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Lowell Brueckner

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Blessing Follows the Curse


32. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 34 and 35

Chapter 34

Isaiah is eloquent on the subject of divine retribution and judgment and in this chapter, as we have already seen in chapter 24, he proclaims universal judgment against all the nations. This is not only a message from the Old Testament, but it is a prophecy that passes through the New Testament and reaches to the end of our age.

“Draw near, O nations, to hear, and give attention, O peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that fills it; the world, and all that comes from it” (verse 1). Much of the church in our day has tried to eliminate or at least to soften and minimize the anger and vengeance of God. Rob Bell, a 21st Century false prophet, has declared that the preaching of eternal punishment in hell is “toxic”. A popular Spanish singer/preacher, Marcos Vidal, has said that the presentation of a God of wrath is anti-biblical and diabolical. They are totally wrong and will answer to God on judgment day for teaching error.  Francis Chan thinks that we will need to repent and confess being ashamed of an attribute of our Lord, as well as our negligence and timidity in declaring His wrath.

God wants His coming judgment published among the nations. It is a message to be declared and not ignored. No preacher should take pleasure in it, but he must be faithful to his calling. It is Chan, who finds support, not only from Isaiah, but from the writers of the New Testament and Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus spoke freely of the fires of hell, more frequently than the bliss of heaven. Here are just three examples: “It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire… where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk.9:43,48). “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Mt.23:33). “In hell, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes…” (Lk.16:23).

John the Baptist asked the Pharisees and Sadducees: “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mt.3:7). He later declared, concerning the state of an unbeliever, “The wrath of God remains on him” (Jn.3:36). The apostle Paul stated, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Ro.1:18). Peter warns, “The Lord knows how… to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Pt.2:9). The book of Hebrews declares: “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb.10:30-31). The book of Revelation prophecies the unfolding of the seven bowls of wrath in the last 3 ½ years of Daniel’s 70th week and has much more to say about this attribute of God (Rev.6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15). We have by no means exhausted the New Testament texts, but isn’t this enough evidence to show that God would have His wrath to be known in this 21st Century?

“The Lord is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host.” It needs to become very apparent to the Christian that the world is under the control of the evil one. The universal sinful condition of all of mankind is a clear reality and therefore it should not surprise us that he lies in mutinous rebellion against his Creator and Owner. We need to see that clearly and then we will understand why billions adhere to the theory of evolution and a relatively small minority hold to the biblical account of creation. Indeed, the majority never open the pages of the Bible. They jeer and defame the works of God, just as He has clearly told us that they would. They have chosen to believe and exalt the evil conclusions of a foolish mortal and laugh at the declarations of an omniscient God. It is no wonder that God has determined their destruction (v. 2).

For the rest of the chapter the Lord pronounces their doom. It begins in the form of a prophecy (v.3-4) that will be fulfilled in the future and continues, as if it were an historical account (v.5-6). An eternal God sees the future as history and it is all the same to Him. You can go to the bank with His word; it most certainly will happen, as He has said.

At the end of this dispensation, the Lord will punish them in disgrace, with their stinking bodies lying unburied and their blood flowing uncovered (v.3). The bowls of wrath and the battle of Armageddon will shake the heavens, as well as the earth. “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Heb.12:26). This is quoted from Haggai 2:6, which in the following verse 7, speaks of judgment upon all nations. Something we observe annually, the falling of leaves, so that vines and trees are laid bare, will happen on a much grander scale (v.4). What has been decreed in heaven, will descend into time.

God selected Edom, the descendants of Esau, to demonstrate His fury. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Ro.9:13 and Mal.1:2,3). They are “devoted to destruction” as a lesson to the entire globe. We see here the animal substitutes, which are used for sacrifices to the Lord, illustrate His condemnation upon mankind. Man’s rejection of his God makes him the object of sacrificial slaughter and his judgment can no longer be substituted by lambs, goats and bulls. The fat, blood and kidneys, belong to Him in the Levitical offerings (v.6,7). Their coming judgment comes because of their opposition to His people; it is God’s vengeance for world-wide antisemitism (v.8). The fire and brimstone of Sodom has served the generations as an example of judgment from heaven, but Edom takes its place in this chapter. The world empire, spiritual Babylon, in its final and complete state (v.9-15), will receive the fury of the Almighty, as physical Babylon did at the Old Testament’s end. We see it depopulated and allotted to savage beasts.

