ISRAEL GOD'S WITNESSES OF THE TRUTH TO ALL MEN
I. AN ANALYSIS OF THE MESSAGE
In the preceding chapters we have seen the proof that God exists--that He is the Uncaused Cause of all things, the one in whom we live, move, and have our being--that He is a triune being, and that He is the creator-controller of the universe. We have also learned something of His holy character. All of these revelations, and many more, God has made known to Israel in her sacred Tenach, the Old Testament. He created the Jewish nation in that He performed a biological miracle upon the bodies of Abraham and Sarah when they were past the age of parenthood and made possible the birth of Isaac (Gen., chap. 21; Isa. 43:1). With the Hebrew people at Mount Sinai God began to deposit His revelation.*
From that time and onward for a thousand years He entrusted this sacred deposit of truth with Israel. With that purpose in view the Lord called Abraham and entered into a sevenfold covenant with him, the record of which is found in Genesis 12:1-3. In this statement God declared that He would bless all nations through him. In later pronouncements regarding His purpose, the Lord revealed that it would be, not only in Abraham, but also in his seed that all families of the earth would be blessed. All spiritual things which we have today have come to us through Abraham and his descendants. Truly we are their debtors.
The Lord, who sees the end from the beginning, never has to change His plans. Men attempt various projects, adopting certain principles and methods; but upon finding that they are not adequate for their Purpose, they often change their programs and adopt other schemes. Not so with the Lord. He has called Israel to be the missionary nation of the world to hold aloft the torch of divine revelation to all peoples and to bring them to a knowledge of the one true and living God.
In order that we may see and understand that God will yet use Israel in making His truth known to the world, let us look at the sermon that was delivered by Isaiah the prophet, found in chapter 42:1-43:13. This message concludes with a paragraph, the central thought of which is that Israel is God's witness concerning His existence and His truth. We cannot isolate this paragraph, consisting of 43:8-13, if we are to understand its message. This part of the discourse is so related to the entire sermon that it must be examined in the light of all that has gone before. We must therefore study the message in its entirety, even though we do it in a brief manner. (Let me say that I shall, in the fifth book of the "Messianic Series," the first of which set is the present volume, give the Hebrew text with my own translation and a full exposition of this passage.)
A. Messiah's First Appearance and the Beginning of His Redemptive Work
A logical discourse, like the present one, must be divided into its component parts and the relation of each section to the others must be noted in order for us to appreciate the message in its entirety.
42 Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. 2 He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth. 4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law (Isa. 42:1-4).B. A Message of Encouragement from Jehovah in Heaven
The word servant in the Book of Isaiah has three connotations. The meaning in a given case must be determined by the facts of the context. For instance, servant, in Isaiah 41:8, refers to the remnant of Israel which God will gather back at the conclusion of this age into the land of the fathers. (See Isa. 41:8-16.) But in Isaiah 42:18-22, as we shall presently see, the word servant refers to the entire nation of Israel, all twelve tribes. In the passage which we have under consideration, however, it has a different meaning. When these verses are studied diligently and the thought is carefully weighed, one comes to the conclusion that this servant can be none other than King Messiah, who is said by the prophets to be the one who will put down all wars and will establish a reign of peace and righteousness from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. This servant of our passage accomplishes such a task. He therefore is the Messiah of Israel.
In these verses we note the use of the personal pronouns, "I" and "my." Isaiah was the speaker who delivered the message. Could he by these pronouns have been referring to himself? Instantly we answer this question in the negative, for he could not accomplish what he here declares. These considerations lead us to the conclusion that the prophet in this passage was impersonating God. An examination of the prophetic word shows that frequently the prophets thus played the role of the Almighty and in doing so used the personal pronouns of the first person. The facts of each context are to determine whether or not a prophet in a given instance was speaking of himself or was impersonating another. In this case we know that he was representing God in His relation to Messiah, for He, as we learn from parallel passages, is the one who will establish justice in the earth.
