Salvation in Isaiah 34
If we could imagine ourselves to be a prophet would we enjoy job satisfaction? What a task men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah had! The Lord God gave them some glorious messages to deliver to the people of God. But He also gave them some scary and solemn messages too. The energy that they put into speaking God’s word when God’s word was encouraging had to be equal to the energy put into the delivery of a message of destruction, gore, blood, misery, fire and brimstone!
Last Lord’s Day we had the joy of considering the glorious text from Isaiah 33 v 17
Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
Such wonderful prospects for the people of God – a sight of the Lord Jesus the King all-glorious. Surely Isaiah would have enjoyed delivering that precious message!
But the next chapter, chapter 34, could not be more different. It is a most solemn chapter, which has as its subject The Manifest wrath of God.
Isaiah is called to say that the nations around Palestine were going to be destroyed. One nation is singled out in particular as a typical specimen of God’s wrath and anger. It was the people called Edom living in the land of Edom to the South of the Dead Sea region. It was once fertile and prosperous. Many people lived there – but now it is one of the most desolate lands on earth. Only wild animals, birds and reptiles live there now. Obadiah verses 8 – 16 corroborate the specific prophecy about Edom.
8 Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau? 9 And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter. 10 For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. 11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them. 12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress. 13 Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity; 14 Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress. 15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. 16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.
Isaiah 34 makes Edom an example of what God is going to do in His anger to all nations who are enemies of God and of His church in every age. It makes frightening reading!
But we have to realise that God’s anger and wrath flows from the original enmity of Satan towards God. When he manifested himself as a serpent to Eve and Adam he was beginning his attempt to get back at the Lord God for punishing him in his rebellion – wanting to have God’s position. Such was his permitted power that he thought that he could pull it off – and be God!
However he was cast out of heaven and a third of the angels with him. And he attacks God’s created man and woman – successfully. Perhaps through mankind he would achieve some victory over the creator!
But at the time of reckoning, after the fall of man, recorded in Genesis 3, God announced that the seed of the woman, a descendant of Eve, would attack and be victorious over Satan and he would be finished. And for 6,000 years he has tried every means to undermine God through men!
Nevertheless, God’s hold man responsible for his siding with Satan. Man naturally chooses from birth to be on the evil one’s side – therefore responsibility is not Satan’s alone even though God sentenced him in the garden with the words
Because thou hast done this thou art cursed…
God also sentences Adam
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Ever since then Satan has tried to gain victories over God. He has tried to triumph over mankind. He has tried to intervene in human history to prevent the seed of the woman from appearing and overcoming him. And since the seed came, the victorious saviour the Lord Jesus Christ he has continued to seek to gain triumph’s over the church – the company of believers chosen in Christ to be His people. Those who have been quickened – made alive – by the supernatural work of God the Holy Spirit – those who have believed and repented of their sins – he hates them and will do anything to bring them down. He seeks to confuse them with sly doctrines, laced with the truth, but shot through with error – all because he wishes to make the most of his permitted freedom of access to human beings and their minds. But they will not be swayed, if they are truly the Lord’s – and have their minds and hearts truly rooted and fixed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet Satan chooses to use the nations of the world for his ends. Yet God holds such nations responsible. Because they willingly align themselves with the enemy, then He will judge these nations – and He will do it with anger as well as justice. Isaiah is given the awesome task of describing God’s angry judgement of the nations who oppose Him.
Isaiah has two things in mind as he speaks God’s prophetic words in this 34th chapter.
1. That the words describe an actual fulfilment in God’s dealing with the surrounding nations, including Edom, through the Assyrians, the Babylonians or both. These mighty conquerors took a pride in shedding blood and laying waste whole people groups and their property. So even if it was beyond their own intentions, these marauding nations were fulfilling what God had threatened against His enemies and the enemies of His chosen people.
2. It is an announcement of the wrath of God against all who fight against the interests of God’s Kingdom amongst men.
We will not go through the chapter exhaustively – but notice this brief outline –
Verse 1 – there is a call to listen, God demands universal attention.
The Bible is not merely for Christian people, for academics, for interested religious people. The Bible is for all men without exception. God addresses all people. The apostle Paul in Athens said towards the end of his sermon at the Areopagus –
Acts 17 v 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Paul was a Jew. He preached about God, Jehovah the God of the Jews. But he knew that God was the creator of all men. So now God does not merely call Jews to repent – but Jews and Gentiles – all men! This demand from God for universal attention includes you my friend tonight. You are called to listen to what God says. You cannot say, “This is not for me – I am not a Christian – this is irrelevant. I am not religious.” God calls you to take notice – He is angry with sin – your sin and my sin. Sin must be punished. Sin offends God’s holiness because it is the opposite of His holiness and perfection. Everyone must listen!
