Today’s reading is Isaiah 1-6. Reading the Prophets is tough on the heart. It’s true that there are interpretive difficulties with reading them, because of the history. Sorting out which king and which nation and to whom God is speaking given that the ancient names have gone by the wayside, can be demanding on the serious student.
Also, often in the Prophets there are interpretive difficulties given the nature of prophecy itself. There are different timings of the fulfillments of the prophecies. Some happened in the past. Some are dual-layer prophecies, like the Lord’s first and second comings, or prophecies that have happened in the past and will happen in the future also. Some are prophecies solely for the future.
The interpretive difficulties usually can be resolved with prayer, study, and the aid of the Holy Spirit. It’s a head thing. But the content of the prophecies, they are hard to read because of the mourning that goes along with them. Who can’t but mourn when they read this from Isaiah 1:7-8,
Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
Don’t just let the word lie on the page and be head knowledge-history. Apply the words to our life. At the present time of this writing, North Korea is said to be close to creating a nuclear bomb. North Korea has sworn to use their bomb on America. So what if God allows North Korea to be successful? What if America lies desolate, when NK sends a nuke or a dirty bomb or an EMP over Miami, New York, and LA? When those cities or others are burned with fire? When we are overthrown by foreigners? It could happen. It could absolutely happen.
The reason the LORD promised those things to Israel is because of what is said in Isaiah 1:4,
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.
So the mourning is over our personal sin and our national sin of rejecting God. It’s thinking of the terrified Israelites, living in a wasteland, carried off, or starving in a besieged city. It’s recognizing His just perfection when punishing nations for their rebellion, even us. It’s sad.
Then comes the magnificent vision in Chapter 6. What to make of the cherubim, the wings, the resounding praises of God’s holiness. We swing from desolation and sin, punishment and despair, to the temple ringing with majesty and power!
When Isaiah saw this he fell down and said in Is 6:5,
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!
Job and Peter had the same reactions when they realized they were in the presence of the LORD. (Job 42:6, Luke 5:8). Other translations of the Isaiah verse say “I am undone”, “I am ruined” etc. The Hebrew word is “to be destroyed”. There really is no describing how vast the distance between sinful man and God in His glory. Matthew Henry says,
All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness.
And yet, there is grace. He sent a Mediator to bridge that gap between us lowly sinful creatures and Him in His height and glory. The Prophetical Books follow the pattern of promise, sin, punishment, redemption. The books always end with hope. Indeed, as the Spurgeon devotional this morning is titled:
A Wonderful Guarantee
I will strengthen thee. (Isaiah 41:10)
The guarantee is that God will not leave or forsake us. If we mourn our personal and national sin, as Isaiah did, then we can turn and look upward through this glorious glimpse of chapter 6, of God on His throne, sovereignly ordaining all things coming together for the good of those who love him. In the beginning it was good. In the end it will be good.