Vol. IX — No. 29 July 21, 1968
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: aha the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.…And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I Will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.
In Christ Jesus, the Lord of the Church, Fellow Redeemed:
The words of our text are prophecy in poetic form. The subject matter is the Church in the New Testament era and extending beyond the end of time into the timelessness of eternity.
There are several features of poetic prophecy that we must understand if we are to read or hear such prophecy read with understanding. The first feature is that prophecy is in general without perspective. the intervals of time are not clearly indicated. The prophet will address himself to his readers in a historical setting, then move into the New Testament era and then leap into eternity without indicating the flow of time. It would appear that this method of prophecy is a reflection of the fact that all time is an eternal present for the Lord. You will find that our Lord also used prophecy without perspective in his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. The reader must take care to distinguish the one from the other.
Another feature is the use of vivid word pictures that appeal to the senses. The Hebrew mind dealt with the concrete that the senses can perceive, not with the abstract for the mind alone. That was more characteristic of the Greeks. So the picture language is very vivid, as for example, the picture of the wolf and the lamb feeding side by side. The reader must guard against a false literalism, as though the prophet is speaking of a coming age here on earth when literally the wolf will cease to be an enemy of the lamb, will shed its wolfish characteristics and will peacefully graze with the lamb. Such literalism would destroy the meaning of the prophet. He is using a vivid word picture to express the concept of peace. When such word pictures are used, the details of the picture dare not be pressed or forced. The same thing is true in the parables of the Lord. As the point of the parable must be discovered and kept clearly in mind, so the point, the message, of the vivid, poetic picture must dominate over the details of the picture itself.
With these considerations in mind let us examine this jewel of poetic prophecy. We shall find it to be—
That expression sounds familiar, does it not? We sing in one of our hymns:
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.…
Isaih heard the Lord proclaim, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” The Lord reaches back to the great week of creation to bring to the mind a vivid picture of what He intended to do in the future. What is more vivid than the memory of those days when the Lord spoke, and, behold, it was! “Let there be” and there was! So He had once done, and so He would do again. The power of this poetic picture of divine activity becomes even more forceful when we recall that Isaiah recorded these words of the Lord in the days before the Babylonian Captivity when that judgment was hanging over the people as a dark and threatening cloud; That judgment came, and when it struck, the faithful remnant would feel as though God had forsaken His own or as though He were helpless against the onslaughts of His enemies or as though He had died. In their hour of misery when hope almost gave way to despair, the faithful were to recall this word of prophecy: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind.”
God’s creative power would assert itself once again. In the beginning He had created first the universe as a home for man and then on the sixth day He created man to inhabit his divinely created home. But man has brought the curse of sin upon himself and all creation so that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Romans 8:22. God revealed that He would create a new heaven and earth, but this time He would create the people first and then their new home. This is the glorious work that was begun on Pentecost Day and shall continue until this present earth is destroyed and replaced with God’s own new heaven and earth. When the shackles of sin holding men and women and children captive are broken by repentance and faith, when smug self-righteousness is replaced by humble trust in the Lord’s righteousness, when dying men become heirs of eternal life, God the Spirit has been at work creating something new. We are part of that new creation, for “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” II Cor. 5:20. What Isaiah recorded in such vivid poetic prophecy has been fulfilled in part in us. And we await its perfect fulfillment in the world to come.
The prophetic view presents us with another picture of the Church—
“But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: For, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.” These words were spoken to a people about to fall under judgment. When those days came, tears would replace rejoicing as women saw their husbands cut down, as families were separated, as many died along the wayside to Babylon. Yet the Lord speaks of a people of joy! How can these things be? Last Sunday we studied the words of Peter and found that tribulation, the cross, is an inescapable lot for children of God. Yea, suffering is a symbol of God’s love and a distinguishing characteristic of God’s people of all times. Yet this prophecy speaks of the people of God rejoicing. Can suffering and rejoicing be reconciled?
