There are many reasons why Christians “groan” (cf. Rom. 8:18-27) over the sufferings of this present age. This might be due things like sicknesses, relational conflicts, financial struggles, or any other of a number of problems. Another reason Christians agonize in this present age is because they grieve over the rampant evil that dominates this sin-cursed world. Ezekiel described it by the way that believers “sigh and groan over all the abominations” of a fallen world (Ezek. 9:4). Jesus described it as “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:4). The good news, says Jesus, is that the believers who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled when Christ brings His kingdom to this world. Isaiah 4:2-6 is one of many passages in the Old Testament that tell us about this coming kingdom. Today’s blog comes from my Isaiah manuscript to tell us about this coming kingdom.

Although Judah has fallen, Yahweh will fulfill His covenant promises.  He will restore Israel under a new covenant when Messiah comes with the kingdom of God (cf. 2:2-4).  Isaiah highlights four promises.

First promise:  A righteous King (v. 2a)

Some people believe that the only hope for a better world is a new world order with some sort of one-world government.  Their mistake is in thinking that fallen sinners are the ones who can achieve this better world.  Only Christ can bring the righteous kingdom this world needs.

The time of the kingdom

God Himself is the only One who can bring in such blessings, and Isaiah tells us that it is “in that day” that He will do so—the end of the age when He sends His Son to restore a fallen world.  Thus, the abrupt statement “in that day” has relation to the preceding context telling us how God will judge the world in a final period of indignation (Heb. za’am).[1]

The Ruler of the kingdom

God’s promise forworld restoration is that one day “the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.”  Who is this?

The origin of “Branch” terminology.  This expression “Branch” (Heb. noun tsemech) is a messianic title with hundreds of years of biblical theology standing behind it.  The origin of this messianic title appears to come from the lips of King Davidin his last psalm (cf. 2 Sam. 23:1-5).  In these Spirit-inspired words, David was rejoicing over the covenant God had sworn to him many years earlier (2 Sam. 7:1-17).  David was approaching death, but he knew that his “house” (i.e., his dynasty) was secure (23:5) since God had sworn to him an everlasting covenant that the Savior of the world would come from his descendants.  David declared that the covenant is ordered and secured, and then he asked the rhetorical question, “Will he not indeed make it grow? (Heb. tsamach, the verbal form of the noun tsemech, meaning to sprout or branch out).

The development of “Branch” terminology.  Commenting on the noun tsemech, Kaiser notes, “Especially significant are the passages related to the coming up of a shoot from the root or seed of David, i.e. the future messianic person.[2]  David’scertain hope was that one of his own sons would be the Son of God who would branch out from his line and restore this world and rule on the throne of David.  Later prophets like Isaiah (4:2), Jeremiah (23:5-6; 33:15), Ezekiel (29:21), and Zechariah (Zech. 3:8; 6:12) all celebrated this same promise.  God says in Psalm 132 that all of this will be fulfilled in the eschatological kingdom of God through “the horn of David”:  “There I will cause the horn of David to spring forth [tsamach]; I have prepared a lamp for Mine anointed [maschiyach].  His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon himself his crown shall shine” (132:17-18).  Here in 4:2 Isaiah declares that God’s King will be “beautiful and glorious” when that day comes, the messianic King who is highly exalted (Isa. 52:13) and sought out by all of His kingdom citizens (Hos. 3:5).[3]

Second promise:  A fruitful prosperity(v. 2b)

God’s kingdom will also be a time of great physical fruitfulness within the land of Israel (and the whole world),[4] a fruitfulness that will be enjoyed by the survivors of the tribulation period, the “ones who escape” (cf. peleytathin Joel 2:32)This statement may not be limited tothe fruit that her own land produces, but perhaps also to the flow of blessings that the Gentiles bring to the Messiah and His kingdom (cf. Isa. 60:1-22).

Third promise:  A purified people (v. 3)

The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, but only those who have been purified by faith through the cleansing grace of God.

