Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Isaiah 4: 4-6

When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion 
and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, 
by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning,
5 then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion 
and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, 
and the brightness of a flaming fire by night;  
for over all the glory will be a canopy.
There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, 
and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.

With the close of Chapter 4 comes the return of a picture of God that should have spoken volumes to His people, as Isaiah speaks of what the Jews coined the "Shekinah"--a visible presence of the glory of God in their midst. More on this shortly, because His holy glory cannot be present in the presence of sin, which is where we begin with verse 4.

Verses 4 and 5 are a "when...then" construction, as opposed to an "if...then." There will be a time when the Lord will clean up, if you will. As we discussed here last week, sin cannot exist with true holiness. This is why we will always be sinners in our fallen world. Our steps toward true holiness will never be enough to fulfill what God has established as holy. That should not stop us from trying to be Christlike. We just need to realize that every step He brings us in that direction will be accompanied by time on our knees in humility, recognizing, as did Christ, that equality with God is not something to be grasped. (Philippians 2:6)

The Lord will cleanse Judah of its filth (moral and otherwise) as well as its penchant for violence. Bloodshed was common in Judah under its evil kings, notably--and just prior to the nation's Babylonian captivity--under the rule of King Manasseh, who reinstated all of the evil ways his father, "good" King Hezekiah, had abolished. The Day of the Lord will bring bloodshed as well. But, in the time of a revived Zion, in the days of the remnant that would be eternally saved, God would take all of that away through judgment and burning. "Through the process of refining fire, consuming the faithless and purifying the faithful, God will produce a holy Zion." (Reformation Study Bible)

Note the dichotomy, looking at verse 5, as Isaiah moves from speaking of fire as a destructive, yet purifying force to fire as the protective, guiding presence of God Himself. Once the table has been set, God may come to it. Isaiah says He will return to His people in the form He took as in the days of old, leading them out of bondage in Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

"The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
--Exodus 13: 21 and 22

As I said up top, the Jews would come to refer to this presence of the glory of God with them as the Shekinah. ("That which dwells," in the Hebrew. --International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) Ezekiel, in Chapter 43, reveals his own encounter with the Shekinah, through a vision. "And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory." (43: 2b) Through the wilderness adventure, as recounted in Numbers, the cloud and pillar would appear over the tabernacle--home of the very word of God. When the cloud or pillar moved, so would the people. Whether days or weeks, the people watched and honored the God who led them. These are the days that are coming back! 

"...all the glory will be a canopy," (vs. 5) and, "There will be a shelter...." (vs. 6) The King James Version uses 'defence' for canopy, meaning "chamber or closet," and 'tabernacle' for shelter, meaning "hope, refuge, place of refuge, shelter, trust." [all references, Strong's] That word shelter also more literally means "hiding place," a metaphor Isaiah will use more than once in his prophecy.

"You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance."
--Psalm 32:7

Not only will the presence of God be literal, but His presence of safety and protection will be also. For a nation on the verge of captivity, there remains hope. For souls in the last days on the verge of being lost, there is a "hiding place" and a hope from which there is deliverance.

"That God will protect his church, and all that belong to it (Isa. 4:5, 6); when they are purified and reformed they shall no longer lie exposed, but God will take a particular care of them. Those that are sanctified are well fortified; for God will be to them a guide and a guard."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Concluding today with a theme that we can pick up in a word in verse 5: create. It is important to note, also, the subject that goes with that verb: the Lord. The Lord creates. As has been said before, Judah was not in a position to save itself from itself. God is going to save His people from their sins. To do that, He has to bring about renewal and refinement to create holiness. The Lord washes away and purges that which makes people unholy. He causes His presence to be made known once conditions are right for Him to appear. He brings the shelter, the refuge, the protection, the hope and the glory. "Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves...." (from Psalm 100:3)

We can pray for His presence. We can pray for His protection. We can pray for hope. We can pray for revival. We can pray for the return of His glory. What we need to accept is that we cannot make these things happen by our own will! We need to honor Him as the Creator of all, honoring His word as the Holy Bible, and the Holy Spirit as our Help and our "hiding place" in a fallen world. "For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting
and His faithfulness to all generations." (Psalm 100:5)

"Reformation-work is God’s work; if any thing be done to purpose in it, it is his doing. But how? By the judgment of his providence the sinners were destroyed and consumed; but it is by the Spirit of his grace that they are reformed and converted. This is the work that is done, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts (Zech. 4:6), working both upon the sinners themselves that are to be reformed and upon magistrates, ministers, and others that are to be employed as instruments of reformation."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The "Parable of the Vineyard" ....'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 5: 1 and 2

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).