Supplement to Hope Faithfulness and Joy
Original Post here
Dear P. J.
Thanks for your thoughtful questions. Your questions encourage us to try to find more light and more clarity in our search for truth.
You asked me if Isaiah really predicted that the Jews will remain faithful to God throughout this long exile.
My response: Yes, he did.
Look my friend. Isaiah tells us that the one who bears the glad tidings to Israel will just say one phrase: “Your God has reigned” (Isaiah 52:7; see also 40:9). That is all he will have to say to bring joy to the heart of Israel.
Furthermore, Isaiah describes how the nations will serve Israel in the Messianic era. Isaiah tells us that the purpose of this is: “so that you know that those who hope to Me will not be shamed” (Isaiah 49:23). It is clear that Israel will be identified as the people who had been hoping to God.
The verses I quoted in my original article (Isaiah 25:9; 26:2,9,13) all put words of hope and yearning for God in the mouth of Israel.
Yes, Isaiah does describe Israel as a nation that yearns for God.
Let us now focus on the revelation of God’s arm described in Isaiah 52:10.
The prophet associates this revelation with the consoling and the comforting of Israel(52:9). This concept is mentioned by Isaiah several times – 12:1; 49:13; 51:3; 54:4, 66:11,13, – all in relation to the final redemption.
This revelation is associated with the joy that Israel experiences in the Messianic era (52:9). Another theme that Isaiah keeps coming back to – 12:3,6; 35:10; 41:16; 51:3,11; 54:1; 55:12; 61:3,7; 66:10,14.
The revelation of the “arm of the Lord” is associated with a return to Zion, a return that will take place on a path that is pure (52:11). Isaiah provided another vivid description of this same return (35:8 – see also Psalm 126).
Throughout Isaiah we learn that the revelation of God’s glory will remove Israel’s shame, bring her glory before God, and bring shame upon her enemies – 24:23; 25:8; 41:11; 44:23; 45:16,17,24,25; 46:13; 49:23; 51:7; 60:15; 61:3,7; 62:3.
So how could you accept the Christian interpretation which propounds that a prominent theme of the Messianic era will usher in period of shame and embarrassment for the Jewish people for not accepting Jesus?
Do you really think it is just a wild coincidence that the very same term: “arm of the Lord” appears twice, just a few verses apart (52:9 – 53:1)?
“But is there no shame for Israel?” you ask. “Doesn’t Ezekiel speak of Israel experiencing shame in the Messianic era (Ezekiel 20:43; 36:31)?”
That is another good question, and I am glad you raised it. It will bring more clarity to our discussion.
On a simple level we can say that the Jewish people are divided into two camps; the righteous remnant and the rest of the people. We would then say that Isaiah was referring to the righteous remnant while Ezekiel was referring to the nation as a whole.
That is not a bad answer, and there is truth to it, but I think it runs much deeper than that. Please read Micah 7:7-10. The prophet speaks on behalf of Israel, an Israel that has sinned before God – but an Israel that still longs and yearns for God. An Israel that will be glorified by the revelation of God’s glory – to the utter consternation of her enemies.
Let me give you a parable.
In a village in the far reaches of the kingdom lived a people who were very far from the king. Not only were these people far in the sense of geographical location, but they were so coarse and unrefined, that they had no connection to the King’s cultured and refined ways. They all feared the King and had a grudging respect for him, but they did not try to follow his rules.
One day a new kid appeared on the block. He too, was not that refined and not that cultured, but this fellow tried to keep the King’s laws in his own uncultured way. The villagers gathered around this newcomer and asked him: “what are you doing?” The newcomer answered: “I am the King’s son, and this is what I do”. The villagers burst out in laughter. “You are the King’s son?!” – “No way!” The newcomer stuck to his story, and the villager’s resentment for this newcomer grew. They taunted him day and night and they made life difficult for him in every way they could imagine. They spread rumors about him that he is actually the son of the King’s greatest enemy (John 8:44), and after a while began believing the rumors that they themselves had spread. Every time this newcomer would violate one of the King’s rules, which would happen once in a while, the villagers would exaggerate the violation and announce it from the roof-tops so as to shame the newcomer. As time went on, and the newcomer’s suffering increased, the villagers argued that if he would really be the King’s son, the King would never allow him to suffer like this – but the newcomer ignored their taunts.
The day came, and suddenly the King himself appeared in the village and there they were in the village square – the King and the newcomer in a loving embrace – an embrace that could only mean one thing – he really is the King’s son.
The King of my parable is the God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth. The newcomer is Israel, God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:8). The villagers are those who pointed to Israel’s suffering as “evidence” that they are not God’s elect.
Yes, perhaps God will rebuke Israel, His son, for not doing a better job – but that is something between a Father and a son – and it is that limited rebuke that Ezekiel was talking about. That does not compare in the slightest to the shame that the persecutors of Israel will feel for their rejection of the King and his son, neither does it diminish the joy of the son’s ultimate vindication – the vindication that Isaiah described.