Only a remnant enters the kingdom

Numerous passages in the Old and New Testaments indicate that these kingdom blessings will be enjoyed only by those who have placed their faith in the Messiah.  These are the elect remnant of Israel who have trusted in Messiah.  Isaiah calls them those who are “left in Zion(another expression referring to the remnant; cf. Isa. 6:13; 7:3; 10:20-21; 28:5; 46:3; Rom. 9:27-28), the ones who are recorded for life in Jerusalem, i.e., the elect who have been recorded for life (cf. Exod. 32:32; Dan. 12:1; Mal. 3:16; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:15),[5]the ones who are now consideredholy by the redeeming grace of God who has freely forgiven their sins (Isa. 35:8-10).

The remnant is an object of redeeming grace

This is the remnant of Israel whom God will save by a mighty outpouring of His Spiritin the midst of the tribulation period (Isa. 32:15; 44:3-5; cf. Joel 2:28-32; Zech. 12:10-13:1).  Jesus referred to the salvation of this elect remnant in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:22, 31; cf. Isa. 27:12-13) as being one of the reasons why the Great Tribulation would be no longer than three and a half years.  During that time Satan (the dragon) will do all he can through his agent the Antichrist to annihilate Israel (Joel 3:9-17; Zech. 12:1-9; 14:1-2; Rev. 12), but God will be at work to preserve His people and to use this persecution to bring the remnant to faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Dan. 12:7).  Two thirds of the nation will die in disbelief (Ezek. 20:36-38; Zech. 13:8), but God will save His remnant so that they might enter His kingdom (Isa. 35:8-10; Matt. 25:34; Acts 13:48; Rom. 11:25-29; Rev. 7:1-8; 12:14-17).[6]

Fourth promise:  Adwelling of Yahweh with His people (vv. 4-6)

One aspect of God’s kingdom restoration includes the promise that He will once again dwell in the presence of His people.  Isaiah assures us that God’s saving grace will accomplish such a restoration.

The dwelling of God will be in the midst of a purified people (v. 4)

God’s promise to dwell in the midst of His people is one of the most precious promises in the Bible.[7]  However, this cannot happen until the nation has been purified and restored under the New Covenant.  The cleansing God brings comes through the fires of the Great Tribulation, the greatest tribulation the nation will have ever faced(Isa. 11:11-16; 27:12; Dan. 12:7; Mal. 3:1-4; Matt. 24:15-31).[8]  God will accomplish this cleansing “by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning” (cf. Zech. 13:8-9; Mal. 3:1-4).  There is some question about how we should take these two references to “spirit.  It seems that the best explanation is what one calls “the abstract for the concrete,[9] a statement that makes it clear that fiery judgments are coming.  The result will be the glorious kingdom with the Lord dwelling in the midst of His people.

The dwelling of God will be a brilliant display of divine glory (vv. 5-6)

This dwelling of God is described in verses 5-6—a restoration of the shekinah glory as in days of old (Exod. 13:21-22; 24:16; Num. 9:15-23; 1 Kings 8:1ff.).  The restoration of this glory will bring shelter and protection to the nation by the very presence of God.  When the glory gets restored, Isaiah says that  God will give His protective presence not simply within an inner sanctuary, but over the entire dwelling place of His city, the whole area of Mt. Zion” and “all her assemblies” (cf. Isa. 24:23; 60:1-2, 19).[10]  This canopy (cf. Exod. 13:21; 14:20; 40:34) will even produce an element of protection from any kind of harsh physical elements, a refuge (cf. Isa. 25:4; Pss. 14:6; 46:2) and a protection (cf. Isa. 43:1-2; Amos 9:15).

Summary and application One lesson for us all is the need to turn away from every form of false hope so that our trust would be only in the Lord and His saving grace.  Our need is to keep our focus on two places.  First, we need to look back to remember the cross and the resurrection.  By His perfect sacrifice, our Jesus has won the victory over sin, curse, and death (and the resurrection is proof).  Second, we need to look forward to the return of Christ when He brings a perfect consummation to this redemption process(Rom. 8:18-27).

