April 29, 2011

Easter Saturday


Psalm 145, Is. 25:1-9, Rev. 7:10
Psalm 18:1-20, Jer. 31:10-14, Jn. 21:15


Today’s commentary begins with a correction of yesterday’s, which mistakenly named Babylon as the enemy in view in this part of the book of Isaiah.  The enemy was actually Assyria at this point.  Assyria would later fall to Babylon, and, Isaiah does foresee the Babylonian Captivity and release in this passage, but the enemy at the gate for now is Assyria.  Isaiah will address Babylon in later chapters.  To put the passage in its historical setting we need to recall that Israel has divided into two kingdoms, one calling itself Israel and the other calling itself Judah.  The Assyrians were the primary power in the area, and threatened to engulf both Israel and Judah.  In a futile attempt to maintain her independence, Israel made an alliance with Syria, to resist Assyria.  They attempted to force Judah to join them by issuing an ultimatum: become their ally or be conquered by them.  But God warned Judah to make no alliance with them, and so Judah was spared when the Assyrians invaded and conquered Syria and Israel.  Chapter 24 does refer in part to the Babylonian conquest of Judah, but its primary subject is Assyria.
Chapter 25 begins a hymn and prayer of thanksgiving to God for delivering Judah from the hand of her enemies.  Yet, Isaiah sees there is more to this deliverance than being saved from mere human opponents.  This is a mere foretaste of the miraculous deliverance God will bring to the Jews, and to those in all nations who will call upon Him.

Verses 6-9 especially convey this message.  God will destroy the “face of the covering cast over all people,” and the “vail that is spread over the nations.”  The covering and the vail are grave clothes.  It is a tradition to cover the face of the dead, and so all nations are covered with the vail of death, for all are dead in their trespasses and sins.  By their own choice they live in darkness and despair and spiritual death.  But, the day is coming when the Light of God will shine forth in this world in an unmistakable manner that will call all nations into Him and His Kingdom. 

He will feed them with fat things and wines on the lees well refined.  This refers to the great blessings and the spiritual plenty poured out on those in God’s Kingdom.  In a land of want, as Judah often was, such food and abundance was known only by the very wealthiest few.  But in God’s new Kingdom such rich spiritual food is for all people.  The Lord of hosts will make this feast and give freely to all his children. 

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.
Isaiah and the people of his day looked forward to the “Advent” of that salvation.                       
If we read verse 10 also, we cannot help noticing that the salvation of which Isaiah wrote is accomplished “in this mountain.”  Originally the phrase refers to Mt. Zion, site of the Temple, but, in a broader sense, it symbolizes Jerusalem and the Jewish people.   It symbolizes what we often call, “the Jewish Church.”   The salvation, of which Isaiah wrote, refers to God’s mighty deliverance of Jerusalem, and to His bountiful blessings upon her.  But that cannot exhaust the meaning of this text.  It reaches out to the work of Christ in Zion seven hundred years in Isaiah’s future. It will be “in this mountain” that the Savior comes to teach the way of life and truth.  It will be “in this mountain” that He suffers and dies to defeat the enemies of His people, and delivers them from the spiritual bonds of sin and death.   And it will be “in this mountain that the Savior’s work continues in the world throughout all ages.  Just as Zion represents the people of God in the Old Testament, so it also represent the people of God in the New Testament, the Christian Church, the New Israel, the spiritual Mount Zion, which is the spiritual Kingdom of God.  The message of hope, the message that God is with us, of a new and better life made possible by the gift of God, of hell’s fires quenched and Heaven’s Gates opened as wide as the Savior’s arms on the cross are still preached “in this mountain” as the Church fulfills her Great Commission: 
Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world, (St. Matthew 28:19-20). 

The promises of God to the Israel of the Old Testament are being fulfilled in the Israel of the New Testament.  And yet, they are not fulfilled completely even now.  We still wait for the Messiah to complete His work.  We still wait for that day when finally He will swallow even physical death in victory, and will dry every tear, and there will be no more suffering, and no more sorrow, and no more sin, forever and forever and forever.  We await His Second Advent as eagerly as the Old Testament Zion awaited His First Advent.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus, (Rev. 22:20).