the future messianic realm the next. Must be adaptable, thick-skinned, and extraordinarily brave. Person who answers “Here I am. Send me!” will be especially considered. 

Isaiah’s prophetic ministry lasted about forty-fifty years, staying close to home in Jerusalem for all that time. He started his ministry during times of relative peace and prosperity, and so because there wasn’t as much of a hard edge to his messages, he was well-liked and generally popular with the people. But soon Isaiah spoke words of the Lord’s judgment and coming punishment for their sins. He was very active in addressing the shortcomings of the five different kings of Judah during his ministry, and continued to call them to repentance. Because his messages from the Lord became very difficult to hear, the people, and the kings, often rejected what he had to say. Isaiah grew to be quite unpopular during much of his ministry. He was considered by most Biblical scholars to be the greatest of all the prophets, and his book is the first of the writings of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah was by far the most quoted prophet in the New Testament, over 50 times. He was highly gifted as a poet, and his writings are considered literary masterpieces. He combined the simple and the complex into what has been called a “Salvation Symphony.” His writings are still accepted as unsurpassed works of art, and they poetically, prophetically point to events that would happen soon, and events that would happen in the distant future. Isaiah discussed Messiah more than any other book of the Hebrew Bible, referring to the Messiah in many ways, from the Suffering Servant to the Sovereign Lord to the Everlasting Savior. As Eugene Peterson once wrote, “Isaiah is the supreme poet-prophet to come out of the Hebrew people.” Jewish tradition has Isaiah dying a martyr’s death, executed under the reign of the wicked king Manasseh. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the last thing Isaiah saw in this life was the very first thing he witnessed all those years before? Yahweh in all His glory, high and lifted up. fiery angels attending Him shouting praises to the King on His throne. That would truly be a sight for sore eyes.

6:1-4 – “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above it stood seraphim, each one had six wings, with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” The heavenly powers are included in this song of Paradise chanted around the throne, glorifying almighty God. Only the Lord is worthy to be praised endlessly, eternally, around the clock where there is no clock. And what are all the powers of heaven singing, pausing only to catch a breath? An early church prayer based on Isaiah 6:3. Isaiah’s mind-boggling vision of heaven’s throne room, the Lord on His throne, “high and exalted,” surrounded by choirs of angels adoring the King of creation, acknowledging His holiness and purity, set apart for special worship. The Lord’s glory, the light of His presence, permeates everything on earth. All of nature is full of His glory. This vision shaped Isaiah’s view of God and effected his prophetic ministry his whole life. It’s no wonder that Isaiah’s favorite term for God was the Holy One. Isaiah saw that God’s throne is surrounded by angels in full song, and by singing it here on earth, we are able to participate in that heavenly praise. The fact is we never pray alone. We are always accompanied by a cloud of witnesses that includes rank upon rank of heavenly angels. Whenever we glorify God in humble adoration, we are welcomed into the choirs of heaven gathered around the throne. When we adore the Lord, we are placing ourselves in the heavenlies and we place our hearts in the throne room. “Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as ‘private prayer’ in the Christian life. Our prayer to God is always sustained by the angelic presence.” (Reardon, Christ in the Psalms).

6:8 – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Hineni (Hebrew word, literal meaning, “Behold, I am!” but is generally translated in Bible as “Here I am.”) In Scripture it is a response of someone to someone else asking for attention. It could be a response to God, to an angel, a response of a child to a parent, or a servant to a master. Sometimes it is even a loving response of a parent to a child. The Biblical Here I am means you have my full attention; I am at your service; I am completely available to you; whatever you want, I am all in; I am in total readiness to hear and obey you; I have no hesitation in responding to you. Most of the time in Scripture the person saying Here I am doesn’t yet know what the caller wants from him. So hineni can essentially be a statement of faith. When someone in authority initiates Here I am, such as God, it is a declaration of presence and readiness to speak or act. Generally, hineni is often stated in a pivotal moment of that person’s life. Here I am can just be a casual response to a caller, but it often is an important moment in the life of the person responding. Isaiah was shaken to his core as he witnessed God’s power and purity and glory. He could only recognize his own sinfulness and impurity in the presence of God and His angels. One of the fiery angels took a pair of tongs, flew to the altar, and brought a live coal to Isaiah. The angel proceeded to touch Isaiah’s lips with this hot coal, and declared Isaiah to be cleansed and forgiven. Fire is a biblical symbol of purification, and this was even more so since the coal was taken directly from the priestly altar. After cleansing Isaiah, Yahweh said something very interesting, seemingly to no one in particular but actually perhaps meant for everyone to hear… “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” That was quite the challenge. And what did the Lord mean by “us?” Was He referring to the Holy Trinity? Isaiah, cleansed and prepared, immediately responded to the Lord’s call. “Here I am! Send me!” This readiness to minister for God was quite the statement of faith, because at this point Isaiah didn’t know what the Lord was calling him to do. God only gave instructions to Isaiah after he accepted the call.

7:14 – “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall His name Immanuel.” 

9:6 – “For unto is a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The journey from Isaiah 8 to Isaiah 9 describes the greatest miracle in the Bible. Going from spiritual darkness to the Great Light. From the absence of truth to truth incarnate. From walking in blindness to walking in the light. From spiritual ignorance to the light of wisdom from on high. From a time of hopeless grief to a time of celebration and rejoicing. From a world without the Messiah to a world with Him in the midst. About 700 years before its fulfillment, we hear about a child born who will be the light of the world, a son who will be given who will bear the government of the world on His shoulders. The Messiah’s rule will be eternal and upheld with justice and righteousness, Isaiah tells us. And the wonderful thing is, God really, really wants this to happen. This coming of the Messiah is not just of passing interest to the Lord. The “zeal of Yahweh” will accomplish this prophecy. God promised to pursue this Incarnation with great energy, with intense fervor, with passion and determination. God passionately desires that His Son would come into the world. And, as we know, God tends to get what He wants in due time. In the middle of this prophetic word in Isaiah 9, we are offered four titles of the Messiah that end up being a fascinating character description. Isaiah wrote this well before the truth of the Triune God became well-defined. And so the titles here don’t necessarily reflect the roles of the Messiah in the Trinity as much as describe his character. There are various ways one could translate this passage. Nonetheless, these four titles are all true in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.

“Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (NKJV).

“Wonder-Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (NJB).

“The Mighty God is planning grace; the Eternal Father; a peaceable ruler.” (Tanakh, JPS).

“Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (NAB).

Another way of expressing the literal meanings might be:

Miraculous Advisor, Champion God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Wholeness. 