“Seek and read from the book of the Lord” (v.16). Seek understanding concerning this prophetical depiction of Edom. It points to end-time ruin from which the world system will never recover. The Sovereign God has determined all the detailed dimensions of its ruin, as He did against Sodom and physical Babylon. He will illustrate it through the judgment of Esau’s descendants, but it will extend to a composite Babylon, a final formation of all the world’s historic and future powers. Its destruction will be perpetual (v.17).

Chapter 35

This chapter lies in direct contrast to the previous one. The inspired prophet will not allow his reader to remain very long under the prospect of impending doom without referring to future bliss. It is an established fact, seen throughout the Bible, that God’s stories have happy endings.

It is the Christian only, who can provide hope for mankind. All the institutions of learning, production and technology come to a halt at the grave. They can only prepare and provide for a human being during his lifetime. The message that is sent from heaven to earth looks into a millennial reign upon this earth and reaches on into an eternity of heavenly joy.

It is proper that we join chapter 35 to chapter 34 to contrast the condemnation, which will fall upon a rebellious race, with the joy and glory of the people, who know their God. The Apostle Paul shows us that nature awaits the revealing of the sons of God (Ro.8:19). As the curse upon the earth turns the productive and populated places into a wilderness and dry land, so God’s blessing reverses the trend and depicts creation… animal, vegetable and mineral… rejoicing: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus” (v.1).

How does nature show its pleasure? It is revealed by rich and abundant blossoms and lush production. They are immersed in the qualities of their Creator, flowering abundantly, shining in glory and clothed with His majesty. This is the joy and song by which they praise Him. Lebanon is named in verse 2, because of its evergreen forests and Carmel and Sharon because of their fertility. “They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.”

The writer of Hebrews shows us that these literal promises could be applied in the first century to the spiritual condition of the church. Referring to verse 3, he wrote,  “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Heb.12:12-13). Because Hebrews took this promise for its own, this can be a principle throughout the church age   Discipline may fall heavily upon man’s spirit, but the final, godly intention is to bring healing.

The ministry of Isaiah cannot be estranged from his character. His name is Isaiah, God is salvation, and therefore his message speaks to the anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you” (v.4). He would come in the person of Jesus Christ and “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (v.5,6).

Even the physical being, struggling under the curse of sin, like the wilderness and the dry land, would experience the touch of Jesus of Nazareth and the natural faculties would be restored. The world is still to experience a future day when:

Jesus shall reign where e’er the sun,
Doth its successive journeys run,
His kingdom shine from shore to shore,
‘Til moons shall wax and wane no more.

His second coming will outshine the first, as He sits on David’s throne and all on earth will know the full force of His literal reign. See clearly the reversal of sin’s curse, that was described in chapter 34: “The burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunts of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes” (v.7)

To Mt. Zion, via the Highway of Holiness
Jesus said, “I am the way” and so the Christian life is a walk and a progression. Because He is the way, wherever He reigns this principle will always be true. It will be the law of the Millennium and the characteristic of eternity. There will always be new territory to discover and new treasures to uncover. This highway is called the Way of Holiness and although the Christian will come to the perfection of holiness, when he gazes physically upon Christ at His appearance (1 Jn.3:2), “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 Jn.3:3). He is on the Way of Holiness, but even in his perfected and heavenly state, the believer will continue to walk in the Way of Holiness and perpetually discover its beauties.

See how the writer of Hebrews builds on Isaiah’s foundation. We have already noticed that in a previous paragraph and here we observe it again: “…Holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb.12:14). Isaiah wrote, “The unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way.” They walk in Christ and His Way is so well mapped with His person and care that “even if they are fools, they shall not go astray” (v.9). That is, they will be kept on that Way, not by their intellectual astuteness, but by dependence upon His keeping power.

Because Christ is the Way, this highway is totally safe and there is no danger of being trapped by the evil one. The Apostle John taught us to trust and rely wholly upon Him: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 Jn.5:18).

It is by the Highway of Holiness that the redeemed, the ransomed of the Lord, return and ascend Mount Zion. They are bought with a price; God has received the ransom price of their redemption from slavery. They have been saved by faith and made righteous through the work of the cross. Everyone who is made righteous walks the Highway of Holiness. He progressively is made partaker of Christ’s holiness by fatherly discipline and this highway, and only this highway, leads to Zion.

I cannot improve on the poetic beauty of God’s promise through Isaiah in verse 10, and so we end this study, basking in it without further comment: “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” 


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