Election: Isaiah 65

There are numerous prophesies in the Old Testament about God’s plans for Israel. We don’t study them because we thnk they have little to do with “New Testament Christianity.” We think they were written for a people that God rejected and so are of interest only to scholars. But consider Isaiah 65 in light what we’ve learned —

(Isa 65)  “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’

Paul interprets this as referring to the Gentiles. You’ll see why as we go.

2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations– 3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; 4 who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; 5 who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.

God now speaks of the Jews, before he allowed Babylon to take Judea into captivity.

6 “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps– 7 both your sins and the sins of your fathers,” says the LORD. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.”

God promises the full measure of his wrath for their rejection of him.

8 This is what the LORD says: “As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is yet some good in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live. 10 Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.

God declares that he will not destroy all the Jews, but will keep a few “for my people who seek me.” But these “descendants of Jacob” will be people brought forth by God himself. He is referring to those he adopts into his family, by the power of the Spirit.

11 “But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, 12 I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”

God speaks of the death by the sword of those who reject him. He speaks specifically of destining them for death — but the destiny God provides for them results from their forsaking God. Forsake God and so evil, and you’re destined for destruction.

13 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. 14 My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit. 15 You will leave your name to my chosen ones as a curse; the Sovereign LORD will put you to death, but to his servants he will give another name.

God predicts the misery and hunger of those who reject him, with the result that their name (“Israel”) will be given to God’s newly chosen people.

16 Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.

In the new land — God’s kingdom — where God’s “truth” prevails — God’s people will honor God, seeking blessings by God rather than their own hand.

17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

Plainly, Isaiah is now speaking of our reward after Judgment Day, the Eschaton.

20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. 23 They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

Notice the pattern: rejection of God, God’s wrath but God preserves a remnant, God creates a new people, God gives them the name of those who rejected God (Israel), they enjoy God’s blessing, and they live with God at the end.

But for this pattern to fit Rom 9 – 11, we have to see the Jews of Jesus day who rejected Jesus as rejecting God, and as being enemies of God in much the same sense that the Baal worshippers of 500 years before. The Jews of the First Century were devoted to Torah and (in a sense) to God, but they rejected Jesus (God in the flesh), and so became God’s enemy. Paul is quite clear about this in Rom 9 – 11. (Of course, Gentiles who’ve not believed in Jesus as Messiah are also God’s enemies. Rom 5:9-11).

And Paul sees the “remnant” as those Jews who believe in Jesus, not as the Jews who returned to Jerusalem under the Persians at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. And the return from exile is a process, beginning with Jesus and culminating in the Eschaton.

Therefore, the destruction promised by God is not only the destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but also the destruction at the hands of the Romans. This understanding helps explain why God’s glory never appeared in the temple built by Nehemiah, so that God never dwelt there in the same way he’d dwelt in the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple. God’s presence did not return to Israel until Jesus came, and it continued with the outpouring of the Spirit through the church, which became the new temple of God.

We could make a similar analysis of many other prophecies. This is just to suggest an approach to reading the prophets in the same way that Paul read the prophets.

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