The King and His Subjects

Isaiah 32:1-20

While there have been periodic bursts of light and hope, much of Isaiah’s writing so far has been laced with darkness and judgment and burdens and woe. Sort of like watching the nightly news, isn’t it! Mostly what’s wrong with the world, the people in the world, not a lot in which to find hope. And then for us in good ol’ USofA, there’s election season and the off-season. In a good time, off-season lasts about as long as summer in Maine: 1 week, maybe 2; the rest of the year is winter and black flies!

Electioneering isn’t so much different from a grade school playground. Remember time when teacher didn’t want to be bad guy so picked two team leaders, then had them choose teams? And in the group left was the class klutz, jumping up and down, waving arms, shouting “pick me, pick me”. But so much of politicking is arm waving, shouting about how this one or that one will make things different, promises that frequently are forgotten within hours after the votes are counted.

Unlike our way of doing things, Isaiah in an almost understated way introduces a new king with little fanfare. After a brief description, the prophet quickly moves on to focus on the King’s subjects and their character. And then, in mid-sentence, Isaiah drops the equivalent of a bombshell, introducing a concept shocking in its extent to his Jewish audience. True, they knew about the Spirit of God, but what Isaiah had to say was over the top. Something would happen at a future time and life for God’s people would never be the same again.

A. the king v.1-2

not like present King Ahaz; instead one who will reign for purpose of bringing about justice and righteousness. We’re told v.1-2 that it would occur; v.15-16 tell when it would occur. Perhaps experienced in small measure during reign of Hezekiah; true reality would only come in Christ’s kingdom, fully realized later when he has subdued all his enemies.

hiding place – from both physical and spiritual danger; adversity is part of life and who better than King David, after restored to fellowship with God, to remind us that “You [God] are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psa. 32:7

cover – it is God who is our refuge/cover, and God who is our greatest danger. Remember what the Lord Jesus said, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Luke 12:5 It is same Lord Jesus who is our covering, protecting us with his blood and his righteousness from God’s righteous wrath against sin.

streams of water – thirst used in both OT & NT to signify soul’s desire of spiritual things; hence water is that which satisfies spiritual desire. Found in one source, and that abundantly: Lord Jesus. Words to Samaritan woman: “whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty forever.” John 4:14 Later, at Feast of Tabernacles Jesus announced: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37-38

shadow/shade – from oppressive heat and drought; for those who spend many hours each week rubbing shoulders with those far from God, it’s a dry and thirsty land. The strongest of us need divine protection so we are not overcome.

Surely the experience of a hundred centuries might teach men that there is one man, and one alone, who is the refuge from all dangers, the fruition of all desires, the rest and refreshment in all toils.

And I, for my part, have no hesitation in saying that the only reference of these words which gives full value to their wealth of blessing, is to regard them as a prophecy of the man—Christ Jesus; hiding in whom we are safe, ‘coming’ to whom we ‘never thirst,’ guarded and blest by whom no weariness can befall us, and dwelling in whom this weary world shall be full of refreshment and peace!” Alexander MacLaren

B. his subjects v.3-8

more prominent in this text than king: character of his subjects, a radical difference from what Isaiah was told his congregation would be like (Isa. 6:9-10). Isaiah was to tell them that they would hear but without understanding; see but without perception; hearts would be dull, ears heavy, eyes blind; would not understand with their hearts and turn and be healed. Yet here (3-4) Isaiah describes those who are not spiritually incapacitated; instead they are

sight (3a) able to see truth for what it is; would see the right way of life and walk in it. Path of right choices no longer obscured by faulty vision, can see what is pleasing to the King.

hearing (3b) able to hear and recognize voice of God speaking in his Word and by his Spirit. Just as sheep know the shepherd’s voice (John 10:4) and children know father’s voice, so subjects of King know and follow his voice.

understanding (4a) able to comprehend what is of lasting/eternal value. Will be able to discern between what is wise and what is rash or foolish. Will demonstrate what we call good judgment.

communication (4b) able to effectively and accurately communicate God’s truth to others. Will give good counsel to others, guiding them to make right choices also.

contrasted with fools: seen for who they really are by true subjects of Christ’s kingdom. Also, can be taken as a warning (6) not to get taken in by those who promote foolishness and doctrinal error. True subjects have ability to recognize error, will not fall for it; instead will act in generous and honorable way.

C. will experience a time of trouble v.9-14

between now and then, Ahaz and the Messiah:

coming very soon (10a) time of difficulty would begin in just over a year, starting with crop failure

people would not be prepared – complacent, at ease (9-12a)

comfortable with their own security system – two synonyms (at ease, complacent) used five times in v.9-11 – no feeling of unease whatever

felt safe, must be safe – assessment based on feelings, not objective truth; made their feelings, not biblical principles the standard. Bills paid, money in the bank, plan for future, felt good about themselves and situation, life was good.

here’s the warning, your right response would be: (11-12a)

tremble, shake with fear, strip off your finery, put sackcloth on, beat your breasts in mourning

you need to take things seriously, act on what you know to be true, not according to how you feel. Your trust/confidence is misplaced; if that doesn’t change, God will take away the things in which you trust, will take you away from the object of your confidence. Good warning for us today: if we do same as Jews of Isaiah’s day, God may do same to us.

a time of devastation, barrenness will surely come (12b-14)

warning will not be heeded: once well-managed and productive, land will become barren and even be emptied of its people – strong declaration of what would occur at time of exile to Babylonia.

D. followed by future blessing v.15-20

if warning is ineffective, desolation comes anyway, what’s with promised time of righteousness and justice? how’s that gonna happen?

focus of early part of chapter is on character of King’s subjects; time of trouble warned about comes about because of character of people in view. For there to be a change of fortunes, must be accompanying change of character.

When King takes his throne, he doesn’t work by himself; is helped in his rule by Holy Spirit. Time spoken of in Joel 2:28-29, again in Acts 2:16-18 as part of Peter’s sermon on day of Pentecost.

Spirit is poured out (15) restoration would be due entirely to gracious work of God by his Spirit; only Spirit of God can undo damage done by man’s sin

justice and righteousness become typical (16) not only character of the King, true of the kingdom he rules

peace, quietness, assurance the lot of the King’s people (17-18) lasting peace the result of righteousness, not arms treaties or nuclear disarmament or gun laws. Until people are at peace with God, will not have more than temporary or guarded peace with neighbors. That’s why first commandment is “Love God”, second is “Love your neighbor”.

God’s people will experience God’s peace in midst of turmoil (19-20) even in midst of judgment on enemies, God’s people have nothing to fear; the King of kings will ensure their protection and blessing.

Will begin (from Isaiah’s perspective) to take place when Holy Spirit is poured out, not only on particular individuals to fit them for specific tasks, but on all those who are subjects in Christ’s kingdom. Result is holiness of life, peace with God and from God, fruitfulness of ministry. All brought about by work of Holy Spirit changing character and nature of individuals. Righteousness (right relationship with God) and justice (right relationship with others) characterize those walking by the Spirit in Christ’s Church.

Isaiah in v.15-20 is describing our day, living on this side of Christ’s exaltation from the depths of humiliation in the grave to his eternal throne. The Lord Jesus did as he promised: he did ask the Father (John 14:16) who did give another helper soon after the Lord Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:1-4). Because of his kept promise, we can experience what Isaiah foretold: joy and life and health and gladness since the Comforter has come.

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