The thirty-first chapter of Isaiah continues the woes from the thirtieth chapter. The nation of Judah has decided to put their trust in Egypt to save them from the Assyrian invasion rather than trusting in the Lord to deliver them. What is God going to do with these people who have failed to trust him? What is God’s message to people who will not put their lives in the hands of their God? This is what we will see in Isaiah 31-32.
Trusting In False Gods (31:1-9)
The woes for relying on Egypt continue. The condemnation is that they are trusting in what they can see, physical things like chariots and horses, rather than trusting in the unseen, the Holy One of Israel. Verse 3 contains the powerful teaching of this chapter: “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.” You are relying on nothing! You are relying on horses when you could be relying on God! Egypt is not God but you are acting like they are God.
Therefore, Egypt stands for anything that I think I need outside of the promises of God. Judah was wrong for going to Egypt for help because it was turning somewhere else than God. This is our condemnation as well when we are not living by faith in the Lord. There are so many ways in which we do this. When we believe that our lives are incomplete because we are not married, are not dating, do not have children, did not have a good childhood, do not have a job which is satisfying, are not making a lot of money, do not have a big house, or whatever it is that we find discontentment, we are declaring that God is insufficient. Our hope and joy is being placed in something else but God.
But God is so good even in the face of our idolatry. Listen to what God says he will do. He is going to defend Jerusalem (31:4-5). But it is going to be God himself. Assyria will fall by the sword, but it will not be the sword of man (31:8). God was going to accomplish his purposes despite the faithlessness of his people. This leads us into Isaiah 32 where God will describe the coming judgment of Judah and the future hope to come because of God’s faithfulness.
The Righteous King (32:1-8)
There is going to be a new administration. A righteous king is going to come who will rule rightly and justly. Notice what this new administration will cause for those who belong under his rule (in his kingdom). In verse 2 we see that those who are in this king’s kingdom are protected. They are given shelter from wind and storm. They also are given rich blessings and provisions. They are like streams of water in a dry place and like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. There will be refreshment for people when the righteous king establishes his rule. Further, there will be a transformation that occurs on the people, as seen in verses 3-5. Notice the four areas of transformation: eyes, ears, heart, and tongue. Listen to these words of hope. The eyes will not longer be closed. The people will not be blinded anymore. The ears will listen to what God has to say. The heart will now understand and know. The tongues will speak distinctly. In summary, now the people will pay attention to the Lord and act responsibly in faith. They will know how to act. Now the people will have high moral standards, give wise counsel, and exhibit honorable motives. The people will be commendable in this new, righteous administration. Wickedness and foolishness will not be praised. The people will not follow or respect foolish leaders and scoundrels. The Messiah will rule his subjects and they will want to know his will and obey it.
New Society (32:9-20)
Verse 9-14 now describe what is going to happen in the next year. Devastation is going to occur. There is going to be great mourning and destruction. Their hope is lost. So the picture is that God is going to ultimately deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians but the devastation to the nation will be overwhelming. The land is desolate, the palace is forsaken, and the cities deserted. It is important to consider what these images mean. We must remember that when these kinds of judgments came, it reflected that God was not in a relationship with his people. God was stepping aside and allowing destruction and judgment to fall on the people. Deuteronomy taught that very point.
The LORD will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. (Deuteronomy 28:20 ESV)
“All the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.'” (Deuteronomy 29:24–25 ESV)
The Lord pictures a severing of the blessings and a severing of the relationship with the Lord. You will be cast away and perish in a foreign land is the repeated refrain by Moses. So the desolation of the nation is the visible mark to know that they have abandoned their covenant with God and have forsaken the Lord.
But there is a critical time marker to this prophecy. Notice in verse 15 that God says this will remain “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.” Before we get into the meaning of this, I want us to observe the imagery. It is a water image. The Spirit was not going to be sprinkled, dribbled, or drizzled out. The Spirit was going to be poured out. It is a picture of a deluge.
Notice also that it is a declaration of reversals. The wilderness will become a fruitful field. The fruitful field will become the forest. The severing of blessings and the severing of the relationship with the Lord will be completely reversed. The subsequent blessings of this reversal will not be dribbled out on them, but poured out on the people. The people will be swimming in the blessings of the Lord. Consider also why the Spirit as used as the entity for the distribution of these blessings. The Spirit represents life and pictured as the life-giver. We see the Spirit, or also translated breath of God, being put back into Israel in Ezekiel 37 and giving them life. So here we have the same image. Life is going to be brought back to his people. The purpose of the Spirit is not indwelling. That is not the prophecy nor the imagery. The imagery is a flood of blessings returning to the people at that time. Israel will be restored to peace, quietness, and security eternally (32:17). Notice that these are the results of the rule of Christ. This language in verse 17 also parallels the fruit of the Spirit that the apostle Paul spoke of in Galatians 5:22-23. Isaiah is teaching that the richness and fullness of life come from what is spiritual, not earthly.
Go forward in the scriptures to Acts 1:6 and notice that this is exactly what the apostles are asking Jesus about. They want to know when this is going to happen. Jesus is the Christ who is establishing his rule. So when is the kingdom going to be restored to Israel? Listen to Jesus’ answer:
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7–8 ESV)
Jesus ties the restoration of the covenant blessings to Israel with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah makes that connection. The arrival of the Holy Spirit is the great reversal when God will bless his people again and be in covenant relationship with them again. So when we turn to Acts 2 we see the Holy Spirit arrive, signaling this restoration and why Peter preaches repentance and baptism to be joined with Christ and be reconciled to God with the forgiveness of their sins. Isaiah is looking forward to a renewal and restoration of God’s people who will act completely differently when the Spirit is poured out.
What does this mean for us? Here we are living our lives nearly 2000 years after when the Spirit was poured out. So what effect is this to have for us?
(1) Jesus is your hiding place from the storm (32:2). Jesus has come to be the refuge for your life. Jesus is to be the shade for your life. Jesus is the streams of water in the desert of your life. You will find refreshment in Jesus. God’s people will find Jesus as their rest and refuge for life.
(2) Residents of this kingdom exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (32:16-17). Paul gave the description of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives in Galatians 5:22-24.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22–24 ESV)
Consider those final words. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. I want us to consider the order that is given. When we find our refuge, shade, rest, and thirst in Christ, then the fruit of the Sprit will develop in our lives. When I rest in Christ, then I will be able to love the way God wants me to. When I find by help in Jesus then I will be able to have the self-control God is calling us to have. We will want to kill the desires of the flesh because we find our satisfaction in Christ alone. See the glorious kingdom you belong to and enjoy the blessings on the restored relationship. Then put away the works of the flesh and become transformed to the fruit of the Spirit.