[1] Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah,Chapters 1-39, 145-146.  As Oswalt explains, destruction will come, but “God’s coming day would only be complete when cleansing and restoration had taken place (cf. Zech. 12-14 for the same theme).  The judgment Israel has brought upon itself will not come to its end until God’s chastisement has run its course in the seven-year tribulation period.  The Scripture calls this eschatologicalclimax of God’s wrath “the final period of indignation (za‘am, Dan. 8:17, 19; cf. 11:36; 12:7), God’s indignation against sin and transgression, especially that of His covenant people Israel (Isa. 10:5, 25; 13:5; 26:20; 34:20; 66:14).

[2] Walter C. Kaiser,tsmch,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, cited in electronic form with Logos Libronix (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 769.

[3] Young notes that the Targums recognized the messianic nature of this passage (Young, The Book of Isaiah,vol. 1, 176).

[4] Numerous verses speak about the literal fruitfulness of the land in the kingdom (Isa. 30:23-24; 32:14-20; 35:1-7; 41:17-20; 43:16-21; 51:3; 55:12; 60:13; cf. Num. 24:6; Ps. 104:16;Jer. 31:12; Ezek. 34:26-29; 47:1-12; Joel 3:18-21; Amos 9:13-15; Zech. 9:16-10:1; Mal. 3:11).

[5] The statement “recorded” for life (a Qal Passive Participle kathub) conveys the force that these elect saints exercise saving faith because they were already recorded for life in the eternal purposes of God (cf. e.g., Rom. 8:28-29; 9:24; Eph. 1:3-4, 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:1-2).  Similar ideas refer to citizen records or genealogical records as in Nehemiah Neh. 7:5, 64(Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1, 179; Grogan, “Isaiah,” 46, n. 3).

[6] Young explains that the doctrine of a remnant is traced to its true and ultimate foundation in the doctrine of election” (Young, The Book of Isaiah,vol. 1, 180).

[7] God’s promises to dwell in the midst of His people (which actually began in Genesis 1-2) can be traced to the Exodus (the cloud and fire) and the subsequent command to build a sanctuary (Exod. 25:8-9; 29:45; 40:34-38).  Because of Israel’s sin, the glory of God departed from Solomon’s temple shortly before its destruction (cf. Ezek. 10:1-4; 11:22-23).  God’s promise to Israel was that one day He would restore His people under a New Covenant and that He would once again dwell in their midst (Ezek. 37:21-28; Jer. 31:31-34; 33:14-26).  An advance in God’s plan included the Son coming to dwell (i.e., to “tabernacle”) in the midst of man at the first coming of Christ (John 1:14).  At the present time the Scripture shows that this indwelling is by the Spirit in the church (2 Cor. 6:14-18).  The future dwelling of God starting with the return of Christ will include a dwelling of God with His people in a millennial temple (Ezek. 43:1ff.; 44:1ff.) as well as an eternal dwelling in the presence of His people in a new creation (Rev. 21:1-4).

[8] The term “filth” (tsoath) is a strong word that can be used for things like vomit (Isa. 28:8; Prov. 30:12) or even excrement (Isa. 36:12; 2 Kings 18:27), a strong term to describe the sin of Israel (Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 1, 182, n. 48).  The purging (see Jer. 51:34; Ezek. 40:38; 2 Chron. 4:6) of bloodshed, an idea that includes both literal murder as well as violent social injustice (cf. Isa. 1:15-23; Ezek. 9:9),conveys the idea that God will both make atonement for their past bloodshed and also bring a permanent removal of such sins for all time.

[9] See Oswalt for three views (Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, 148).

[10]Commentators disagree whether it is “those who assemble” or “places of assembly.”  Oswalt prefers the former more common use (ibid., 144, n. 2).

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