Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Isaiah 18: 4 and 5

4 For thus the Lord has told me,
“I will look from My dwelling place quietly
Like dazzling heat in the sunshine,
Like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
5 For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms
And the flower becomes a ripening grape,
Then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives
And remove and cut away the spreading branches.

Questions after last week? I know I'm still wondering about a few things. Sometimes, it can be really difficult to read the Bible and leave a reading without a full understanding. Frankly, that's where I am. I understand the ideas and actions, but I'm not clear about the "for whom." I know that God's Word and plans are not going to be completely understood by me, and I accept that, too. What I do know is that Isaiah has a message, and he has been speaking to Judah, even as his oracles are for other nations. Clinging to last week's thought from verse 3: "As soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it...."

This week, Isaiah begins another metaphoric passage, in which the Lord has revealed Himself as a grapevine tender and harvester. Even if we cannot go back with full accuracy to understand the prophecy in light of history, we can see through this passage a picture of how the Lord works--and that is always a picture worth studying.
Verse 4 explains how the Lord is going to respond in this situation. (Remember, Chapter 18 begins with 'Alas', so this is a time of trouble coming.) He is looking from in His "dwelling place, quietly...." In the King James Version, the verse reads, "I will take my rest, and I will consider...." The Amplified Bible says, "I will be still...." I have been in quite a few Bible study conversations over the years in which we have embraced the words from Psalm 46:10--"....'Be still, and know that I am God'...." (New International Version) What happens when God says to Himself, "I will be still"? I do enjoy Matthew Henry's take on that pondering:

"When he says, I will take my rest, it is not as if he were weary of governing the world, or as if he either needed or desired to retire from it and repose himself; but it intimates that the great God has a perfect, undisturbed, enjoyment of himself, in the midst of all the agitations and changes of this world.... yet even then he knows very well what men are doing and what he himself will do."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible
Stillness does not mean inaction. Coupled with "know that I am God" shows us that there is indeed action to be taken on our part if we are not fully submitted to God being in control. Do we have an undisturbed love of God in the midst of agitation and change? When God watches "quietly" from His dwelling place, is He any less in control? No, of course not. That should be encouragement for all of us, even if we don't see God in action in the events of daily life. Isaiah takes the rest of verse 4 to describe God's action in the midst of His stillness.

"...Like dazzling heat in the sunshine...a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest."
--vs. 4

You would expect some heat in the sun; 'dazzling' implies a little something more. Dictionary definitions include words like 'blinding,' 'impressive,' 'astonishing,' 'overpowering with intensity'. God is not just warming up the Earth; He's powering it up to impress, amaze and call attention. Yet,He is also the dew--the cool, soaking cloud of moisture--in the midst of the ragingly hot temps of summer harvest time. I like this definition, too: "Something like or compared to such drops of moisture, as in purity, delicacy or refreshing quality." ( God may be at rest, but He continues to give, under His foreknowing providence, that which is needed. As David said in his last song, there is a security in the provision of God:

"'He who rules over men righteously,
Who rules in the fear of God,
Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
When the tender grass springs out of the earth,
Through sunshine after rain.
Truly is not my house so with God?
For He has made an everlasting covenant with me,
Ordered in all things, and secured;
For all my salvation and all my desire,
Will He not indeed make it grow?....'"
--II Samuel 23: 3b-5

Verse 5 finds us, again, looking at a time of harvest. It is not hard to see how Bible commentators can point to this chapter as being a continuation of that which was begun in Chapter 17 (" plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god...but the harvest will be a heap...." --vss. 10 and 11, excerpts). "For before the harvest...," begins 18:5, at just the proper time--after the plant buds and as the grapes appear--the vinedresser comes to prune the vines. To attain maximum fruitfulness from a vine, certain "sprigs" must be cut away. The plant's food and energy to put toward good fruit will be jeopardized by the growth of other offshoots of vines.

The God who, in His rest, continues to provide the dazzling sunshine and dew in their proper increments over the course of His perfectly timed growing season will not be late in pruning and perfecting His fruit for harvest. He will do what is necessary, when it is necessary, to bring fruition to His cause. His harvest will not be a heap because He, the Lord of the Harvest, is in control:

"It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit and become a splendid vine.”’ Say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers—so that all its sprouting leaves wither? And neither by great strength nor by many people can it be raised from its roots again."
--Ezekiel 17: 8 and 9
It's not how well or where we plant, but whether the Lord is our gardener.

"Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves...."
--Psalm 100, excerpt from verse 3 


"A gift of homage" is forthcoming, as we conclude Chapter 18.  ...'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week:  Isaiah 18: 6 and 7
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).