The Old Testament is our school master, bringing us to an understanding of God’s Law, His expectations, His standards, and His methods, and His nature. God even has a language of figurative metaphors which He uses in prophesy and judgment. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are rife with God’s judgment language. Every time these words are used God is always speaking of a day of judgment, often referred to as “the Coming of the Lord.”
A Coming of the Lord, also a Day of the Lord, is used when God is pronouncing judgment against a nation, or nations. Isaiah is filled with this figurative language of judgments against the nations. Due to their several rebellion, their idolatry, turning their backs on God, their prideful natures and delight in their own strength, their scorn and willfulness, their fraud, lies and deceit; He pronounces the captivity of Israel, the downfall of Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Arabia, Tyre, and others across the desert lands of the Middle East.
The agents He used to bring forth His judgment were the armies of the surrounding nations, the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and Babylonians; He also used famines and droughts. They are His rods, and messengers. All of the prophecies are described as “days of the Lord”, “Comings of the Lord”. The judgments are expressed in like figurative words that become recognizable to the student of the Bible, and are understood that they are not literal. God is using figurative words that we can understand as frightening and terrible things coming, which we learn to recognize as judgment upon evil doers. (Bold emphasis is mine.)
Is. 13:9-13 (concerning Babylon):
” 9 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. 10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. 11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.”
Suns and moons are figurative for rulers of high places, princes and principalities. The heavens are the palaces and and abodes of the rulers of the lands, and the earth is the living space of the people. Fine gold must be smelted under great fire to be purified.
Is. 19:1: “The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.”
Evil rulers and practices are a burden upon the people, who suffer under evil ways.
Is. 23:11 ( against Tyre): “He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms…..”
Is. 24.23: “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.”
Is. 26:21: ” For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”
Is. 27:13 : ” And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”
Is. 28:2: ” Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.”
Is. 29:6 : “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.”
Is. 30:26: “Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.”
Is. 30:30: “And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.”
Is. 34:4: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.”
All of these were judgments prophesied against the nations who had sinned against God. He was pruning them, humbling them, purging and refining; calling them back to Him. Each time He warned the nation(s) before He delivered His judgment. He always provided opportunity to repent. He is long-suffering. And, notice that He is calling other nations back to Him, not just Israel!
This figurative language is used throughout the other prophets, as well. Notice the similarity in Jeremiah 4:13:
“Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled.”
Spoiled is the same as damaged goods, or destroyed.
While discussing Isaiah, I’d like to point out a common mistake regarding Is.14:12, “How thou art fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (day star), son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” Isaiah Chapters 13 and 14 are discussing Babylon’s fall, and the pride of the king of Babylon who was comparing himself to God. Is.14:12 is a direct reference to the king because of his claim to be like the most High (vs. 14). “Lucifer” is not a reference to the devil, or Satan, but to the king of Babylon, either Nebuchadnezzar or his grandson, Belshazzar.
Many of these Old Testament prophecies are calling His people to come back to Him, to return to Him. His people. His people in Babylon, Arabia, Tyre, Egypt? The promises to Abraham were for the lineage of the Messiah, that through Him should all nations and all people of the world be blessed. It was Abraham’s faith that was reckoned unto him for righteousness, and because of Abraham’s faith the Lord established Abraham’s progeny as His special people, so that through that lineage of faith could come the knowledge of the Law, and the Messiah. The tribes of Israel were the promised people who agreed (covenanted, contracted) to abide by God’s word, and were called the special people of the Lord for this very reason.
This did not mean that God abandoned every other tribe, or every man and woman who was not of the tribe of Israel. As every one of us are created by God, He wants all of us to abide with Him, willing that none should perish. If He is willing that none should perish now, under the new covenant of Christ, do you think He was any different under the Old Covenant? NO! God does not change. He is the same now and ever.
There were faithful people outside of the tribes of Israel before the Messiah came into this world. The Israelites were to be an example, and a method to show the rest of the world how to be acceptable to God. The Israelites were God’s chosen people because of Abraham, meant to be teachers (examples) and the lineage of the faithful for the coming of the Messiah! God did not abandon every one else after He chose Abraham to bring forth the promises for His plan of salvation.
Remember Matt. 3:9, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
So, the importance was not the physical lineage to Abraham. The importance was always doing God’s will, keeping His faith, abiding with Him. Every one who chose to do so was acceptable to God. The Israelites forgot that, and became proud, repeatedly sinning and turning away from God, yet expecting God’s purpose to always be to uphold the lineage Abraham, when the purpose was always to uphold the lineage of the faithful for the promised seed of the Messiah.
Interspersed throughout the national judgments in Isaiah are the promises of the remnant, the foundation, the cornerstone, the rock of Israel, the Messiah. Notice especially Is. 2:2:
” And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”
This was a promise, a prophecy of the coming of His spiritual kingdom. When was His Kingdom established? Beginning with John the Baptist, through Jesus’ earthly ministry, His death at the cross, His resurrection, confirmed with power on the day of Pentecost, with the broadcasting (probate) of the new covenant by the testimony and writings of the Apostles throughout the lands, and in finality with the removal of the old sacrificial covenant at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. So, His spiritual kingdom was established in the last days, or in the first century AD, which were the last days of the old covenant.
The prophecy of Is. 2:2 was fulfilled in the first century A.D. We are now living in the age of His kingdom, and His church, and His heavenly, spiritual temple. Those of us who have put on Christ already have eternal life, and the promise of His righteousness, His glory, and His peace. We are in His body, His church, His temple right now. Today, we live in the days of His church, and His kingdom, and all nations flow unto it.
Part IV will explore more of the figurative, prophetic judgment language found in the New Testament.