God’s Promises to Israel – When the Glory Returns to Israel
This is a continuation of an excellent series on God’s promises to Israel by Rod MacArthur. Be sure to go back and read the entire series. It is full of great stuff!
Here, Isaiah gave a brief glimpse of safety and security when Israel was restored: the time of Her Light.
Isa. 1017–19—removing the axe
And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame,
And it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day.
And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body,
And it will be as when a sick man wastes away.
And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number
That a child could write them down.
God’s Promises to Israel of the Coming Messiah
As we saw from 92, the light of Israel was the coming Jesus. But here he adds a twist to the work of Jesus. Verse 17 spoke of a fire that would burn and devour the thorns. Verse 18 promised the removal of “his forest.” Assyria would be laid waste, from briar patch to tall timber, with the coming of Jesus. But, Assyria didn’t remain until the coming of Jesus. So, how can this be? Remember, Assyria was the beginning of the darkness, and represented in Isaiah’s time all that Israel knew of darkness—even though the darkness continued nation after nation, as Daniel’s Metal-man image (chp. 2) or four beasts (chp. 7) indicated. So, when the light of Israel came (Jesus), He would remove it in a single day. Not to be taken literally, this is, likely, a reference to the speed and decisive nature of overturning the gloom.
God’s Promises to Israel – The Righteous Remnant
Isa. 1020–23—a remnant returns
Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel.
A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea,
Only a remnant within them will return;
A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.
For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord Yahweh of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land.
What is the “day” of Israel’s remnant? From context it is the day that the light of Israel (Jesus) removes the Assyrian threat. Israel could only understand “Assyria”; that was the only national threat on their horizon. It’s like standing on the shore; the wave you see right in front of you is typical and representative of all the waves to crash on that shore. From God’s perspective, He sees wave after wave; but if you’re a little clam on the beach, all you can see is the first one. There were many nations coming against Israel; after that, the storm would be over and all would be calm. That helps to illustrate the picture here. At Whatever time the light would shine, then the darkness would be over: the Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman hostility would be gone forever.
But in that day the remnant of Israel and of Jacob would escape. They would never again rely on the one who struck them. That is, they would never make foreign alliances again. Instead, they would truly rely on Yahweh, the holy one of Israel.
God was about to strike Israel with Assyria. It looked like Assyria was doing the striking. Those nations on whom Israel relied not only turned against Israel to enslave her; but they were later destroyed and removed by Yahweh. He taught them the folly of trusting any power but Him. As a result, they were going to rely on solely on Yahweh, the holy one of Israel.
But, only a remnant would return to their mighty God. Even though they were so numerous they couldn’t be counted, only a remnant would return. A determined destruction (the “fire” of v. 17) was to remove everything but the righteous. This is the gathering of the remnant which began in the day of Christ. Paul said the remnant “came to be” in the days of his preaching (Rom. 115). This is what Moses predicted in Deut. 2862. He said, “Though your people be as the sand of the seashore for number, you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude because you did not obey the Lord your God.” Here again, Isaiah, as all the prophets, find the root and basis of their message in Moses.
God’s Promises to Israel – Paul’s Application
Further, Paul cited Isa. 1022 & 23 in Romans. “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for the Lord will execute his word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly” (Rom. 927). He said the judgment upon Israel—coming soon from his point of view—was what Isaiah foretold. A remnant would return and then destruction was determined, or decreed. And Paul said the remnant was being gathered in his day. Rom. 927 makes it clear, the gathering of the remnant and the soon cutting off of Israel were current as Paul wrote. God’s promises to Israel concerning the remnant are not yet future, far off promises!
Isaiah was talking about the events that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. How can we know? Because Paul used Isaiah’s out-cry to appeal Israel of his day: “Do you want to be part of the remnant or not?” That’s what Isaiah saw and why Paul was crying out. Judgment was coming; it was decreed, it was certain and it was soon. They needed to make a decision: Be part of the remnant or be cut-off.
Daniel talked about this in chapter 9. He said a destroyer would come: “The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary; and its end, with a flood, even to the end there will be war, desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week, he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering, and on the wing of abominations one who makes desolate even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed is poured out on the desolate” (Dan. 926–27). Daniel agreed with Isaiah: destruction was decreed (or, determined), overflowing with righteousness. These words, in Isa. 1022–23 and in Dan. 926–27 were cited by Paul who said it was happening in his day. Thus, Paul applied God’s promises to Israel to his day and his ministry.
So, just a remnant would return. When Yahweh finished with what He was doing through “Assyria,” He would wean them from all foreign alliances and from all idols. They would come back to Him. But just a remnant would return; the rest would be cut off. This is one aspect of God’s promises to Israel that is sadly ignored.
Isa. 1024–27—the burden removed in a little while
Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh of hosts, “O My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did. For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent and My anger will be directed to their destruction.” Yahweh of hosts will arouse a scourge against him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and His staff will be over the sea and He will lift it up the way He did in Egypt. So it will be in that day, that his burden will be removed from your shoulders and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be broken because of fatness.
From 1020 we know that certain events would come about in the day when the light shone to dispel the darkness, when the hostility introduced by Assyria, the veil, the darkness, the weight, the captivity, were removed from Israel. But coming back to Israel’s current situation, the Lord Yahweh of hosts promised that in a very little while His indignation (against Israel) would be spent and His anger would turn to Assyria’s destruction. That would not yet be the end of the darkness; but that was how Yahweh would use a nation and then destroy it during the course of the darkness.
God’s anger against Israel wasn’t spent until he destroyed Jerusalem. Daniel refers to the entire period from Assyria to Rome as the period of indignation. In fact, he foretold that the Roman king would “prosper until the indignation is finished” (Dan. 1136). So, the overthrowing of Assyria would be a foretaste of the promised removal of all foreign oppression and oversight once the “sun came out.” Thus, when the sun started to shine, it was a very little while until Yahweh’s indignation against Israel was spent. When Jesus broke on the scene, how long before the indignation against the nation was done? Well, forty years. That’s a very little while. God’s promises to Israel were about to be finally fulfilled!
God’s Promises to Israel – Fulfilled!
The “very little while” of verse 25 was not from when Isaiah wrote, but in a very little while from the time Isaiah wrote about. Not when Isaiah put pen to paper, but that date the pen on paper foretold: the date when the sun dawned. Take Matt. 415–16, which cites Isa. 92. That’s when the sun began to shine. Then come to Isa. 1017, when the sun shines “Assyria” would be destroyed and the remnant gathered. If “Assyria” typified to them the entirety of foreign dominance during the “indignation,” then that dominance would fall “in a very little while” once the light began to shine. Then Yahweh’s indignation would be over. That’s the very little while. It cannot be seen as simply the cessation of Assyria; it has to be seen as when God finally ceased His indignation against His nation. He rescued His remnant from among them and then totally destroying the rest. It was a complete, irreversible destruction.
In 2 Pet. 119, Peter said that he had the prophetic word made more sure (by the transfiguration of Jesus), to which his audience would do well to pay attention. The prophetic word was shining in a dark place, the time of national darkness, until the true light shone fully in their hearts. The day was dawning and the morning star was rising in their hearts. That bright day when Jesus returned, set the captives free, took His remnant out of Israel and made them an independent state; that’s what Isaiah promised. And that’s what the New Testament writers invested their heart and energy into proclaiming.
As fortunate invitees into the City of Light that Yahweh thus established (Rev. 21 &22), let’s rejoice and invite others, too.