According to verse 1 God points to the Messiah after He has put His Spirit upon Him and declares that He has come into the world to bring justice to the nations. In other words, when Messiah comes into the world, He has a program; namely, to stop all wars, to solve all economic problems, to institute a reign of peace, and to establish a regime of justice and righteousness among the nations.
With this noble objective in view, Messiah begins a preaching ministry. Unlike demagogues and self-seeking, time-serving politicians, He will not be a rabble-rouser. He will not resort to the places where the masses gather and agitate men, stirring them to action by fanciful promises and impossible hopes. Nevertheless, He will preach and set forth the truth of God for man's good and God's glory.
According to verse 3 He will not be a ruthless dictator who wades through rivers of blood to attain his goal. On the contrary, "a bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench...." He will be kind and considerate of those who, because of having been crushed by the ruthlessness of others, may be compared to a bruised reed and of those who, because of adverse circumstances in life, are disheartened and discouraged and can properly be represented by a dimly burning wick. His objective is to bring justice to all peoples in truth--in accordance with the holy and righteous principles of the truth.
According to this prediction when Messiah appears and launches His program, it will seem to men to be a failure. Such a small and insignificant beginning would discourage any ordinary individual. There will be no fanfare nor appeal to the masses in order to enlist their sympathies. Those standing on the sidelines, figuratively speaking, will see nothing great in the movement. Nevertheless, His truth marches on.
From verse 4 we understand that it is not His intention in a dramatic manner to establish the regime of righteousness and justice in the earth when He comes to begin His preaching and teaching ministry. On the contrary, we are told that "the isles [the nations] shall wait for his law." It is thus clear from this passage that, when Messiah appears upon earth to begin His redemptive work, He comes in the power of the Spirit of God, launches a preaching ministry, which to the uninformed and those lacking spiritual discernment appears to be a failure and a discouraging proposition. Yet, He never loses sight of His objective of establishing peace in the earth, but guides His movement on to a triumphant end, at which time He will establish justice in the earth and deliver His law to the nations. This presentation of the appearance of Messiah upon earth and of His launching His redemptive work is in perfect harmony with other predictions concerning this phase of His activity.
to Messiah in His Darkest Hour
5 Thus saith God Jehovah, he that created the heavens, and stretched them forth; he that spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein. 6 I Jehovah have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. 8 I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images (Isa. 42:5-8).C. An International Spiritual Awakening
In this section of the discourse the prophet no longer impersonates God as he does in the first four verses. On the contrary, he presents himself to His audience as the ambassador of Jehovah God; for he here introduces his oracle with the regular formula, "Thus saith God Jehovah...."
The message of this paragraph is one which God in heaven sends to Messiah when He is upon earth. From its contents we can see that it consists of words of encouragement: "I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles...." The fact that this assuring message is given to Messiah shows that there is a need for it. Such words presuppose a very dark hour for Him. God declares that He calls Him in righteousness and that He will hold His hand and keep Him. Moreover, He gives assurance that He, the Messiah, is to be the covenant of the people of Israel, that is, the bond which will unite them with their God.
Though delivering Israel from her enemies and bringing her back into the bonds of the covenant are marvelous and wonderful accomplishments, yet Messiah will have a much larger task to accomplish, namely, to be a light to the nations of the world. At the beginning of the present conflict, according to certain statistics which I have seen, there were approximately eighteen million Jews in the world. In the course of the war in Europe several million Jews, according to reports, have perished. During the Tribulation the nation will be further reduced by the destruction of all the ungodly and irreligious. The godly portion of the nation will survive and constitute the remnant. To bring back this portion of the nation into fellowship with God and to establish it in the land of the fathers where it will become the head of the nations, instead of being the tail as at present (Deut. 28:13), is to accomplish a monumental achievement. But this is too light a task for King Messiah according to Isaiah 49:5,6. The Lord God therefore gives Him to be a light to the Gentiles "that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."