Another translation reads:

Wonderful Counselor is the Mighty God! The Everlasting Father is a Prince of Peace! (Dr. Brian Simmons)

When Isaiah refers to Eternal Father, what kind of Father was he thinking of? This might be surprising, but the Father in the Hebrew Bible was recognized as being the Creator and the Maker; the Molder and the Shaper; the Protector and the Provider; the Redeemer; the Head of the household of the world. Most of all, the OT father was a person, or Person, of love and mercy… “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Ps. 103:13)In  the OT, the role of the father is not applied to an austere, distant taskmaster, a person who exists merely to punish or judge. The image of the father inevitably involves compassion and kindness. If Jesus is the Eternal Father, we couldn’t find a more apt title for Him. One reading of the gospels and we are convinced that Jesus, in this biblical sense, was fatherly in all He did. The source of Jesus’ compassionate fatherliness was His divine intimacy with the Father. They shared the same character. Jesus loved others the way the Father loved Him, like a father. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, which was act like a father. Since all the Father’s fullness dwelt in Jesus, Jesus spilled over with the qualities of the Father. Jesus expressed the Father’s compassion, He reflected on earth the heart of the Father in heaven. Jesus represented the Father by doing what the Father wanted Him to do. Jesus was and is the Eternal Father because He is the exact visible image of the invisible Father. Jesus was fatherly, because if you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father. Jesus cared for His people the way the Father cares for His. Father-like, Jesus tends to His flock. For He is the Great Shepherd. He is the Eternal Father. “There is no unfathering Christ, and there is no unchilding us. He is the Eternal Father to those who trust in Him.”  (Charles Spurgeon).

11:1-3 – “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 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 godliness. His delight is in the fear of the Lord.” The glorious kingdom of Christ had humble beginnings, a mere branch emerging from a seemingly dead stump in the ground, a tiny twig from a hidden root. As Isaiah says later in 53:2, “He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground.”  But the Spirit of the Lord rested on this Branch, the Holy Spirit alighted on Him like a winged bird from heaven. One thinks here of the testimony of John the Baptist, when he “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Jesus.” (John 1:32). These words about the Spirit of the Lord have seen historical importance in the Christian Faith, and has been called the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” especially in the Catholic and Orthodox communities. Seven properties of the Spirit of God are noted: the spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of might, of knowledge, of godliness, and of reverence for the Lord. The Greek OT has piety, or godliness, as one of the gifts, instead of having fear (reverence) twice as in the Hebrew version. So classical studies in Christianity have latched onto the seven to highlight in devotional life. This passage in Isaiah celebrates the profound giftedness of the Spirit as He came in full force upon the Messiah Jesus, and remained there forever. These sevenfold qualities represent the perfection of the Messiah’s anointing at His baptism, and they reveal divine gifts offered to believers which only increase in power and usefulness as the believer earnestly follows God. These gifts come in the believer’s anointing as a new believer, and are given to each Christian “according to each ones ability to receive them.” (Maurus). The Spirit’s gifts “do not come through our natural abilities, but through the divine power that confers them.” (Maximus).As we exercise these gifts in the power of the Spirit, they increasingly become that much more of an ingrained part of our redeemed nature. The Spirit offers to us the probability of becoming wise and insightful, able to guide others with God’s strength and valor, gaining in spiritual knowledge and godliness, and of developing a deep reverence for God. In other words, the Holy Spirit enables each believer to become like Jesus. Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One.

11:9 – They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” 

12:2-6 – “Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior. Therefore, you shall draw water with rejoicing, from the springs of salvation. And on that day you shall say, give thanks to the Lord and call upon His Name; Make His deeds known among the peoples; See that they remember that His Name is exalted. Sing the praises of the Lord, for He has done great things, and this known in all the world. Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.” PERSONAL NOTE. Many years ago, Sheri and I were attending an Episcopal church which occasionally sang this “First Song of Isaiah.” The tune is by Mr. Jack Noble White, composed in 1976, and the melody is nothing short of inspired. The words from Isaiah 12 pulsate with the spiritual energy of the Holy Spirit, and then when it is sung this way, the song settles in your spirit. The words of Isaiah’s song are so perfectly composed, they practically sing themselves. If ever there was a Scripture passage to memorize, this would be it. So years ago I in fact did memorize it, and I have said it in my prayers many times a week ever since. There is a quality that is particular to anything that is truly inspired… It never gets old. The depth of the words are such that one never reaches the bottom. Isaiah 12 has become my statement of faith, and when I recite it, the Holy Spirit continues to make the words fresh and profound. Isaiah 12 is fresh bread for the soul. Thank you, Isaiah, for allowing the Holy Spirit to use your poetic gifts. This version of the First Song of Isaiah can be found in the Book of Common Prayer, in the section entitled “Morning Prayer II.” A SPIRITUAL CLAIM. Whenever I sense I am being harassed or hounded by forces of spiritual darkness, or am fearful, or I simply want to confirm which side I’m on, I recite the opening words of this song. “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.” With these triumphant words of faith, I am declaring to the spiritual powers that I trust in the Lord to save me, to remain my refuge and dwelling place. These words remind the spiritual forces that God is my Savior, and that I am sheltering my spirit in Him. When used this way, as a spiritual declaration, it is important to sing or speak the words aloud. When you are merely thinking these words in your head, they will not reach the ears of our foes. Satan and his forces are not omniscient, they can not read minds. Speak or sing these words aloud, and you are declaring to the spiritual world that God is your strength, and there is no point to trying to assault someone hidden in the stronghold of the Lord. With these words, you are telling the evil one that you are not fearful, that God has become your salvation. You are telling the Accuser that he may as well surrender in his battle, since God has already won the victory. There is an overall tone of triumphant joy in this song. “You shall draw water with rejoicing;” “His name is exalted;” “Sing the praises of the Lord;” “Cry aloud, ring out your joy!” This is a victory chant of the redeemed, for those who have tasted of God’s redeeming grace. So, this song is not only a spiritual declaration and a war cry, it is a song of triumph, a psalm of joy. Isaiah 12 was always recited in the climactic last day of the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles in the Temple. The high priest would draw water with his golden pitcher from a nearby pool of living, burbling water. He would then return to the Temple and pour the water onto the altar. This was an ancient tradition in the Jewish faith, and a very joyous part of that Feast. While the water was poured, the people would chant various Scripture foretelling live-giving water, from IsaiahJeremiah,  Zechariah, and other books of the Hebrew Bible. The people always included Isaiah 12:3 in their chants, “And you shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation.” This was all very messianic, because Scripture tells over and over again of an abundance of water during the messianic era. All the people could think about during this ceremony was the coming of the messiah. It was at this dramatic point in the water ceremony that Jesus stood up and literally shouted for everyone to hear, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! For as Scripture says, ‘From his heart shall flow streams of living water!” (John 7:37-38). Could Jesus have made this any clearer? Our salvation comes through Him, His heart overflows with spiritual water, “welling up for  eternal life.”(John 4:14). If one is looking to satisfy one’s thirst for eternal life, for God, one needs to look no further than the Spirit of Jesus, the living fountain, the spring of salvation. One of my favorite lines in Isaiah’s Song is the very last line. I like to dwell on it. I’d like to live there. “The great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.” 700 years after these words were spoken by Isaiah, they became true in the Person of Christ. Lord Jesus, you are the Great One, the Holy One, and you are in our midst. We praise God for your incarnation, for being Emmanuel, God with us, for being present to us through your Holy Spirit. Amen.

