In this chapter, it seems that Isaiah had a primary reference to King Hezekiah. In the first eight verses, he describes the improved state of the nation of Judah under his reign, as compared with what it had been during the reign of his wicked father Ahaz. Then verses 9-14 refer to the troubles that would come upon the country during the invasion of Sennacherib, and the last verses describe the peace and prosperity which would be restored after the destruction of the Assyrian army. But although the chapter thus refers to events which were taking place at the time when Isaiah lived and spoke, it is impossible to read these words carefully without perceiving that their expressions apply to another and far greater King! In fact, this chapter contains a very remarkable prophecy of the Lord Jesus!
In verse 2, we read, “A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest.” David says to the Lord, “Thou art my hiding place” (Ps. 32:7; 119:114). And Isaiah said, in chapter 25:4, “Thou hast been a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat.” Furthermore, in verse 2, we are told that a man shall be “as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” “That rock,” says Paul, “was Christ” – speaking of the rock in the wilderness, from which the water gushed out for the Israelites (1 Cor. 10:4). And Jesus said to the poor woman of Samaria, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” In the first two verses, then, we evidently have a beautiful description of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the blessings which He bestows. The great question for each of us is this: “What do we know from our own experience of this Savior and His blessings?” He is a hiding-place from the wind, but is He our hiding-place? Are we, at this moment, sheltered in Him? Jesus is also like rivers of water in a dry place, but have we found Him to be so? We have probably all found the world to be a dry place – giving very little that can revive our withered joys or cheer our drooping spirits. But have we also found Jesus to be a river of water? Are we like trees that are planted by the water of life – continually drawing life from Him; and thus, although in a barren land, still remaining green and fruitful? By thoughts of Christ and communion with Him, do we refresh our souls with living water?
Verses 3-8 may be considered as describing the improved condition of the people of Judah under King Hezekiah’s reign. But they also refer to those blessings which the Kingdom of Christ brings, wherever it is established; and in this point of view, we will consider them. “The heart also of the rash shall understand know-ledge,” says verse 4. One of the great things that Christ does for His people is to cause them to understand knowledge. He sends the Holy Spirit to them as a Teacher (John 14:26); and at the same time, He gives them a heart to understand the teaching. Perhaps some of us find the Bible difficult to understand. If this is the case, let us ask God Himself to cause our heart to understand knowledge. His promise to us is that if we search for knowledge and understanding as we would search for hidden treasures; then we shall indeed understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:3-5). Multitudes have trusted this promise and found it true! But there is another gift besides that of understanding, which is also referred to in verse 4. “The tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.” They not only understood God’s truth for themselves, but they are also able to speak about it and explain it to others. It is a great matter to be able to give a clear and plain account of what we know. Peter says, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). If we desire to be useful to others, and to glorify God by telling people around us of His wonderful works; then we ought to ask Him to bestow on us the gift of plain speaking.
Another blessing that is promised (verse 5) is that people shall be known in their true character, and esteemed accordingly. Bad men shall no longer be honored. No doubt King Hezekiah, when he came to the throne, dismissed many of the courtiers who had helped his wicked father. And every good ruler will make it his goal to detect and disgrace vile persons. When Christ’s heavenly Kingdom is established, then the ungodly shall certainly be put to shame; and many who have seemed generous and bountiful in the eyes of men shall then be called by the names which they truly deserve.
Verses 6 and 7 describe the characteristics of the vile person – the iniquity of his heart, his hypocrisy, his oppression of the poor, and his speaking wrongfully against the Lord. Alas! This last sin is by no means an uncommon one, and there are few of us who have not been guilty of it at one time or another. Perhaps we have not openly blasphemed God’s name; but have we not questioned the wisdom, the justice, or the mercy of His dealings? As we have looked around upon the sin and misery in the world, have we not been tempted to lay the blame of the evil upon Him instead of ourselves? When we have been in affliction, have we not spoken against Him? (Ps. 78:19) If answers to prayer have been delayed; have we not begun to say that His promises have failed, and that He has forgotten to be gracious? (Ps. 77:8-9) Let us pray for grace to learn, under all circumstances, to speak well of the Lord and to praise His name!
