Isaiah 23–28: Judgments & Wisdom

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 5: Friday

And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God in whom we have hoped that He would save us.
This is Yahweh in whom we have hoped;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9 LSB

Today’s Bible reading of Isaiah 23–28, encompasses several sections of the book. Chapter 23 is the oracle concerning Tyre. It finishes the prophecies of God’s judgment of nations that began in chapter 13.1 Derek Kidner writes the next four chapters, 24–27, are “often loosely known as the ‘Isaiah Apocalypse’.”2 He labels chapter 28–31, “The Assyrian Crisis: God’s Help or Man’s?”3

Throughout these chapters there is contrast of character and conduct of the wicked and the righteous. We also see the contrast of two realities: the circumstances of Isaiah’s present and the circumstances of the future. The future may be: close to Isaiah’s time; the first Advent of Christ; the time between the first and second Advents (this present evil age), or the second Advent of Christ. Robertson McQuilkin writes,

“Much of biblical teaching is timeless. For example, moral command­ments apply to all people at all times…But predictive prophecy relates to the future. That presents no problem when a specific event is predicted, such as the death of Jesus Christ. However, the New Testament makes one thing clear about Old Testament predictions: the prophesied Messiah came, left, and is coming again. Old Testament prophecies that relate to the coming of Messiah could refer to either His first coming, His second coming, or both. Furthermore, some Old Testament prophecies that refer to an event in the near future are also applied by the New Testament to the Messiah many centuries later.”4

Norton Sterrett speaks of near and far fulfillment, and prophetic perspective. He compares the latter, “the prophet’s point of view,” to looking at a mountain range:

“He was, so to speak, looking spiritually into the distance, seeing various future events as God revealed them to him. His experience was similar to looking at the Himalayan mountains from a long distance. A person sees several peaks, and from his vantage point they seem to be close together. If he goes near them, however, he sees that they are far apart. Likewise the prophets saw two great “peaks”—the first and second comings of Christ, his suffering and triumph—and spoke of them together, as if they were close in time. They are logically close, yet in time they are far apart, as we now know.”5

He suggests,

“In each prophecy seek to understand first its meaning for the people at that time, its near fulfillment and its practical message.”6

In Isaiah as you read you can see him go from speaking of God’s judgment against a nation, to God’s judgment of the world, as in Isaiah 14, and the oracle against Assyria:

Yahweh of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have counseled so it will stand, to break Assyria in My land, and I will trod him down on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them and his burden removed from their shoulder. This is the counsel that is counseled against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For Yahweh of hosts has counseled, and who can thwart it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”
Isaiah 14:24–27 LSB

Alec Motyer explains,

“The substance of these verses is that the Assyrian threat, current in Isaiah’s day, would be decisively crushed in the Lord’s own land (24–25), that is, with his then people as witness. This attested act of God is then used as an example of the way the divine hand governs all nations and executes an irresistible world purpose (26–27)…The historical act which they see will be replicated in the eschatological [future] judgment on the whole world and now acts as a guarantee of it.”7

Watch for the Day of the Lord (Day of Yahweh) or in that day, about the end times and the second coming of Christ. Motyer writes,

“…every next historical alarm could be the onset of Yahweh’s Day—and is, at the very least, a ‘trailer’ of the Day that will surely come. We need to develop this perspective in this calamity-ridden world we inhabit…The Lord Jesus is always near, even at the doors (Luke 21:25–28; James 5:8–9), and certainly ‘nearer than when we first believed’ (Rom. 13:11). So, view the unruly world, even in its most threatening, with hope and confidence. Whatever forces gather, for whatever awful purposes, it is still the Lord ‘rousing up the Medes’ [Isaiah 13:17], and calling up his warriors to execute his exasperation. It could be the start of the final ‘travail’ (Mark 13:8); at the least it is one of the Lord’s ‘trailers’. He is still on the throne.”8

So as you read you will see another contrast: the coming judgment of the wicked and the coming joy of God’s people.

And Yahweh of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And Lord Yahweh will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For Yahweh has spoken.
Isaiah 25:6–8 LSB

Kidner describes that last verse, Isaiah 25:8,

“In one verse (cf. also Rev. 7:17) the last enemy is gone and the last tear shed.”9

What a day that will be!

And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God in whom we have hoped that He would save us.
This is Yahweh in whom we have hoped;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9 LSB

As you read you may find passages you recognize, such as Isaiah 26:3, the steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, or 28:16, a prophecy of the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

In the final verses of chapter 28, Isaiah tells the story of a farmer:

“Give ear and hear my voice,
Listen and hear my words.
Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed?
Does he continually turn and harrow the ground?
Does he not level its surface
And sow dill and scatter cummin
And plant wheat in rows,
Barley in its place and rye within its area?
For his God instructs and teaches him properly.
For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
Nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin;
But dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club.
Grain for bread is crushed,
Indeed, he does not continue to thresh it forever.
Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it,
He does not thresh it longer.
This also comes from the LORD of hosts,
Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.”
Isaiah 28:23–29

Derek Kidner explains:

“The farmer’s constant changes and his varieties of treatment, so capricious at first sight yet so expertly appropriate, give the clue to the complex ways of God, who is his teacher (vv. 26, 29). God’s strangest work (cf. v. 21) is exactly suited, it is implied, to the varied times (v. 24), types (v. 25) and textures (vv. 27, 28) that He handles.”4

God’s ways are beyond us, as high above us as the heavens are above the earth, but God in His grace, in this story of the farmer, provides an example to help us understand His counsel is wonderful and His wisdom is great. Whatever calamities in this present evil age, in that day God will abolish our last enemy, death; wipe away every tear; and we will rejoice and be glad!

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Anethum graveolens, Dill, blossom detail: Holger Casselmann. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Featured image: Dill: Rillke. GFDL-1.2-or-later. (CC BY-SA 3.0). (CC BY-SA 2.5). (CC BY-SA 2.0). (CC BY-SA 1.0).
1,2,3,9Derek Kidner, The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 599, 604, 606, 604, 606.
4Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible (Moody Press, Chicago: 1983, 1992) 266.
5,6T. Norton Sterrett, How to Understand Your Bible, rev. ed. (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1973, 1974) 140–141, 146.
7J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1993) 146.
8Alec Motyer, Isaiah By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Scotland, U.K.: 2011) 82.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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