33:5-6 – “The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation;  Reverence for the Lord is the key to His treasure.” 

40:3-4 – “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” All four gospel writers saw fit to quote this prophecy in Isaiah. It was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. He made straight a highway by preaching repentance, and he engaged in baptism as a symbol of that repentance. He pointed directly to Jesus as the Savior of the world. He gave hope to those in the valley of despond, he leveled the religious leaders in their mountains of self-righteousness. John prepared the way for the Messiah, and therefore was the greatest and last of the prophets…. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (40:5).

40:1,10,11 – “Comfort, yes, comfort my people! says your God… Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand. And His arm shall rule for Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom. And gently lead those who are with young.” 

40:28-31 – “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” 

41:4 – “I, the Lord Yahweh, am the first; and with the last, I AM.” Yahweh repeats His name, the I Am, almost thirty times in chapters 41-49. Yahweh, ‘I Am What I AM, I AM the Existing One.’ This is the name used to introduce Himself to Moses at the burning bush, and it is the name God incarnate used almost twenty times in the gospels when He declared ‘I Am…’ Jesus repeatedly identified Himself with the Great I AM, much like Yahweh did in these chapters in Isaiah.

42:1-2 – ‘Behold, my Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whom my soul delights! I have put my Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench…” (The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Eugene Peterson: “Isaiah 42:1-9 is the first of four Servant songs (see also 49:1-7; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12). The essential thing communicated here is that God is with this Servant. The Servant receives divine upholding. He is the divine choice, He is the object of divine delight; He is animated by the divine Spirit, and His work is the divine work of bringing justice to the entire world. The picture is of a true Servant. He doesn’t bully; he befriends. He doesn’t shout; he speaks softly. There’s no hard sell with those who dismiss him and no harsh argument with those who deny Him. He won’t brush aside a person who is bruised and hurt, nor will he disregard the small and insignificant. There’s no element of coercion in His approach. Only compassion.” This first Servant Song of Isaiah seems to describe perfectly the personality and work of Jesus the Messiah. Can there be any doubt?

44:6 – “Thus says the Lord Yahweh, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I AM the First and I AM the Last; Besides me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do?” 

50:4 – “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary…” Isaiah is singing one of his prophetic Servant Songs. This passage in Isaiah 50 is the third Servant Song, and is a two-stage rocket. The first stage is that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of this Word from the Lord. The Lord God equipped Jesus with an instructed tongue, and Jesus lived into that instruction by offering a word of encouragement, comfort and aid to those who were exhausted and burdened. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus indeed woke up every morning to listen to the Father for His guidance and wisdom. In fact, Jesus states seven different times in the gospel of John that He spoke only what the Father taught Him to say (eg, John 8:28 and 12:49). The very spirit of Jesus was continuously open for business, receptive to His Father and thus always poised to sustain the weary. Jesus, the submissive disciple of the Lord God. Jesus’ words were anointed because He first listened to the Sovereign Lord.

By extension then, every follower of Jesus is likewise equipped to offer pastoral care to the burdened. And that’s the second stage of the rocket. Christians are called to offer a timely word to the weary, an anointed word that comes only after listening to the Sovereign Lord. Isaiah 50:4 is a buried treasure, so let’s dig in:

“Sovereign Lord.” Two proper Hebrew names for God are used here… Adonai and Yahweh. Adonai means Master, Owner, Authority. We are not our own, we are God’s dear possession. He has supreme authority over us and over all creation. The name Adonai implies that we have a servant relationship with His Royal Majesty. Yahweh is the Great I AM, the name God used for Himself with Moses at the burning bush. Yahweh is God’s mysterious, spiritual version of the “to be” verb… I AM WHAT I AM; I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE; I AM HE WHO IS. I exist. I am the One who was, who is, and who ever will be. When Adonai and Yahweh are used together, the Hebrew scholars say, they are meant to reinforce God’s singular matchlessness. When we refer to Adonai-Yahweh, we can only bow the knee and take off our shoes.

“instructed”. This Hebrew word is used to signify a disciple, a student, a follower, an apprentice. The student in this verse is well-educated, highly taught, skilled, well-trained. Remember that this verse first applies to Jesus, then to the followers of Jesus. The learner here is one who is able to speak well about what he has learned, is receptive and open to offering to others what he has first received from Adonai-Yahweh. This instructed one is always learning, receiving God’s wisdom in order to grow and then to offer it to others. This verse in Isaiah implies that we are all sitting at the feet of the Lord, learning His wisdom, developing His character as we humbly walk with Him every day. “I have not mastered human wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One. Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.” (Proverbs 30:3-6, NLT). “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing in your sight O Yahweh, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14).

“tongue”. In this case an instructed tongue is a well-trained student who has the ability to speak on behalf of God, who represents God’s thinking. This tongue offers to others what God would say if He were you… a timely word in season. This student of God seems to have wisdom at the tip of the tongue, the gift of inspirational speech to those who need encouragement. This highly skilled follower of God offers his anointed tongue as an “instrument of righteousness.”  (Romans 6:13). Only God can produce that, as He did with Moses… “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since thou has spoken to thy servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12, NASB). If we are well-trained by Adonai-Yahweh, we could be a Moses, or we could be a Jeremiah… “Then Yahweh stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and Yahweh said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9, NASB).

“know”. This Hebrew word “yada” is jam-packed with meaning. On the one hand it implies acquiring something factual through the intellect. It is mentally grasping some piece of knowledge and remembering it. When you know something, your mind says, “I got this.” So on the one hand, knowing is a mental exercise. But on the other hand yada is so much more. In the Hebrew meaning, knowing implies an intimate understanding of something. Knowing is a deep personal union (Adam “knew” Eve), a personal experience with truth. In the Hebrew mind, one didn’t really know something until it became a part of you, until you could live it out. To know was to be involved, to participate in that truth. Something isn’t truly known unless it changes the knower. To know a truth means the knower is responsible to use it properly in his life. True knowledge is a personal relationship with the truth. In this Isaiah verse, to know the timely word is to experience it in your life and offer it to others. “Make me know thy ways, O Yahweh; Teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:4-5).

