Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Isaiah 4:1-3

A Remnant Prepared

1 For seven women will take hold of one man in that day, 
saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, 
only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach!”
In that 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.  
3 It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem 
will be called holy—everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem.

Chapter 4 may be quite short [we'll finish next week], but it is a passage of hope in the midst of judgments. At least, once you get past verse 1.

Verse 1 might well have gone with the end of Chapter 3, as the daughters of Zion received their calling out by God. "Your men will fall by the sword," we read last week in Isaiah 3:25. Indeed, enough men will fall that there will be a shortage of men. This is the situation described in verse 1, with many women trying to secure a single husband. In the battle that left Judah captive to Babylon, men fell. But this passage also alludes to the Day of the Lord in which men will fall and the wicked [like the women of Judah] will be punished with no husbands.

The quote from the women in verse 1 might sound as part rally cry from the days of women's lib. "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan," right? They said they could take care of themselves. But remember the days of Isaiah. Women didn't do these kinds of things for themselves. These women not only overstepped their area of responsibility, but they were willing to take any husband they could grab for the sake of his name, just to save themselves the shame of not being married.

"...These women will be bound to support themselves; they will eat bread of their own earning, and wear apparel of their own working, and the man they court shall be at no expense upon them, only they desire to be called his wives, to take away the reproach of a single life. They are willing to be wives upon any terms, though ever so unreasonable; and perhaps they rather because in these troublesome times it would be a kindness to them to have a husband for their protector. ...That modesty, which is the greatest beauty of the fair sex, was forgotten, and with them the reproach of vice was nothing to the reproach of virginity, a sad symptom of the irrecoverable desolations of virtue."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

If anyone was to remove the reproach of these sinful women, it was God. They needed only to have remembered His servant Jacob's wife, Rachel, and her struggles to have children. She blamed God for the reproach of her infertility and took matters into her own hands. It was quite a few children born to other mothers later that "...she conceived and bore a son and said, 'God has taken away my reproach,'" (Genesis 30:23) in the birth of her son, Joseph. Eventually, by His grace, God will remove the reproach of Judah--a remnant of Judah, more specifically.

Verse 2 brings us to mention of "the survivors of Israel." This means that some are survivors and some are not. This group of survivors is called the remnant. What the prophets begin to foretell is a time coming, a last time coming (the Day of the Lord), in which ultimate judgment will be pending. God in His holiness will take with Him for eternal life--"everyone who is recorded for life" (vs. 3)--those who are the true believers by faith in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, depicted in verse 2 as "the Branch of the Lord."

"'Behold, the days are coming,' declares the Lord,
'When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.'"
--Jeremiah 23:5

What Judah has not known in this time of Isaiah's prophecy is a king who acts wisely or justice that prevails. To know that a time of a "beautiful and glorious" reign, from the lineage of David, is in the wings should have provided hope to the lost nation. For some, it must have, as the base of the remnant would come through them. Of course, this is not the people who would see the first Advent of our Lord, but, over the generations--if the word of the Lord were faithfully shared down through the generations, as God commanded--the remnant would and will know His Son. Difficult to be faithful through captivity, unlawful governments, and the continued sinfulness of mankind. But God has not forgotten, and Paul's words are an enduring reminder:

"I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 'Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.' But what is the divine response to him? 'I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice."
--Romans 11:1-5 

'Branch' in the Hebrew can also refer to a sprout. [Strong's] Jesus was certainly more than a sprout, but He is the initial catalyst for the larger picture of spiritual growth and salvation that the Bible is talking about. The metaphor literally grows as we read the Savior's words recorded in John 15. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Judah would not be saved by a revival of its own doing. It did not abide in the Father. It was not a fruit-bearing nation of the type that was pleasing to God. Yet, for some, a time will come when the "fruit" evident upon the earth and a recognition of the Branch of the Lord will distinguish them from others who cry out, "Lord! Lord!" yet will go to eternal doom, familiarly unacknowledged.

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
--Matthew 7: 21-23

Jesus said that you will know "by their fruits," those who are abiding in Him. The Jewish remnant and the Christian know the same God and will demonstrate the same good fruits in their lives, even if the Christian does not share the Jewish heritage as one of the remnant. As Chapter 11 of Romans continues, Paul goes into much detail about how God is working out His plan of salvation for all His people! What we must hold fast to, as would be the words of Isaiah upon Judah, the holiness of the one true God and live "by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD." (from Deuteronomy 8:3)

"Note, If Christ be precious to us, his gospel will be so and all its truths and promises—his church will be so, and all that belong to it. These are the good fruit of the earth, in comparison with which all other things are but weeds. It will be a good evidence to us that we are of the chosen remnant, distinguished from the rest that are called Israel, and marked for salvation, if we are brought to see a transcendent beauty in Christ, and in holiness, and in the saints, the excellent ones of the earth."
--Matthew Henry

Cloud and fire return over Mount Zion, as Chapter 4 concludes. ....'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 4: 4-6

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).