Isaiah 66:1-2, 14-24 Visions of God’s Greatness WC McCarter
The Lord Will Come with Fire
As we conclude our time in Isaiah for now, we will take a look at the last chapter of the book which brings things full-circle and into final review.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Maker Looks Upon the Contrite (1-2)
The Lord begins this chapter by asserting that He does not dwell on earth. He has made heaven His dwelling place, although He is not limited in any way to space or time. Even when the Jews built a magnificent Temple, yes, God came to dwell there but only because He chose to do so. He was not limited to only occupying that small space on earth. Also, when He committed Himself to the Temple, He was not submitting Himself to something that humans had built for Him because, in fact, all of the resources that were at the disposal of those who constructed the Temple had been created by God in the beginning. The Lord does not look favorably upon people simply because they build or offer something to Him.
No, the Lord looks favorably upon those who are poor/humble and of a contrite spirit. That second phrase probably means something like, “lame in spirit.” Those who are lame in spirit are those who realize their brokenness. This is a biblical theme. Take a listen to these Scripture references: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise . . . Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God . . . God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted . . . He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
You see, God wants us to have a clear understanding of who He is and who we are in relation to Him. He is God, and we are not. He is Creator, and we are creature. He is the Helper, and we are helpless without Him. Maybe the greatest sin of mankind is the arrogant posture that we take. So many have a problem with admitting that there is a God who lays claim over their lives. So many are unwilling to humble themselves before the Creator. They refuse to admit their failures and wrongdoings. They refuse to confess their weakness. Yet, the Bible makes clear that God is looking for those who will humble themselves before Him, repent of their sins, and trust in Him (and the One He has sent, the Lord Jesus Christ). This type attitude accords with trembling at the Word of the Lord. A word of judgment, wrath, and the holiness of God should cause you to reflect deeply on yourself and your condition and tremble at His Word. Likewise, the sovereignty of God should cause us to tremble.
The Coming Judgment (14-17)
There were many detractors in those days mocking those who believed the Word of the Lord. They would say that the Lord had abandoned the Jews, that He was not going to be of any help, and that the prophets were not proclaiming the truth. Yet, there were those who trembled at the Word of the Lord (2, 5-6) that would rejoice when they saw the Lord bring about restoration. Notice the combination in verse 14 of both heart and bones. This stands as a figure for the whole person. Those who have waited on the Lord will rejoice and flourish in the Day of the Lord. The “hand of the Lord,” meaning His power, strength, and dominant rule, will be experienced by His people while those who have rejected the prophetic message will experience the Lord’s indignation/fury.
What kind of fury will this be? Look at verse 15. The Lord will come with fire. Notice that the personal name Yahweh (LORD) is used here. This fire has been called the “deadly holiness of God” (Motyer, 539). Unrighteous men cannot stand when the fiery holiness of God rages forth. Of course, chariots were earthly displays of destruction. So, the wrathful picture continues against the Lord’s enemies. May I just say at this point that the Lord’s enemies are not only those who aggressively oppose Him, but those who have also rejected Him in their hearts by unbelief.
“Fire” is almost always a symbol for judgment in the Bible. So, the Lord’s fire, chariots, whirlwind, anger, fury, and sword will all be directed at His enemies. This will leave nothing behind. All of the unbelieving will be consumed. Verse 16 makes clear that God stands over and above all of humanity as Judge. He alone is righteous, holy, and just, and He will judge in accordance with His divine attributes. When all flesh is judged, the slain of the Lord will be many. For example, all of the Yahweh-rejecting, idol worshipping people of the nations will be consumed by this fiery judgment of God.
Here is an appropriate time for me to say that many folks of our day hurl attacks at the Bible because of the strong language of judgment, wrath, and extermination. Primarily, folks point to Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. They question, how could a loving God command an Israelite army to massacre slews of people? How could God have them put to death men, women, children, and livestock? Yet, here is the thing, that is not at all different from the Flood of Noah’s day which swept away the entire human race except eight people. It is not so different from the wars that have been waged throughout human history which have been sovereignly orchestrated by almighty God. Lastly, all of these things are only a small taste, a foreshadowing of the final Judgment Day when all flesh will stand before the Lord of heaven and earth and an overwhelming number who have lived on this earth will be found guilty and cast into the lake of fire. If you are uncomfortable with the wrathful language of the Bible, which is not only in the OT but also in the NT, then you are leaning in the right direction. You shouldn’t be comfortable with it, but do not reject those passages as truthful because they serve as our warnings.
The Global Vision (18-24)
In the final section the attention turns back to the faithful, those who have been designated in this chapter as those who tremble at the Lord’s Word.
The New Jerusalem: Gal 4:25-26; Heb 12:22; and Rev 21.
Bracket: v18 “they shall come and see” and v24 “they shall go forth and look.” What is it that they will see? They will see the Lord’s glory. What is His glory? The glory of the Lord, His weight and value, is the revelation of the mystery kept for centuries – that Gentiles and Jews will be brought together into one body, the church, to make up the one people of God.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Tremble at the Word of the Lord.
(2) Rejoice that you are redeemed of the Lord.
(3) Our global vision must continue.