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Lowell Brueckner

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The Need for Christ


Remember: We will not be writing the whole portion of Scripture in the article, so you will have to have your Bible open and follow along, as I attempt an expository lesson.

5. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 4

Chapter divisions are not inspired and sometimes this is quite obvious. For instance, the last verse of chapter two, “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed.” connects perfectly to the first part of chapter three. The kind counsel from the Lord prepares his people for the deterioration of the leadership described in chapter three. As we enter chapter four, we can easily see a continuance of the last two verses of chapter three. In fact, the first verse begins with the word “for”, obviously joining it grammatically to 3:26.

The consequences of war

Verses 25 and 26 speak of war, the death of the young and mighty and the mourning that follows. As a result, the male population has been severely decimated and chapter four begins with a description of the conditions. “For seven women will take hold of one man in that day, saying, ‘We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach!’”

If we can take the numbers literally, we have a ratio of seven women to one man. The war has brought them poverty and disease, as was described in 3:18-24. They were stripped of their ornaments and clothed with sackcloth instead of robes and rope instead of belts. In their captive state, they suffered putrefaction, a plucked-out scalp and they were burned as they labored under the sun.

Now, they are only concerned with their reproach; so much so that they come in desperate humiliation, begging to be wedded to a man, who will have various other wives. We could understand this better, if they had come looking for support, shelter, food and clothing, but that is not the case. The ladies promise self-support at no cost to the man.

In the culture of their day, being unmarried and childless was more disgraceful than polygamy. They want to acquire a husband’s name and have the honor of passing it on to the next generation. You might study the case of Rachel in order to get an idea of the needs of the women in Old Testament times. These needs were especially urgent in Israel, because of the coming Messiah and the honor of bringing Him into the world. (I have written an article about this need and it can be found in this BlogSpot: Simply type in the search window, Give Me Children or I Die.)

The need for Christ

Verse one would stand totally alone in this chapter, if it were not for the need and the honor, which I have just described. The Lord placed within the heart of the Israelite women this powerful instinctive drive to bear children, in order to insure the coming of the future Messiah. The Hebrew race must be founded, propagated, and repopulated after the necessary decimation brought on by judgment, from Genesis to Matthew. The enemy, for his part, was committed to a total annihilation of this people. Can we grasp then this central and all-encompassing need for a Messiah? Christ was the hope of Israel and the world. In the heart of God nothing in the universe was more essential than His coming.

And do you think that you don’t need Him? You need to seek Him as desperately as these women sought a husband and as Rachel sought for children. It was more than life to her and she indeed did give her life at the birth of her second child. Let’s get our priorities straight. It is essential to have Christ to give our own life meaning and it is our obligation to share Him with the world. There is no significance in this world outside of Him.

The rest of the chapter is messianic, pointing the reader to Christ. It gleams with hope, especially after the background of the dire state described in verse one and the previous chapter. We learn a valuable principle: While the world sinks into despair and darkness, if we will keep our eyes upon the Lord, we will see nothing but glory ahead! He is sufficient to totally obliterate the darkness and flood our lives with light. Learn to look up and you will always stand above the circumstances of life.  

The Branch

“The Branch of the Lord” (v.2) is a messianic term and it is used by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah. As stated earlier, Christ is the one hope for Israel and the world. “Branch” is the English translation of the Hebrew noun. In Zechariah 6:12, it states that His name is Branch: His name means an attribute that is part of His essence and points to the ministry that He will perform, springing from His being. Wherever this term is found, it means that He will sprout out of a trunk that has been cut off. Perhaps it is most clearly shown later by Isaiah: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1).