Messiah will, according to Isaiah 42:7 and related passages, lift the curse from the earth, which brings about all diseases and disorders, and will correct present economical and political evils, which characterize all nations. In other words, He will introduce the reign of righteousness. He in reality will do what many of the statesmen are hoping to accomplish in the postwar world, namely, the establishment of a permanent and just peace.
There is a certain amount of honor and glory that is due to God as the creator of the universe and the one in whom man lives, moves, and has his being. This glory has never been given to Him; but when this golden age of the future dawns, all praise and homage will be rendered to the true and living God, as we see in verse 8.
Centering Around the Hope of Messiah's Return
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. 10 Sing unto Jehovah a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth; ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein, the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. 11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12 Let them give glory unto Jehovah, and declare his praise in the islands. 13 Jehovah will go forth as a mighty man; he will stir up his zeal like a man of war: he will cry, yea, he will shout aloud; he will do mightily against his enemies (Isa. 42:9-13).D. The Second Coming of Messiah
According to verse 9 the prophet saw the Messiah as having accomplished the purposes of His first coming. He therefore, in prophetic vision, leaped out into the future, to the conclusion of the present age, and foretold the greatest spiritual awakening of all the centuries, calling upon the people of earth to sing unto God "a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth." In calling for this universal ascription of worship, the prophet urges upon heralds going from Palestine, his native land, to other nations and also upon the inhabitants of the lands visited thus to render this praise to the Almighty. In verse 10, looking toward the west, he speaks to those who leave Palestine by the way of the sea in their going to the nations of the occidental world with the glad tidings concerning the future things which Messiah will do and urges all to join in singing a new song--a song in anticipation of what is about to occur, when Messiah returns. Then in verse 11 he sees messengers leaving the homeland, going eastward to the wilderness and to the cities thereof--to Kedar and to Sela (Petra). Thus in verses 10 and 11 the prophet sees great bands of his own people leaving Palestine, going to the west and to the east and fanning out into all the earth with the glad news concerning the impending events. These heralds of the glad tidings are urged, together with the people to whom they minister, to "give glory unto Jehovah, and declare his praises in the islands"--the nations of the earth.
In their announcing the mighty impending new thing which will soon come to the world, they proclaim the coming of Jehovah to the earth as a mighty warrior who will stir up His zeal as a man of war and will "do mightily against his enemies."
In other words, the message which these heralds from Palestine will deliver to the nations will center around the doctrine that Jehovah will come as a great warrior, will exterminate His enemies will adjust all differences, will do away with all injustices, and will establish His reign of righteousness upon the earth. Who can establish, according to other predictions, this reign of righteousness? The answer is, none other than King Messiah.
Since these flaming evangels and the peoples to whom they minister are called to sing a new song in praise to God and since people cannot sing a new song in the sense and spirit of this exhortation unless they have had a new experience, we conclude that this passage presupposes a mighty spiritual awakening and turning to God on the part of countless hosts at this future time. That there will be such a spiritual awakening among the peoples of the of the earth is foretold in other passages. For example, see Isaiah 24:14-16.
14 I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry out like a travailing woman; I will gasp and pant together. 15 I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and will dry up the pools. 16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; in paths that they know not will I lead them; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things will I do, and I will not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, they shall be utterly put to shame, that trust in graven images, that say unto molten images, Ye are our gods (Isa. 42:14-17). E. Israel Under the Heel of Tyranny
An examination of this passage shows that the personal pronoun "I," together with the possessive "my" and the reflexive "myself " figures largely in this portion of the oracle. In the use of these personal pronouns, was the prophet speaking of himself? or was he speaking of another? A glance at the entire paragraph and its contents shows that he could not do what is here foretold. But who can and will do these very things? The answer is, No one except Messiah. When He comes in fulfillment of this prediction, He will appear as a warrior, will wreak the devastation here foretold, will lead the blind by a way that they know not, will provide for their necessities, and will defeat the efforts of the opposition.