“sustain”. This particular Hebrew word “uwth” (ooth), is used only once in the entire Hebrew Bible (the O.T.), and this is the time. The word combines support and encouragement with the idea of hurrying. It gives the picture of someone who hastens to help someone in need, unafraid to step in and offer words of comfort when it’s needed. There is a sense of urgency with this word. If indeed Adonai-Yahweh is training your tongue, don’t be shy when offering a word in season to someone who needs it. Be ready, willing, and able to come alongside someone. “Thus says Yahweh of the Angel Armies, the God of Israel… For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” (Jeremiah 31:25, NASB). “The tongue of the wise brings healing; the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” (Proverbs 12:1810:11).

“weary”. To be human is to be susceptible to times of weariness. Sometimes it’s physical or emotional, and sometimes it’s a soul-weariness that assaults our spirits. Everyone at some point is heavy-laden, overburdened, fearful or exhausted in the struggle to live life as it comes. A timely word in season to the weary is life-giving and brings courage to face adversity. We all need a sustaining word now and then from a well-trained paraclete listening to the Holy Spirit. We come alongside the burdened just as the Comforter comes alongside us. “Winsome words spoken at just the right time are as appealing as apples gilded in gold and surrounded with silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, TPT). An important aspect of being called to come alongside someone is to point to Yahweh in times of weariness, and become equipped to offer His word of comfort and encouragement. “For, He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in Yahweh will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31, NLT).

“morning”. It takes a daily relationship with Jesus, with Adonai-Yahweh, with the Holy Spirit, to develop an instructed tongue. It takes a daily submission to the Master to grow in being a skilled apprentice. It takes a consistent openness to godly wisdom to become a heavenly learner. King David wrote a powerful morning prayer for all who yearn for an instructed tongue. “Let the dawning day bring me revelation of your tender, unfailing love. Give me light for my path and teach me, for I trust in you. Save me from all my enemies, for I hide myself in you. I just want to obey all you ask of me. So teach me, Lord, for you are my God. Your gracious Spirit is all I need, so lead me on good paths that are pleasing to you, my one and only God!” (Ps. 143:8-10, TPT).

“ear”. Here is another organ to offer up as an “instrument of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:13). The Isaiah verse states that Adonai-Yahweh “wakes up” our ears each morning, if we are willing to have them awaken. The Hebrew here is “He arouses for me an ear.” Are we open to having the Lord arouse our ears to listen to Him? Remember the little children’s Sunday School chorus… “Be careful little ears what you hear.”? It is possible to close our ears to the unhealthy and open our ears to the life-giving. Open ears means we are receptive, attentive, obedient to what we hear from God. Sometimes, as David says in Ps. 40, God needs to “dig out” our ears, to remove obstacles to hearing the truth. “My ears Thou hast dug [opened].” (Ps. 40:6). The ear was an important symbol of total receptivity in the Hebrew Bible: In Deuteronomy 15:17, when a servant wanted to swear life allegiance to the master, he would pierce his right ear and commit to being a love-slave. In Exodus 29:20, when a priest wanted to consecrate a sacrifice, he would place a drop of the sacrificial blood on his right ear. The ear is holy, for how else can one hear and receive the word of the Lord? “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-2). “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Prov. 18:15).

“listen”. One can hear something without really listening. It takes deep openness to receive truth into your ears, have it register in your receptive mind, and travel to the heart of experience. Listening means it doesn’t merely go in one ear and out the other. To listen like a well-trained disciple, in the Hebrew Bible, is to listen in order to obey. To listen is to activate the will. The Hebrew word used here is “shama,” a form of the great word “shema,” the first word and title for what Jewish children said in their prayers every morning and evening. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might!” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NASB). Jesus quotes the shema and gives it central importance in one’s life as a follower of God. In other words, this prayer is saying, Listen up, people! Hear/Do! Get ready to obey this word from the Lord! This is important! Listen carefully! And that’s something we can think about every morning when God wakes up our ears to listen to Him. For the one who speaks God’s words of comfort must first listen to God, poised to obey. There’s another aspect of listening… One can’t talk and listen at the same time. When in prayer, or as we are walking through the day, it pays spiritual dividends when we stop talking to God and open our ears to listen. May we all, morning by morning, be like little boy Samuel, who responded to the Lord’s wake-up call with, “Speak, Yahweh, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10-11).

“like one being taught”. Here at the end of the Isaiah verse we return to its beginning… the crucial role of the disciple, the student, the learner. We are life-long learners, following the Teacher, becoming trained in speaking words of comfort and encouragement, growing in our listening skills, obedient to Adonai-Yahweh and His Son Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Eternal Teacher. May all His followers develop an instructed tongue to offer words that will sustain the weary.

“Jesus Christ knew men [and women]. We do not try enough to know our fellow man. We are ready enough to judge them; but we do not try enough to understand them. We should give ourselves an opportunity to understand humanity, to know those who are around us, and from them to know the individual, until we are a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Every Christian ought to be a refuge.” (George MacDonald, Growth in Grace and Knowledge).

50:6-7 – “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard. I did not hide my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me.” The Suffering Servant, 700 years before the Passion of Jesus.

52:7 – ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'”

52:13-53:12 – This is the fourth of Isaiah’s Servant Songs, and clearly spells out the Passion of Jesus, and why He did what He did. “Behold, my Servant will prosper; He will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw Him. His face was so disfigured He seemed hardly human, and from His appearance, one would scarcely know He was a man… My Servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. Unjustly condemned, He was led away. No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream. But He was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief. Yet when His life is made an offering for sin, He will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in His hands. When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, He will be satisfied. And because of His experience, my righteous Servant willl make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for He will bear all their sins. I will give Him the honors of a victorious soldier, because He exposed Himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.”

Isaiah 55:6-11 – Seek the Lord while He wills to be found; Call upon Him when He draws near. Let the wicked forsake their ways And the evil ones their thoughts; And let them turn to the Lord, and He will have compassion, And to our God, for He will richly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, And my thoughts than your thoughts. For as rain and snow fall from the heavens And return not again, but water the earth, Bringing forth life and giving growth, Seed for sowing and bread for eating, So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; It will not return to me empty; But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, And prosper in that for which I sent it.” 

Isaiah 55 has been called the gospel in miniature. It contains the compelling invitation to come to the Lord. It issues the call for revival. It highlights God’s benefits if we seek Him… free nourishment for our souls. This chapter refers many times to God’s central character quality: compassion, mercy, pardon (Exodus 34). And we are here reminded of God’s transcendence and greatness. This little chapter is a poetic masterpiece. It sings with beauty, but it has a solemn edge to it. It brings accountability as well as hope. This chapter is a straightforward call to redemption, to the sure mercies of God, to the salvation of the Lord. This “Second Song of Isaiah” is found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in the section entitled Morning Prayer II.