Yes, indeed! Did not the Lord say to the man sick of palsy, “Son, be of good cheer. They sins be forgiven thee”? And He said this to the man as he lay there paralyzed and in excruciating pain. In the midst of suffering he could be of good cheer. Do you not think that the malefactor on the cross rejoiced and experienced exceeding great joy in the midst of his anguish when he heard from the lips of his Lord, “Toe day shalt thou be with me in paradise”? The book of Acts reports the preaching activity of the apostles. It reports also the reaction of the unbelieving Jewish authorities. They had the apostles imprisoned and beaten. They released them with the command that they should not “speak in the name of Jesus.” Then we are told that the apostles “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Acts 5:41. There is an inner joy which no suffering can extinguish. It is the joy of having found and of possessing the Lord Jesus Christ.
That joy will one day be experienced without any attendant suffering. Here prophecy spans the ages to eternity, to that time when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4.
A third view of the Church is that—
“And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” God’s children have needs—daily needs. Day after day we sin. Day after day we ask for forgiveness, and then sin more. He constantly must appear as petitioners before the throne of grace, crying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Time and again in our lives we need help of one kind or another. Sickness may strike us down or our loved ones. War or the threat of war may cause terror to strike our hearts. The fury of God in nature may cause us to quake. The fear of violent men may cause us to shake in fear. At such times we appear as petitioners before the throne of grace, crying, “Lord, help!”
He Petition a God who will hear and answer and who is able to respond to our needs. “Before they call, I will answer.” An amazing example of this promise fulfilled is recorded in the history of God’s people. When the Children of Israel left Egypt, Pharaoh pursued with the elite of his military forces. The Children of Israel were trapped between the sea and the Egyptian hosts. Moses encouraged the people as a true man of God, saying, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Ex. 14:14. But all the time the heart of Moses was crying unto the Lord. Then we read, “And the Lord said unto Hoses, wherefore criest thou unto me? speak, unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” Ex. 14:15. And the people went forward—through the midst of the sea to safety. Before Moses found words to speak to the Lord petitioning help, the Lord’s rescue plan was ready and waiting for His people.
Again and again these same promises are repeated throughout Scripture for the benefit of God’s people. Oh that we would but take God at His Word! How often do we not worry when we should be casting those cares upon Him in prayer! How often do we not make ourselves the victims of our own fears because our faith is too weak to petition the Lord in prayer. What misery we heap upon ourselves, what anxious moments we create for ourselves—all because we forget the promise, “…while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Let us Speak to our God so that we may join the hosts of petitioners heard.
A final view we have of the Church, namely that as—
The peace that the Lord of the Church came to earth to bestow upon His Church is pictured in most vivid imagery by the prophet: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” The peace and harmony among the animals and between the animals and man as it existed in paradise before the fall into sin is used by the prophet to picture the peace sent from heaven to earth by God for His Church.
The promised Messiah is called the “Prince of Peace.” St. Paul calls Christ Jesus “our peace.” He Speaks of his Gentile readers as having been at one time “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” That was the condition of all men—a condition of estrangement and alienation from God which manifested itself in strife and friction and warfare among men. Jesus Christ altered that condition by His atoning blood. His blood canceled the guilt of mankind. His sacrifice restored fellowship between God and man. The condition of enmity between God and man was converted into one of peace by Christ, who is our peace. Eph. 2:12-14. In his letter to the Romans Paul puts it in this way, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:l. This peace between heaven and earth, between God and man, the prophet proclaimed under the picture of peace and harmony in the animal kingdom.
We are the beneficiaries of that peace. On the night of His betrayal the Prince of Peace said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. This is for us. We are the beneficiaries of our Lord’s peace-making efforts which were crowned with success. In the midst of the frictions and tensions of life we have peace in Christ. We can retreat from the world of strife to a haven of peace. The certainty that all is well with us and our God gives us the strength to bear all that must be borne in this life and gives the assurance that peace everlasting awaits us in the moment of death. Peace, His peace, be with you alway. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.