18 Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. 19 Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I send? who is blind as he that is at peace with me, and blind as Jehovah's servant? 20 Thou seest many things, but thou observest not; his ears are open, but he heareth not. 21 It pleased Jehovah, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify the law, and make it honorable. 22 But this is a people robbed and plundered; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison-houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore (Isa. 42:18-22).F. A Call to the Honest Hearts in Israel to Give Heed to the Message
In these verses we see the nation of Israel under the heel of tyranny throughout the entire world. Many have been the bitter pogroms through which she has passed during the centuries. She has been butchered, slaughtered, and plundered in different nations at various times. The atrocities that have been committed against innocent Jewish people during the present global conflict are beyond our powers of description. Nothing but heathen barbarism could have perpetrated such. According to some reports and estimates, between three and four million Jews have perished in Europe during these days of enslavement by Nazi Germany.
But Israel's sufferings will not cease with this war. We wish that there would never be another drop of Jewish blood spilled--nor that of the Gentiles--in any pogroms, rebellions, wars, and political upheavals. But solely upon the authority of God's holy and infallible Word, I must say that the darkest period of the world's history is still out before us. This time is known in the Scriptures as the day of God's wrath when He will pour out His indignation upon all peoples (Zeph. 1:14-2:3). It is called specifically the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7). At that time Israel will suffer doubly for all her sins
According to the passage of scripture quoted at the beginning of this section (Isa. 42:18-22), Israel as a nation will be "robbed and plundered ... snared in holes, and ... hid in prison-houses" without any human hope of being delivered. This is, indeed, a dark picture.
23 Who is there among you that will give ear to this? that will hearken and hear for the time to come? 24 Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not Jehovah? he against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they would not walk, neither were they obedient unto his law. 25 Therefore he poured upon him the fierceness of his anger, and the strength of battle; and it set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart (Isa. 42:23-25).G. Promise of Deliverance to the Remnant
God never coerces any man, because He made him a free moral agent. He does, however, use circumstances and individuals in order to persuade men and women to do the right thing; but He always, in His providential dealings with them, stops short of forcing the will. The prophet, seeing Israel oppressed and downtrodden as set forth in the preceding paragraph, addresses the nation by asking, "Who is there among you that will give ear to this? That will hearken and hear for the time to come?" Thus in a pleading manner, God appeals to downtrodden Israel to listen to the message and to give heed in order that good might come to them in the future.
Then the prophet answers his question in verses 24 and 25 by saying that it is God who providentially brings Israel to her downtrodden condition. Moreover, he foretells that Israel will be brought into this condition because of her sin and her refusal to be obedient to His law. By implication we see that these judgments will be sent upon her to bring her to the point that she will cry out to Him for deliverance.
43 But now thus saith Jehovah that created thee, 0 Jacob, and he that formed thee, 0 Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. 2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 3 For I am Jehovah thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour; I have given Egypt as thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in thy stead. 4 Since thou hast been precious in my sight, and honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men in thy stead, and peoples instead of thy life. 5 Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up: and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth; 7 every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yea, whom I have made (Isa. 43:1-7).H. A Call for an Ideal Tribunal
In this section of the sermon the prophet calls attention to the fact that God created Israel for a purpose. In effect the Lord says, "Notwithstanding your condition, Israel, now I will give this message to you. Now let him who will listen give heed. Turn to Me; I will be with you as you pass through the deep waters of trials, or as you pass through the fire of affliction. I will protect you." His reason for offering this assistance is that He has redeemed her--paid the ransom price for her deliverance. Moreover, He delivers over to judgment Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba instead of Israel.
This paragraph concludes with the promise of the regathering of the nation from the four corners of the globe and its being placed in the land of the fathers. Of course only the faithful remnant is included in this prediction, because the promise is made only to "every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, yea, whom I have made."