“Seek the Lord… Let the wicked forsake…” (verses 6-7). In the beginning, God wanted fellowship with the people He made. God wanted to include mankind in the intimate friendship He enjoyed within the Trinity. It would go against the grain of God’s character and purpose to exclude Himself from man’s companionship. When sin entered the world, that fellowship was fractured. But even then, God followed the fallen friends into exile. God was determined to stay with His sinful, exiled creatures, and any  distance between them was the effects of sin between man and God. Throughout the old covenant, it seemed that thoughtful people lived in fear of God’s abandonment. And yet they continued to sin to create that distance. But God never gave up on mankind. He continued to make Himself available to those who sought Him in repentance and righteousness and faith. People would fearfully say things like, “Cast me not away from your presence; take not your holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11); or “Wake up, Lord God! Are you forsaking us forever? You can’t hide your face any longer from us!” (Ps. 44:23-24).

When God cut through the distance and made Himself approachable in His rich mercy, wise people would seek Him out. Notice the sense of urgency in this passage of Isaiah… Seek Him! Call upon Him! In other words, make the most of God’s presence! He doesn’t have to be near you. Take advantage of His nearness. Yes, He is a God nearby, but don’t forget that He can be a God far away as well (Jer. 23:23). God has every right to hide His face. But He isn’t doing that! In His love, God has exiled Himself out of the garden and is always hanging around His creatures.

So return to God, Isaiah says. Repent! Reject your unrighteous impulses. Stop your wicked deeds. Quit your evil scheming and impure inclinations. Turn your back on your godless motivations, your shameless imaginations.  Make changes, turn from your wicked thoughts and tainted deeds. Return to the Lord. He is waiting for you, He wants to renew your intimacy. You will find Him to be rich in compassion, abundant in mercy. When you turn to God, He is waiting with open arms to receive you unto Himself. He will forgive you. He will pardon you in His grace. His lovingkindness will envelop you and your fellowship with Him will be renewed.

God seems to be saying, Don’t expect me to be up close and personal all the time. Don’t presume that I am at your beck and call. Sometimes I choose to seem silent or distant, and yes, sometimes you might have a dry period in your spiritual life. So seek me when I seem close and intimate, but also seek me when I am distant. Call to me when I seem more available, and call to me when I appear to ignore you. God’s silence is a mystery, and as Isaiah says elsewhere in this passage, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God’s ways are not our ways. God’s wisdom is far deeper and higher than our understanding could ever be. After all, how really do we know what is best for us? How do we know what will lead us to deeper growth and stronger dependence on Him? God knows these things, they are His secrets. When God seems distant or silent or unresponsive, we need to continue trusting that He is acting in divine wisdom. God may seem distant at times, but in His mercy He is still present.

In God’s new covenant with us, He went the extra mile in His desire to reconcile with us. He sent His Son to take on our flesh and offer Himself as the means to redemption, to closing the distance. Not only that, but God sent His Holy Spirit to come alongside us and reside within us. God is now present in a most intimate way. We need never fear as in ancient times that God will play hide and seek with us. “I shall never hide my face from them again, since I shall pour out my Spirit...” (Ezek. 39:29). God now dwells within us. What a gift! He is now as close to us as our heart. He will not cast us away from His presence. He will not take His Holy Spirit from us. He has promised us eternal life with Him, starting now. And we can trust Him to stay with us. We can trust Him to continue his mercies. For the Father of the prodigal has welcomed each of us home.

In  verse 7, Isaiah is pleading with the people to turn from their wicked ways, and God will freely forgive them, God will have compassion on them. The Hebrew word here for compassion has a root in the word “womb,” the hidden, loving place that nurtures life and growth. It seems clear from Scripture that the Father has a mother’s love. The Father has a maternal side to His care. God’s compassion is the same as that of a mother who cherishes the child she has carried and borne. Isaiah says this in 66:13:  “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” And also in 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” And Jesus compares Himself to a mother hen in Matt.23:37, when He “longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” God is properly referred to as Father, but He often displays the heart of a mother.

Showing compassion, putting love into action, having mercy is not the normal way of the world. Forgiveness is not the customary way of the world. It is not the way of the world to “abundantly pardon.” God’s ways are not the world’s ways. God loves justice, yet is pure mercy, motivated by compassion. God is all about accountability, but also forgiveness and pardon. His ways are so much higher than our ways, there is no possibility that we will understand His thoughts, His plans, His actions. His justice, motivated by mercy, goes higher than we could ever understand. His forgiveness is higher than our forgiveness, as far as the heavens is from the earth. When God perplexes us, we need ultimately to trust in His character of mercy, justice, and righteousness.

For my thoughts… For as the heavens… (verses 8-9). What is the context for God’s comment that His thoughts and ways are profoundly higher than mankind’s? God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and we aren’t. Let’s face it, there is God and then there is everything else. So of course His understanding and His actions will be unspeakably higher than ours. Isn’t that obvious? But what was the Lord specifically talking about in verses 8-9? The clue is in verse 7, the topic is mercy and compassion and forgiveness. His merciful ways and His compassionate actions will not be understood by us mere mortals. God’s ways are counter-intuitive to man’s. Theologians, and the rest of us, can only wonder at statements like this, “Mercy rather than justice is the outstanding attribute of God.”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel). The fact that God seems to have unlimited grace will puzzle us humans. The fact that He will eternally forgive wrongdoers will mystify us. The fact that He has no boundaries when it comes to His mercy will cause us to scratch our heads and acknowledge God’s vastly different way of doing things. The distance between God’s mind and our mind is like the distance between the heavens and the earth.

How distant is that, actually? We now estimate that the distance between the earth and the edge of the observable universe is 46 billion light years, making the diameter of the observable universe about 93 million light years. Scientists have determined at this point that there is very little curvature of the universe. The universe is almost perfectly flat, which means the universe is essentially infinite in size. So when the Creator of the universe says that his thoughts and deeds regarding mercy are as different from man’s as the distance from the heavens to the earth, we should sit up and take notice. So it’s true then that God’s way of thinking about forgiveness is as distant from a human’s way of thinking about forgiveness as the distance between the universe and the earth. At a minimum, that’s about 46 billion light years’ distance. At a maximum, God’s thoughts on mercy are an infinity in distance from man’s thoughts. Maybe at some point we will fully understand Father Patrick Henry Reardon’s observation, “Mercy is the cause and reason of all that God does. God does nothing, absolutely nothing, except as an expression of His mercy. God’s mercy stretches out to both extremes of infinity. All we will ever discover of God will be the deepening levels of His great, abundant, overflowing, rich, endless mercy.” (from Reardon’s book, Christ in the Psalms).