Verses 2 – 7 describes a terrible scene of blood and confusion. The whole picture is vivid, terrifying and unmistakeable. God would do to Edom, the nations, as they have done in their history – a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
Verses 8 – 15 The marks of utter desolation. V 9 Streams of water turned to streams of burning oil; dust turned into brimstone – a blue sulphurous flame covering the land; and the land becoming an inflammable material like petrol leading to a conflagrating ruin. What a picture of the ruin, waste and worthlessness of hell itself, fitted for the devil and his angels and sometimes called the pit!
This is not merely a description of a complete desolation of a wasted land. It is also a portrayal of a life which God has abandoned to its sin. A sinful life is worth nothing. A sinful life has no profit. It is a wasted life. We do not have merely to think of dropouts living in cardboard boxes in the subways of London to think of a wasted life. We need to see any individual who is outside of the blessings of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as desolate and wasted. What future is there for a person who is under God’s judgement? What prospect is there for a man or woman, boy or girl, who live their lives with little or no reference to God and his ways, who live selfishly and are only interested in what the world can offer them; who build their standards on the people or society around them and choose to ignore God’s infallible laws.
In this thirty-fourth chapter there is nothing beautiful or pleasant. Nearly all the animals mentioned are categorized in the Law of God as unclean.
Neither is there anything lovely in the life committed to Satan and sin. Such a life is characterised by confusion and emptiness – it is a life of no hope! Such a life burns as with the fires of hell. It is a place fit only for the unclean and loathsome – and abomination to God and the righteous.
Does this describe your life my friend? Is your life filled with unclean things? Sins that bring pleasure and delight at first but leave you with guilt and a nasty taste when they are finished? Sin is a dreadful thing – and God is serious about it – He is totally against it!
Verses 16 – 17 communicates to us the CERTAINTY of this devastation. The sureness of punishment for sin rests on the infallible word of God.
16 Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read:
God’s mouth has spoken the things written here in this book – this Book of Isaiah – and this Book, the whole book, the Bible.
Such then is this terrible chapter.
We have noted before that in the original there were no chapter divisions. We read earlier the first 4 verses of ch 35 which are like the little snowdrops and other bulbs forcing their way upwards through the hard deadness of the earth in the manse garden. What encouragement these little shoots bring in the harshness of winter.
Verse 1 – 4 of Isaiah 35 bring us the encouragement we need tonight for they speak to the people of God with a voice of hope, mercy and love.
1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. 2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Isaiah, the prophet of contrasts, sets the condition of the guilty nations who were desolated – Chapter 34, against the future glory of Zion. God ever has His own people in His mind. It seems that many of the things that the Lord does are with His people in view – His ancient people the Jews and His present people the church.
In contrast to the dreadful picture of Edom, which symbolises the unending desolation of the heathen nations, Israel – even though she passes through a wilderness of trials and devastation, will one day be glorious. This is the representation of a soul which formerly devastated by sin has now been redeemed!
These 4 verses speak of a journey. It speaks of the journey of the Lord’s people on a road marching to Zion – when their Messiah comes to them! He will come with vengeance.
He will come and save you!
What a promise this is! The Messiah will come and save you – so Israel, keep marching. The Church has become the holy nation – the spiritual Israel. For even though the Messiah came as a man He was crucified and killed on the Roman cross. Since Isaiah prophesied there were many rulers of the Israelites – and the glorious picture of the Messiah ruling and reigning as King on earth described in Chapter 35 has still not been realised. The promise is yet future. It points to the end time – to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the judgment of all men. When the Messiah will be revealed in all His glory to all people.
But to be ready for that event the Bible tells each one of us that
He will come and save you!
Your God will come! It is Jesus Christ! It is He who is God come in the flesh who will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. He will deal with sin and bring forgiveness and pardon. He will work a mighty atonement for sin for He will pay for His people’s sins.
He will come and save you!
Isaiah speaks in the future – but Isaiah knew the reality of it in his own heart. He spoke in the future because God gave Him a sight of the Lord Jesus Christ before he came.
What about us? Here we are 2000 years further on from the coming of the Messiah. And we are 2500 years on from Isaiah’s day. God has sent His son to be the saviour of sinners.
Have you heard the call tonight? Have you listened to God’s word as chapter 34 v 1 said? Do you hear the words also
He will come and save you!
Will you believe it tonight my friend? Are you ready to trust this Messiah – this sent one – this oh so capable saviour?
Or would you prefer to take your chances – to risk the devastation in your soul as the years go by without the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart? Isaiah described the state of an unbeliever’s heart. It only gets worse as the years go by. Come to Him, yield to Him – hear His voice in your spiritual ear and go to Him – tell Him you are sorry for your sins, that you are ready to repent and turn away from sin – and He will save you. It is as simple as that. He will save you from the wrath of God, the wrath so graphically described in chapter 34. He will save you from hell and ruin and destruction. Will you leave here and calmly say “No thanks” or even worse “No I will not have this Jesus to be my saviour?”
Be sensible – my friend – be wise – hear God speaking and turn to Him – turn to Him now –
He will come and save you!