8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the peoples be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear, and say it is truth. 10 Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11 I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour. 12 I have declared, and I have saved, and I have showed; and there was no strange god among you; therefore ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and I am God. 13 Yea, since the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand; I will work, and who can hinder it? (Isa. 43:8-13).II. THE FAITHFUL REMNANT OF ISRAEL--JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
In Isaiah 41:1-7 the prophet in a most dramatic manner called for a tribunal consisting of Israel and the nations, in the presence of whom he wished to set forth the truth regarding Jehovah the God of Israel, while the representatives of the nations presented the claims of their gods. In the present passage he reverts to the same thought and calls for another tribunal. He gives the order: "Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears." This statement is an echo of the thought found in 42:18,19. In this latter passage the words include the entire Jewish nation, whereas in 43:8 it is applied only to the faithful remnant that, at the time of the call, is blind, does not see the truth though it has eyes; is deaf, does not hear though it has ears. They do not know the truth but have a heart for God and a desire to please Him. In other words, these people have not had an opportunity of receiving the truth, but at the time here foreseen they will have.
In verse 9a he calls upon the nations to attend this ideal tribunal and to bring their witnesses who can prophesy and foretell the course of history through the centuries as he (Isaiah) has just done in this sermon. Though he gives the call to the nations and their representatives to establish the proposition that idols are gods and have the power to foretell history, he knows that they cannot accept the challenge and prove their position.
Isaiah, looking at his imaginary audience--consisting of both Jews and Gentiles--addresses the nations and asks them, "Who among them can declare this ...?" Declare what? The answer is, the course which history will take from the time Messiah appears first upon earth until He, having gone back to heaven, returns at the end of this age, when He will regather and re-establish Israel in her own land in fellowship with God. Isaiah knows that idols are nothing and that none of their devotees can make any predictions such as the one which he has set forth.
If, declared the prophet, the worshipers of idols cannot outline this future course of events, then let them produce their witnesses who can testify that certain ones of their group have foretold things in the past which have already come to pass. But there is no one in the audience who can step forward and accept the challenge, calling attention to any oracles of theirs that have been fulfilled. With urgency the prophet calls upon his audience to produce their witnesses that they might be justified. If they cannot bring forth such witnesses, then let them listen to his outline of Messiah's redemptive career as he has just presented it and let them say, "It is truth."
Since the nations are not able to name any witness who can testify concerning past prophecies that have been fulfilled, and since they cannot outline the future course of history, Isaiah turns to the honest hearts in Israel and declares, "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." From this and verses 11-13 we see that this faithful remnant of Israel, the honest-hearted ones, are to be witnesses of the truth of God to the world.
With this analysis of the sermon we are now in a position to examine more minutely the significance of Israel's future testimony to the world concerning God and His truth.
Isaiah recognizes two classes in Israel: the apostates and the faithful remnant. In fact, he was the first of the prophets who laid emphasis upon the doctrine of the remnant. When he received his prophetic call, the Lord spoke of this remnant (Isa. 6:12,13).
In 65:13,14 the prophet sharply distinguishes between these two groups of which Jewry will consist in the end time and contrasts the conditions under which each will live during the Tribulation. When we recognize this sharp cleavage in the nation and are cognizant of the fact that God has never used the wicked as a channel of blessing--except only in an indirect manner--we may be certain that these regarding whom He asserts that they are His witnesses are the faithful remnant. This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that in 43:5-7 the prophet has spoken of the regathering of the faithful remnant back into their land in fellowship with the Almighty. From these facts it is clear that in verses 10-13 Isaiah was speaking of the faithful remnant in Israel.
* That there was a primitive revelation is evident from such passages as Genesis 26:5, which states that "Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." Abraham as is well known, lived approximately four hundred years before Moses, the great Law giver. In the early years of the human race many of the patriarchs who were in the theocratic line were prophets of God.
Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High reigned over a small kingdom which was doubtless coextensive with the visible kingdom of God as it existed in his day. Doubtless the laws of the realm and the regulations of the worship were of divine origin. (For a discussion of this primitive revelation, see my book, Messiah:His First Coming Scheduled.)