Man’s mercy is stingy, conditional, inconsistent, tends to be self-serving, and often depends on the worthiness of the person being shown mercy. Man’s mercy includes words like inexcusable, unforgivable, irredeemable, disgraceful. But God’s mercy is the opposite of all that, and is nothing even remotely like man’s mercy. God’s mercy and man’s mercy are like night and day… No, it’s even more different than that. God’s mercy and man’s mercy is infinitely distant from each other. God shows mercy in an infinitely different way than man. God’s quality of mercy is a universe apart from man’s. God is infinitely more merciful than man, so much so that man cannot even hope to understand the depths of God’s mercy, unless you are looking at Jesus. God’s mercy is beyond human comprehension, but because of Jesus is now up close and personal. God’s lovingkindness breaks the mold, and now, since we’ve seen it in action through Christ, we can thirst for that mercy in a world devoid of authentic love.

For as rain and snow… So is my word (verses 10-11). Continuing with God’s theme in verse 7 of compassion and pardon, Isaiah discusses God’s love cycle in relation to the natural water cycle. God’s word of love going forth from His mouth is His promise of mercy and forgiveness. God promises that, just as rain and snow bring life and fruitfulness to the earth, His love comes down from heaven and aims to soak into the fertile ground of man’s repentant heart. God’s love for man is not a futile exercise. His love will not return to Him empty. But it will bring the proper praise back to Him on the throne. God’s love has a purpose, it will  prosper mankind. The love cycle: God drenches mankind with His word of love; life and growth naturally follow; the new life that springs from God’s love will result in fruitfulness; Mankind will respond and bring back to God praise and adoration and faithfulness. God’s love will accomplish its purpose in the heart of man, and that’s a promise to all who turn to God in repentance. God’s word of forgiveness will bring new life and vitality to those who turn to Him.

RAIN AND SNOW. “For as rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth…” (verses 10-11). It’s very clear how rain nourishes the earth, but snow? Snow seems to be an unsung hero in the watering of the earth. While the upper levels of snow remain protective, the bottom layers melt and nourish the ground. Snow provides a blanket of nourishment for the plants. As snow melts, the plants get watered. Sometimes when our efforts to nurture growth, in others or ourselves, seem fruitless, it could be a layer of snow covering the seedlings, and growth is actually happening in a big way beneath the surface of the snow, where you don’t see it. Trust that God is bringing forth new life even when it seems to be dormant. It could be God’s snow covering the ground, bringing nourishment below the protective surface. It could be like the snows atop Mt. Hermon… When it’s time to melt, it will flow down the mountain to bring the needed moisture to the plains beneath. In God’s mercy, the snow could be a fruitful blessing.

PRAY THE WORD. This is indisputable. There is no denying it. God’s Word will be fulfilled, it will be achieved, it will complete its purpose. His Word will bring a blessing, it will bring new life, it will provide fresh seeds for new growth. His Word will succeed, it will not return to him empty without accomplishing what He wants. God’s Word is His will, and will not be fruitless. This has been called the “cycle of blessing”… sent from God, come to earth, return to God. God will be blessed when His Word returns to Him, fulfilled and fruitful. This brings God joy and satisfaction. And this is why it seems wise to pray God’s Word. God’s holy Scripture brings spiritual blessing, and in its time is a sure thing. It can’t be denied or thwarted. His Word does not return empty. Wondering what to pray for your friends, your family? Pray God’s Word. Sing His Word even. Make up your own melody or tune. In this case, pray/sing the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Pray thoughtfully through that blessing from the Word a few times, and your prayer life for others will be deepened. God’s Word will accomplish His will. That prayer/song will not return to God empty. There are many blessings, too, in St. Paul’s epistles. Pray the Word over your loved ones, turn the Scripture into a song, and His Word will fulfill His purposes.

THE LIVING WORD. “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (55:11, NLT). In His mercy, the word God eventually sent out is His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The Father sent His Son, and the Son fulfilled His destiny, His purpose. The Word prospered everywhere He went, “bringing forth life and giving growth.” (55:10). Jesus the Word, full of grace and truth, does not return empty, and He blesses the Father with what He has accomplished. The Word returns to the Father, completing His mission to the applause of the Father and all the angels. As George MacDonald once wrote, “Why the Lord must go and ascend to His Father, though with Him all the time and with Him at the moment, I cannot tell you; but it means something, as if there were some center somewhere where this very body of His must be embraced in the arms of the Father before He was satisfied – as if He had to go back and tell His Father, ‘I have done it, Father, I have done it! It is over now and we shall have them all back by and by.” The Word that was sent out indeed prospered, flourished, overflowed in fruitfulness, to the delight of the Father.

57:15 – “For thus says the High and Lofty One, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, yet also with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to restore the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” 

58:6-8 – “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord willl answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.”

60:1-3,11,14,18-19 – “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. For behold, darkness covers the land; deep gloom enshrouds the peoples. But over you the Lord will rise, and his glory will appear upon you. Nations will stream to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawning. Your gates will always be open; by day or night they will never be shut. They will call you, The City of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Violence will no more be heard in your land, ruin or destruction within your borders. You will call your walls, Salvation, and all your portals, Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day; by night you will not need the brightness of the moon. The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” (also found in the Book of Common PrayerMorning Prayer II).

God is a burning light. He is Spirit, but He is also a consuming fire. God’s light in the spiritual darkness is an important metaphor, but His blinding light is also a tangible reality. His truth does indeed enlighten us, His burning away the darkness in our soul, bringing us to understanding. But God’s Presence has a literal radiance as well. When God shows up, the light of His countenance is revealed. If there is one noticeable aspect to God’s Presence, if there is one way of trying to describe the physical nature of God, it is with this dazzling quality of light.

  • God is the Father of lights (James 1:17).
  • He dwells in unapproachable light (I Timothy 6:16).
  • He is the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2).
  • He wraps Himself in light as with a robe (Psalm 104:2).
  • Or, more simply put, “God is light.” (I John 1:5).

This third song of Isaiah capitalizes on light, the dawning of light, the shining brightness of the light. There is no need for the sun or moon in the New Jerusalem, because “the Lord will be your everlasting light.” (verse 19). Isaiah focused on light, light, and more light. And this light is wrapped into God’s glory. God’s glory shines in the darkness, and provides what is needed to display all the properties of light… to sustain life, to heal wounds, to dispel darkness, to burn out impurities, to show the way, to reveal the truth in reality. God’s glory-light remains universally radiant and effective.

