Tuesdays with Isaiah (Chapter 27)

Continuing the theme of deliverance on the far side of judgment that was prominent in chapter 26, Isaiah 27 begins with a vision of the world at peace and rest. “In that day” (1, 2) looks forward—past the furious judgment of God upon the “inhabitants of the earth” (26:21), past the severe chastening of God’s disobedient people (27:7-11).  In that day (the final Day of the Lord), God will lay the ancient serpent in the sea (1); while this could be a reference to death (25:8), it could also speak of the final end of the Ancient Serpent, Satan (Gen 3:1; Rev 12:1ff).

With God’s enemies defeated (see vs 4), Israel becomes what God intended it to be: “a pleasant vineyard” (2).  The cries of pain and desperation (26:16-18) turn into songs of joy and praise (2).  God’s people are settled and secure: “I, the Lord, am its keeper, every moment I water it.  Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day” (3).  Israel, pictured as a vine or vineyard, takes root and bears fruit enough “to fill the whole world” (6).

God has vanquished his enemies and disciplined his people; therefore, he can say, “I have no wrath” (4).  There are no more “thorns and briers to battle and burn.”  Lest we think the Lord takes delight in the death of the wicked, he appeals in verse 5 to those facing his judgment to “lay hold of my protection” and make “peace with me” (note the repetition of “peace with me” for emphasis).  As Ezekiel records, the Lord takes no delight in the death of the wicked but wants them to turn to him for mercy (Ezek 33:11).

Beginning with verse 7, Isaiah reflects on God’s disciplinary dealings with Israel for their infidelity to Him.  Isaiah begins with twin questions: “Has he struck them [Israel] as he struck those who struck them?  Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain?” (7).  The answer to these rhetorical questions seems to be “Yes.”  In fact, as the final verse of this section explains, “therefore he who made them will not have compassion on them; he who formed them will show them no favour” (11).

God, in his justice, deals justly with his unjust people.  Isaiah sees exile coming for Israel (though he speaks of it as in the past—8). The poor survivors who remain in the land live in ruins (10); their previously fortified cities, now deserted, become grazing areas for calves (10).  The people remaining fail to understand what happened: “For this is a people without discernment” (11).

The intent of God’s heavy hand on Israel is not complete destruction.  In fact, his goal is to bring about repentance and return. Their guilt will be atoned for, and their sins removed when they turn away from their idols and turn back to their Lord: “Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing” (9).

The chapter ends by looking past the exile to the return to the land. “In that day” the Lord will regather the scattered.  As one who threshes out the grain, the Lord will glean the people of Israel “one by one” (12).  He will sound the trumpet (shofar) in a signal of regathering.  Those “lost in the land of Assyria” or “driven out to the land of Egypt” will “come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain of Jerusalem.”  Here we see Jews who were relocated under the Assyrian captivity (northern kingdom) or those who went in fear to Egypt (remnant of southern kingdom—see Jeremiah 40-43) coming home.  They return to the heart of Israel, the city of Jerusalem.  They return with their hearts ready to worship the God of Israel.  In that day, God restores what sin had destroyed.  In that day, the Lord is worshiped by his people.

Behold Your God

The Lord will eliminate His enemies and establish His people.  Isaiah looks forward to “that day” when the Lord completely vanquishes his enemies and re-establishes His people in their own land (1-2).  From Satan (the serpent or dragon—1) to human opponents (thorns and briers—4), all are not only defeated but eliminated.  As a result, God’s people Israel are finally established as secure (3) and fruitful (6).  While the present may be contested, there is coming a day when God’s victory will be unmistakeably complete.  Maranatha.

The Lord brings severe judgment on His people when they are unfaithful to Him.  Once again, we learn that God does not excuse idolatry and disobedience from His people.  While God’s promises to His people are unfailing, this does not mean He excuses sin.  He strikes and scatters them (7-8) in order to purge and purify them.  In the end (“in that day”), He regathers and restores those who have been threshed and gleaned from among the nations (12-13).

The Lord wants His people to bear fruit that blesses the world.  God’s ultimate plan for His people is that they are firmly established in their own land in order to bear fruit that blesses the whole world (6).  Jesus picks up on this theme when He instructs His disciples about bearing much fruit (John 15:1-8).  God’s people are meant to do good for God’s glory (Matt 5:16; Eph 2:10; Titus 3:1, 8, 14).

Here Am I

I must demolish any idols in my life.   The “full fruit” of genuine repentance is the smashing and crushing of all idols and false altars (9).  The unfaithfulness signified by the idols caused Israel’s exile and scattering.  I don’t want to harbour any rivals to my allegiance and affection for the Lord.  He alone must reign unrivaled in my heart.

I want to “come and worship the Lord” for His unfailing love and restoring grace.  The result of God’s regathering of his people from Assyria and Egypt is renewed worship “on the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (13).  While Jesus made it clear that location is no longer central (John 4:21), worship remains the goal of God’s gracious work in the lives of his people.  I want to eagerly enter into to the worship of the God who saves, restores, regathers and protects.

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