For the Love of God, Volume 2/May 31
From Gospel Translations
Deuteronomy 4; Psalms 86—87; Isaiah 32; Revelation 2
IF ISAIAH 30—31 EXPOSE THE PROBLEM and the dangers of relying on Egypt, Isaiah 32—33 provide the alternative: a good government led by a righteous King. Although Isaiah expects such government to dawn only in the future (e.g., 32:1, 15-16; 33:5-6, 17-22), his stance is not wholly eschatological: he is addressing the crisis of his own day, a day of complacency (32:9-11), when the diplomats have failed and the leaders are desperate (33:7-8), a day when the arrogant Assyrians, “those people of an obscure speech” (33:19), are still in the land. Historically, this probably refers to King Hezekiah’s futile attempt to buy off Sennacherib with extraordinary tribute (2 Kings 18:13-16). But Sennacherib is not appeased. His envoys “with their strange, incomprehensible tongue” (33:19) demand that Hezekiah throw open the gates of Jerusalem. When Hezekiah refuses, the siege begins. Now the people of Jerusalem can see the consequences of a government that follows nothing but the empty futility of merely human wisdom. Isaiah offers the only alternative: the kingship of God. Happily, Hezekiah seizes this alternative in the nick of time (2 Kings 19:14-19). But what Isaiah looks for is the time when God’s kingship is fully accepted by people and rulers alike.
Isaiah 32, then, begins this vision by showing what such divine government looks like, what it would produce (32:1-8). The identity of this king who reigns in righteousness (32:1) is not as clear as in 11:1-9 (where he is the Messiah) or as in 33:22 (where he is the LORD). From the Christian’s perspective, there is no tension in these dual claims: the ultimate King is simultaneously the Anointed One from the line of David and the living God (as in Isa. 9 and Ezek. 34). Here (Isa. 32), the focus is less on the king’s identity than on his passion for righteousness. The transformation of the realm is so complete that “the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen” (32:3)—the reverse of 6:9-10.
But at this juncture there is no way to reach such glory except through judgment. Only a year will slip by before a crushing destruction of the harvest (32:10)—probably when Sennacherib moves in his mighty army after the extravagant tribute fails to placate him. Worse, the city itself will be destroyed (32:14)—an event still a century off. But beyond all that is the pouring out of the Spirit (32:15-20)—God’s doing, powerfully transforming the people of God—effected at Pentecost in the wake of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2:16-18) and consummated at his return (Rev. 11:15-17).