This chapter has spoken chiefly of blessings – blessings under the reign of good King Hezekiah, and much larger blessings under the Kingdom of Christ. But now comes a word of threatening and warning to those who refuse to submit to Jesus as their Kingly Messiah (verses 9-14). There may be some allusion here to the troubles during Sennacherib’s invasion, but the verses particularly apply to the desolation of the Jews since the time of Christ’s coming. They refused to acknowledge the Savior, who came to be their hiding-place from the wind, and their covert from the tempest; and sadly, for many years, they have been troubled (verse 10). But the 15th verse tells us distinctly how long this state of things is to last: “until the Spirit be poured out from on high.” There was a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit, shortly after the Lord’s ascension, when 3,000 souls were converted at once (Acts 2). Of this outpouring, the prophet Joel had prophesied (Acts 2:16-17; Joel 2:28). But that cannot be the same event to which Isaiah here refers, because it took place before the judgments on Jerusalem, whereas this outpouring of the Spirit is described as accompanying a restoration from those judgments. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was like the former rain (Ps. 68:9), in the early seedtime of the Church (Ps. 65:9-10). But the outpouring of which Isaiah prophesies shall be the latter rain, which shall be sent from heaven at the approach of the great harvest-day (Joel 2:23; Zech. 10:1). It corresponds with that time of blessing of which Paul speaks in Romans 11:26, when the Jews shall be grafted in again upon the very tree from which they seem to now be cut off. To these days of future blessing, we Gentiles should look forward with eager hope; for they shall benefit us no less than they shall the Jews!
The latter verses of our chapter (verses 15-20) describe the blessedness of that day; and at the same time, they show us the nature of the results which always flow from the outpouring of the Spirit of God, under any circumstances. At all times, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Observe the connection, in verse 17, between righteousness and peace: “The work of righteousness shall be peace.” This connection was beautifully typified in Melchizedek – whose name means “king of righteousness”; and who ruled over Salem, which means “peace” (Heb. 7:2). And it was the special work of Jesus – Who is a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:17) – to thus join righteousness and peace together (Ps. 85:10). The best commentary on this 17th verse is to be found in the words of Paul: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). When a person believes in Christ, the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to him (Rom. 3:22; 4:22-24). All separation between him and God, all fear, and all condemnation are at an end – and he has peace. The righteousness from which this peace comes is not man’s righteousness, but God’s! Man’s righteousness is always imperfect. Even when a person has done his very best – whether in the way of religious observances or of moral duties – he can never be quite sure that he has done enough, or that there is not some hidden flaw in what he has done. And so he cannot have true peace in these things. He cannot look at it and be perfectly sure that it is all right; and even worse, he cannot be sure that the Lord is satisfied with it. But Christ’s righteousness is perfect! And when a person has gotten that, he knows that God must be satisfied, and that now he must be well-pleasing to Him – and so he is at peace! Since this peace is the effect of the perfect and unchanging righteousness which Christ has bestowed upon him as a free gift, it does not vary as his feelings change; but rather, he enjoys the “quietness and assurance for ever” of which Isaiah speaks. Christ’s righteousness is not a righteousness which is perfect today and faulty tomorrow, nor is it a righteousness which a person must toil to work out for himself. It is a righteousness which is already complete; and thus, while the believer is conscious of numberless imperfections and continual sinfulness, he still knows that he is complete in Christ! He can draw near to God at all times, with perfect boldness, and in full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:19-22; Eph. 3:12); and he can face death with entire calmness, saying with Paul, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12).
If anyone does not find the work of righteousness to be peace, and the effect of righteousness to be quietness and assurance forever; the reason is because he is looking to the wrong kind of righteousness! (Rom. 9:30-33; 10:3) He is seeking something in himself, which he can only find in Christ. Jesus says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace” (John 16:33). He never told His disciples that they would find peace in themselves. If a person would only stop sifting and examining his feelings, and if he would stop balancing the good and the evil in himself with the hopes of finding something satisfactory and acceptable to God; then he will be content to cast them all aside like filthy rags (chapter 44:6; Phil. 3:8-9), and to accept the Lord Jesus’ finished righteousness as the ground of his standing before God! And he will soon find that he is in the way of peace; and that his quietness and assurance will last forever, because it depends upon an everlasting righteousness!
Lord Jesus, we praise You as our righteous King! Thank You for being our hiding-place and our river of water in a dry place. Amen.
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rock in desert photo by Endeavor Moore Media | Lightstock.com
sunrise photo by Ben White | Lightstock.com