Isaiah is in the midst of describing life in the new kingdom when the Messiah arrives. In Isaiah 26 we saw that those who are faithful enter into the strong city of God whose walls are salvation, where perfect peace is experienced. Isaiah continues to describe the new life when the Christ comes in his kingdom. We see the clues for this in Isaiah 27:1-2 and verses 12-13 in which each of these four verses begin with, “In that day.” In these images we are seeing a new exodus that the Christ will accomplish, for Moses declared that a prophet like himself would rise up and lead the people.
Your Enemy Defeated (27:1)
The first image is found in the first verse. The Lord is pictured with a strong, great, and hard sword and wielding that sword against Leviathan, the serpent and dragon. The Leviathan is used in a few places in the scriptures and it is used to describe an immensely powerful enemy (Job 3:8; 41:1-32; Psalm 74:14; 104:26). Psalm 74 is notable because Leviathan is used as a description of the power of Egypt, which enslaved the people of God in the days of Moses. The use of the dragon image is rather rare in the scriptures. Ezekiel uses the dragon image to speak about the Pharaoh over Egypt (Ezekiel 29:3; 32:2). Isaiah also refers to Egypt as the dragon in Isaiah 51:9. So the Leviathan is the powerful enemy of God’s people, enslaving them and harming them. God is described as slaying the dragon when the people were released from the power of Egypt. Now Isaiah looks forward to the days of the Christ and expects the powerful enemy of God’s people to be destroyed again. What is Isaiah looking for the Christ to do that will be the slaying of the dragon, the punishing of Leviathan?
In Revelation 19 we see the Christ riding in victoriously his white horse, destroying all the enemies that are in his path. His robe is covered in blood and from his mouth comes a sharp sword to destroy the enemies (Revelation 19:13-15). Listen to what Christ’s power accomplished:
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. (Revelation 20:2–3 ESV)
Why is Satan called the dragon in Revelation? Satan is the great dragon, the ancient serpent, because he is the great enemy of God’s people. Satan is the power behind these nations harming and destroying God’s people. Satan being called the great dragon is not a random image choice. The dragon has always been oppressing and attacking God’s people. But Isaiah prophesied of the days when the Christ would come and he would slay the dragon. Isaiah sees a new exodus coming, when the people of God would be released from their great oppressor, the dragon, who has enslaved them because of their sins. The ultimate enemy of God’s people will be slain and God’s people will be set free. Isaiah sees it and John in the Revelation saw it also. Christ will defeat the ancient serpent, the great dragon, Satan and set his people free.
Vineyard Reversal (27:2-6)
The next prophetic image shows that we have understood Isaiah’s dragon image properly. Isaiah now sees a pleasant vineyard and is going to sing of it. This is a notable image in Isaiah. Go back to Isaiah 5 and recall that Isaiah described Israel. God had planted a beautiful, expensive vineyard and looked for it to bear grapes. But instead of producing good fruit the vineyard produced wild grapes. Therefore, the Lord said he would destroy the vineyard and lay it waste. Isaiah now looks to the coming of Christ that would happen “in that day.” Now Isaiah sees a vineyard that is pleasant and fruitful. Listen to how God describes himself concerning the vineyard now. The Lord is the keeper of the vineyard. He waters it every moment. He guards it day and night so that no one may harm it or damage it. Listen to the beginning of verse 4: “I have no wrath.” What a contrast to chapter 5 where the vineyard was being destroyed for its sinfulness. Now there is no more wrath. God is keeping his people, caring for them day and night, moment by moment. In fact, God desires to prove himself toward his people. Just let a weed grow up! If any thorns or briers come up, God is happy to battle against them. Any opponent to God’s people will be fought, trampled, and burned. Wrath is not toward his people but toward those who would come against his people. The enemies have an opportunity to come to the Lord and find peace. If they will not, then they will be destroyed for standing against God and his people. God is at peace with his people, watering and caring for his people. This leads to the vineyard blossoming and filling the whole world with its fruit (27:6). In Isaiah 5 the Lord looked at his vineyard and he did not find the fruit he was expecting. Now the Lord sees fruitfulness in his vineyard.
Those who participate in this exodus from sin and are kept and cared for by the Lord bear fruit throughout the world. In John 15 Jesus speaks of his disciples abiding in him and bearing fruit. Those who do not bear fruit are taken away. Jesus said that whoever abides in him bears fruit. Notice how the imagery is the same. Those who belong to this new vineyard bear fruit throughout the earth. Jesus went on to say:
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8 ESV)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16 ESV)
God is glorified by our fruit bearing. We were appointed to go and bear fruit for Jesus. Isaiah is looking forward to this time when the new Israel in Christ is fruitful. We must see this as our joyful task. What God has cultivated in our lives is to produce something in our hearts and in our actions. Those who experience the new exodus from sin and belong to God’s vineyard are producing fruit to the glory of the Father. Our fruitfulness verifies our place in the vineyard of the Lord.
Saved With Purpose (27:7-11)
Isaiah turns back to his present audience and wants them to observe and recognize the grace of God. God has not struck Judah like he struck the world nations. The other nations were totally annihilated. They were brought to a complete end. But not so with Judah. God is remaining faithful to his covenant promises by not utterly destroying the nation as it deserved. The people were removed from the land so that their sins could be removed (27:8-9). Exile was needed to make them remorseful for their sins and develop penitent awareness of their place before God.
Part of the Egyptian exodus and entering the promised land was the eradication of their idols (Exodus 34:13). In the new exodus Isaiah pictures the people being exiled for their sinfulness so that the fruit they will bear in the future will be the ending of their idolatry. They will not have idols in their hearts or altars in their lands. There will be nothing that pulls their heart away from the Lord this time. This is some of the fruit that we are to be bearing for the Lord. We must examine what idols reside in our hearts and homes and remove them with great diligence. Notice verse 9 where God declares that the idol removal is the fruit of atonement. Understanding the atonement that God is making for us means that we will shatter the idols in our lives. If we are keeping our idols, then we do not understand the atonement that God has made for us through his Son. We will not want idols anymore because we have a penitent awareness of sin and are so thankful for the atonement offered to us. We will see our idols as broken cisterns that hold no water and do not satisfy. Your idol is what you trust. If your only hope and trust is not in the Lord, then you have idols that must be destroyed for his atonement.
The Lord’s Harvest (27:12-13)
Verse 12 begins by taking us back to the time of the coming Christ, “In that day.” Isaiah pictures in the day of the coming Christ that the Lord will thresh out grain between the river Euphrates and the brook of Egypt. These rivers were the traditional geographical boundary lines of the promised land. God will go through and gather his people, like a harvest. Those that are false are threshed out of the grain and his people will be gleaned one by one. Further, the lost of the world are going to come into this harvest time and they will worship the Lord on the holy mountain. When Christ sets up his kingdom the world is going to gather to him for worship. A worldwide exodus from sin will occur and all the lost can be harvested to salvation. All the peoples of the earth can be brought in through the atonement offered by God. Thus they will come together in this kingdom full of praise and worship.
God is transforming people into beautiful, fruitful plants through his atoning and conquering work and placing them in his vineyard. Christ would set people free from sin by slaying the Leviathan. God would not have wrath but will protect and defend his people who are those who bear fruit. Part of our fruitfulness is removing the idols from our hearts and lives because of the new exodus we have experienced. In spite of our rebellion, God is gathering all that are his into kingdom so that he will be glorified and worshiped by all the earth.