I think it would be good if we would examine briefly an argument of Job. Of course, Job is in a very pessimistic state, but that does not mean that he is not seeing truth. He states that “there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail… But man dies and lies prostrate, Man expires and where is he? … So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, he will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep” (Job 14:7, 10, 12). Job does us a favor by destroying the deception of reincarnation. Man will not return in another form and nothing in the Bible suggests that. With it, let us lay aside other condolences sometimes offered to loved ones of the deceased. “He is with you, whenever you remember the words that he spoke to you”… or one song tries to show that the bodies of dead soldiers fertilize flowers that arise out of the earth over their graves. Poor comforts, I think.

We can be assured that Job is not denying the resurrection. He states definitely: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). That is resurrection of the body! However, this resurrection is not naturally within the capabilities of the human body. It is destined to return to dust since the fall of Adam: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Ge.3:19). The hope of the resurrection for Job lies in the life of his Redeemer and Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (Jn.14:19).

Job says there is more hope for a tree than for natural man. He points to the tree to look for hope and Isaiah says that Christ is the Sprout coming out of the hopeless trunk to bring renewed hope to the nation of Israel. A decayed Israel will experience again the blessings of the kingdom of David, but with a glory that excels it. When Gentiles are grafted in, He becomes the hope of the nations.

Beauty for Ashes

Here is a revelation of Christ given to the redeemed remnant in Israel and it is set before us to gaze upon and know His attributes. He is beautiful and glorious. Don’t just read the words, take time to look into the invisible, to meditate upon the unfathomable. What you are able to see will enamor your heart and what you can’t see will draw out worship in the Spirit:

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depth of your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

And I stand, I stand in awe of you
I stand, I stand in awe of you
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of you.

It will be the beauty of her Christ that will transform Israel. The Branch will bear fruit and she will be reaped from the earth for the glory of God. The daughters of Zion were stripped of all adornment, but the remnant of Israel will be the means of the restoration of her national pride and they will be adorned with holiness (v.3). These have been selected and their names are recorded in the Book of Life and their names are registered among the true Israelites. Somehow those ancient archives will be discovered. Praise be to the One, who is able to wash away the filth and the bloodshed, so thoroughly as to not leave a trace of immorality or cruelty.

I titled a former article, taken from chapter one, “Restoration through Judgment” and we see again the redemptive power of judgment here in verse four, “by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.”  No impurity, insect or microbe can withstand the fire. Fire will leave behind it a trail of destruction unequaled by any other disaster. Storms may uproot trees, carry objects far from their origins and twist them out of shape, but fire will leave nothing, but ashes. No crime can ever be excused and no offense can go unpunished. Judgment falls and God’s righteous name is vindicated. He has pronounced sentence and it has fallen. Only in that way could Israel be restored… by the judgment and fire of the Holy Spirit.    

From the trunk the Shoot springs out; from the ashes comes forth beauty. The spirit of judgment and burning was a prototype of a judgment to come, when the wrath of God fell upon Mt. Calvary and His Son was offered up in sacrifice. The flame of that burnt offering rose to the throne room and its sweet odor entered the nostrils of the heavenly Judge, appeasing His wrath and satisfying justice forever. That was the moment when destruction was transformed into the protection of a cloud and flame of glory as a canopy over His people (v.5), by day and by night.  “The Word was made flesh and tabernacled (Greek for dwelt) among us” (Jn.1:14). He became the true propitiatory covering for the ark that contained the Ten Commandments, “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col.2:14).

This is the second time that the prophecy of Isaiah reaches ultimately into the Millennium. There are lesser fulfillments along the way, in the remnant who returned from Babylon, in the return to Israel in the 20th Century for the first time after their destruction under Titus in 70 A.D, but the offering up of the Messiah avails for Israel in the end. History repeats itself until the final fulfillment, when a third part of Israel will survive a future assault on Jerusalem. In the wake of judgment, Christ will come as their protector, a shelter provided against all the onslaughts devised against the people of God (v.6), as a greater fulfillment of the protection provided in the desert. The Psalmist knew this place of security: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty, I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuse and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’… You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day… For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place” (Ps.91:1, 2, 5, 9).


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