GLORY. In the Jewish version of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, the word “Presence” is synonymous with “Glory.” Glory is Presence, the weighted splendor of God’s Presence. Glory is the heavy magnificence of His Presence. The heavy weight and substance of God’s Presence outweighs the world. His Presence is more substantive, has a heavier girth, than the universe. So nature bursts at the seams when God makes an appearance. The earth would be overpowered by the light of God’s full glory. Nature tends to reel and rock in His Presence. Isaiah reported in 6:3 that the angels were singing “the whole earth is full of His glory!” It is a miracle that nature doesn’t self-combust. God is such an overwhelming light that, like Moses, we can only take in a sliver of God’s Presence at a time.

We get a glimpse of God’s great glory in Exodus 19, 20 and 24. God appeared at the top of Mt. Sinai, and He was accompanied by a dense cloud, thunder, lightning, a devouring fire, thick smoke, a violent earthquake, and an increasingly louder trumpet blast! Nature just isn’t equipped to handle God’s unveiled glory. Nature is seen here struggling to manage God’s Presence. It’s no wonder the Hebrews were frightened to the core and wanted Moses to be the middle man. They saw the mountain ignite and were terrified! How did Moses gather the courage to walk up the mountain into God’s immense glory? How was he able to remain in God’s Presence for 40 days? We certainly are not surprised that Moses glowed with God’s radiance after his time in the Glory.

GLORIFY. Thinking of glory, what does it mean to glorify God? How do we bring glory to the One who is already glorified? To glorify God is to acknowledge and applaud the reality of God’s Presence in the world. We glorify God when we magnify His Presence, making Him heavier, larger, more obvious, more credible. We glorify God when we  live in a way that preserves God’s righteous reputation and glorious Name. We glorify God when we honor His character, power and influence. We glorify God when we walk as children of light, helping others to experience the light of His Presence. We glorify God when we highlight and underline His Presence, His glory.

NEW JERUSALEM. This song of Isaiah foretells the time when Jerusalem will be redeemed, spiritually restored, a source of light to the world. Gentile nations will stream to the City, walking out of the darkness, attracted by the light of God’s glory. Zion will be the site of God’s Presence, and will be called the City of the Lord. It will be a city that has embraced Jesus Christ, “the Holy One of Israel.” In this song Yahweh is inviting the redeemed Israelites to rise up and live in God’s glory, basking in the light. God will use this Holy City to be a prophetic presence, calling out to the nations. As Isaiah said in 49:6, “I will make you a light of nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.” May this vision of a Redeemed Jerusalem becoming a light of the world be fulfilled soon, Lord. May the salvation of the world come through the redemption of Your chosen people. May your eternal glory shine bright in Zion.

MESSIAH. “Your gates will always be open; by day or night they will never be shut. They will call you, the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” Being a Christian, I believe Isaiah is once again foretelling the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. Isaiah loves to use that phrase “the Holy One of Israel” when referring to Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. Also in rabbinic literature, light is used as a common name for the expected Messiah. Light is used in Matthew 4:15-16, as Jesus is revealed as the light when Matthew describes His ministry. “You who spend your days shrouded in darkness can now say,  ‘We have seen a brilliant light.’ And those who live in the dark shadow land of death can now say, ‘The Dawning Light arises on us.” (TPT). That direct quote from Isaiah 9:1-2 is almost identical to the thoughts in Isaiah 60 about light rising up, about the dawning light of the Lord.

As we think about Yahweh’s glory, how shall we consider the glory of His Son? It’s true that Jesus called himself “the light of the world,” which is an aspect of His glory. But the mystery of glory reaches a crescendo in the person of Christ. In many ways, while He was on earth Jesus was glory in a minor key. He was the eternal King who emptied Himself of his Heavenly glory to take on human flesh. In giving up His glory, Jesus identified with the tarnished image of God.

The Lord’s song hit a major key, though, at the Transfiguration, when He unveiled His glory-light for a short time (Luke 9:28-36). While praying on a mountain top, there suddenly was a bright dense cloud surrounding Jesus. His face shone like the sun, His body radiating heavenly glory. His clothes became as white as light, so bright his three disciples had to look away. In the midst of the cloud, the disciples heard the commanding voice of Yahweh. The glorified Jesus was even seen talking to Moses and Elijah. This was literally a glorious moment on the mountain top. For the most part, Jesus put aside His weighty splendor for a season. He instead let his personal ministry reveal His muted glory. He let His teaching, healing and befriending reveal the greatness and goodness of His light.

In the New Jerusalem, we will finally see Jesus in all His splendor and glory. We will see the glorified Messiah illuminate the universe. Jesus will join His fellow members of the Trinity to provide all the light we will ever need. “The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” We will see the Lord showing His love at the speed of light.

61:1-2 – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

So Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And when He opened the scroll, He found the place where it was written…” (Luke 4:16-17, paraphrasing Isaiah 61:1-2).

That’s right, the Holy Spirit of Yahweh has anointed me, your home town boy! Yes, I am the Messiah, the “Anointed One.” The Spirit fell on me at my baptism not long ago, and that was my official anointing for this ministry of the Lord. In fact going back to the beginning, I was even conceived by the Holy Spirit, right here in Nazareth! It was a miracle. And so in many ways I have been anointed since birth, and the Father has simply been waiting for the right time to send me on my mission. So the time is now! The year of God’s grace has come! Yahweh has accepted this time period as the one “when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound.” (Amplified Bible).

So this is the time for the spiritual Jubilee. This is the reality of what God hinted at back in Leviticus 25 with the Jubilee year: the time when debts were cancelled and slaves went free. The time when prisoners of war were released and everyone is freed from their oppressive burdens. I am the Messiah, and I have come that you may have your spiritual Jubilee, a time when you are set free by a gracious God to start over with Him in the spirit of redemption and blessing.

The prophet Isaiah has defined my mission well:

  1. To preach the Good News to the poor.” In Isaiah 61:1, “poor” means humble or meek. So I am giving words of hope to the poor in spirit, those who are spiritually bankrupt, hopelessly poverty-stricken in their spirits. In fact, I hereby promise that the poor in spirit, the empty and helpless, will receive the Kingdom of heaven and become spiritually rich. I am here to tell the lowly that they will be held in honor, and will receive all the blessings of God’s new world. I will seek out the humble to tell them that they will be raised up to a new life of fullness and new-found strength.
  2. “To proclaim liberty to the captives.” In Isaiah, “captives” referred to prisoners of war, or by extension anyone in bondage to sin because of our ongoing spiritual war. I will minister unto those who are casualties of our war with Satan and with sin. I will release all those who are battling their demons and those who realize they are in bondage to their sinful nature. I will grant a full pardon to all these victims of hidden warfare, to these prisoners held captive by the enemy. During this time of favor and blessing, all prisoners will be liberated from sin and Satan. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:32-36). If you are in bondage to sin, you indeed are a slave to sin, you are imprisoned by sin. And in this spiritual Jubilee, I will release the slaves and set the prisoners free.
  3. “To heal the brokenhearted.” Some historical manuscripts omit this phrase from the Luke passage. But the original Isaiah 61:1 reference includes this phrase, so in keeping with some NT translations and the Isaiah reference, this phrase will be included here. As Messiah, I will heal those who have had their hearts broken by rejection, by loss of loved one, by shame or guilt or failure. I will bind up those who are broken by the state of the world and its presence of sin and wickedness and pain. I will mourn with those who mourn, and my heart will be broken by whatever is breaking your heart as I come alongside you. I will personally bring the Good News of salvation and healing, and so we will mourn as those with hope. My tears will absorb your tears as I offer my comforting and healing presence to your misery.
  4. “To proclaim recovery of sight to the blind.” This phrase was added to the passage in Luke, and is in the spirit of the spiritual Jubilee. To all you who are spiritually blind, I will open your eyes to see the truth and goodness of the Lord and His Kingdom. Since you are helpless to take off your blinders by yourselves, I will remove your blinders personally. You simply can’t make yourselves see without my help. I will open your eyes to see the reality of God and His love. And to make sure this important truth is understood, I will heal every physically blind person who comes to me in my ministry. All of these physical healings of the blind will be a sign of what I will do spiritually to those who allow me to do so. I will cure your blindness to the depravity of sin, to the depth of your sinful nature, to the hope of God’s salvation. And then finally, you will truly see and believe. “Everyone who believes in me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:45).
  5. “To set free those who are oppressed.” The “oppressed” in Isaiah is intended to include anyone who is downtrodden, burdened by life’s difficulties, bruised by the system, broken down by some calamity. I will deliver you from these spiritual bruises, from whatever may be weighing down your spirit. I will come to encourage you and help you rise above life’s travails. If you feel oppressed in any way, I will deliver you and set your spirit free. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29). So come to me during this acceptable time of blessing and favor, all you who are oppressed in some way, and I will be your liberator.

“Then He rolled up the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:20-22).

Thinking Further: Those words from Luke 4 and Isaiah 61 seem ripe for the possibility of evolving into some new beatitudes in the spirit of Matthew 5. Please consider these:

a. Blessed are the poor and helpless. You will shout for joy when you are humbled by life and left empty-handed. For when you are dependent on God, the Messiah is here to offer you spiritual riches. He will give you hope and courage as He replaces your poverty with fullness of life. Congratulations! You are now ready to leave your destitute condition and enjoy the Kingdom of God. The Anointed One will fill your spiritual bank account.

b. Blessed are the captives, for you will be set free. You who are prisoners of war and exiled to another land, I will release you and bring you home. Happy are you who are imprisoned to your sinful nature. I will break those bonds and set you free to follow the goodness of the Lord. How fortunate you are when you are captured by Satan or sin, for I have come to break the enemy’s chains, kick the demons out of your spirit, and liberate you from your bondage. Congratulations! With the Messiah, you are no longer a slave to sin or a prisoner of the enemy.

c. Blessed are the brokenhearted, for you will be healed. You will sigh with relief when you find yourself broken by rejection or loss, by shame or guilt or failure. You are most fortunate because the anointed Messiah is ready to heal your woundedness, to comfort you in your sorrow. Happy are you when you realize you are not alone in your broken grief. He will be present with you in the midst of your pain, He will join you in your despair. The Anointed One will offer his comforting grace and healing presence, and you will revive and be restored to full health.

d. Blessed are the blind, for you will see the truth. You who are unable to witness goodness or beauty will soon see the purity of the Lord. How fortunate you are when you realize you’ve had blinders on. You can now pursue God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Congratulations! When the scales from your eyes have been removed, you can see a whole new world of light and love. When the Messiah opens your eyes, you can follow in the footsteps of the Master. Happy are you when you accept that you have been looking, but unable to see. The Messiah will heal your eyes.

e. Blessed are you when you are oppressed, for you will be set free from your oppression. How fortunate you are when you are burdened and downtrodden, for you will have your spiritual burdens lifted. You will be released from whatever is weighing your spirit down. Congratulations! When you are feeling the bruises of life’s difficulties, you will experience healing and encouragement in your spirit. Now that the Messiah is here, and His blessings abound, you will find rest for your souls.

63:7-10 – “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of Yahweh, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. For He said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not lie.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted. And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” In a not so subtle hint at the Three-Person Godhead, Isaiah saw fit to offer an inspired breakdown of all Three in Isaiah 63. In verses 7 and 8, Isaiah remembers the great blessings of Yahweh in the past, His lovingkindness, His mercies, His stature as the Savior of Israel. So there’s the Father being praised for His great goodness down through history. In verse 10, Isaiah mentions how, despite Yahweh’s tender mercies, the house of Israel nonetheless rebelled against Him and grieved His Holy Spirit.

The Angel of His Presence. Sandwiched between the Father and the Spirit is the Angel of His Presence. As suggested by the scholars behind the Believer’s Study Bible, “The Angel of His Presence occurs here in parallel to pronouns referring to God Himself. This is indeed the Angel of the LORD who acted on Israel’s behalf at the exodus and other times, and is considered to have been the preincarnate Christ.” Starting with the Early Church, many biblical theologians and scholars have agreed that the mysterious Angel of Yahweh, the heavenly Messenger of God, was an earthly appearance of God the Son before His incarnation. Any visible manifestation of this unique Angel in the Hebrew Bible has been taken to represent an encounter with Jesus Christ. This Angel of the LORD has been reported time and again in a large number of OT scenes, including each of the Patriarchs, Hagar, Gideon and Moses.  “Most scholars conclude that this phrase “Angel of His Presence” is not referring to one of the angelic hosts but to the Lord Himself.” (TPT notes). In verse 8 we see Isaiah noting that this divine Angel saved the Israelites, redeemed them and “carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah is no doubt referring especially to the events surrounding the Angel of the LORD’s appearances around the exodus. Consider this special Angel of God at the Red Sea and at Mt. Sinai. Isaiah is centering on the preincarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, that unique Angel of the LORD. The term “Angel of His Presence” literally means in Hebrew, “Angel of His Faces.” Could Isaiah be referring here to the three Faces of God?

64:1 – “Oh, that you would tear apart the heavens! That you would come down!” The Father did just that… He opened up heaven, and the Son of God came down! And then He did it again, opening the heavens a crack so the Holy Spirit could come down at Jesus’ baptism. And then He did it again at Pentecost. And now we pray once again for the heavens to be torn apart , Lord, to ignite a revival in our midst. Shine your light from heaven into the darkness here.