Posted: 13 May 2011 12:00 AM PDT
ISAIAH 1–12 FORMS THE FIRST major division of the book; Isaiah 11–12 closes that division with a picture of the ideal king and the changes he will bring, with the Lord being praised in Zion.
There is a rapid move from the destruction of Assyria in Isaiah 10 to the establishment of the kingdom of God in Isaiah 11. The two are obviously connected theologically: it is God's initiative that effects both. Nevertheless, there is in Isaiah's prophecy a massive foreshortening of the historical process.
In the vision by which he was called to prophetic ministry, Isaiah saw a seed springing from the stump, the remnant of Israel (Isa. 6:13). Now Assyria falls like a mighty forest before the ax of God (Isa. 10:33–34)—and a shoot springs from the stump of Jesse (Isa. 11:1), i.e., from the Davidic dynasty. If in Isaiah 4:2 the Branch referred to the remnant, or to the Lord's saving work through the remnant, here it explicitly refers to the Messiah. "Messiah" simply means "anointed one," so every anointed king in the Davidic line was in this sense a "messiah." But only the ultimate Messiah could fill the slot described here. Uniquely empowered by the Spirit of God (Isa. 11:2–3a; cf. John 3:34), his rule is impeccably righteous (Isa. 11:3b–5), the antithesis of the corruption in the nation that has attracted God's judgment. So perfect and absolute will be Messiah's rule that death and destruction will die: the ultimate state he introduces will be ideal (Isa. 11:7–9).
Verses 10–16, the second part of chapter 11, unpack some of the symbolic elements of the preceding verses. God's covenant people are regathered to him (Isa. 11:11–16), but surrounding them are the nations who will also rally to him (Isa. 11:10). The banner raised over this vast assembly (Isa. 11:10, 12) marks Messiah's rule, "and his place of rest will be glorious" (Isa. 11:10). At one level, the "remnant" thus regathered refers to the survivors of historic Israel (Isa. 11:12), but in the prophetic foreshortening they are also the generation of the elect and faithful people of God in the last days.
The praise of chapter 12 is directed toward "the Holy One of Israel," one of Isaiah's titles for God. In chapter 11 the Messiah is among his people and his reign has begun; in chapter 12 God is among his people and is praised. It is hard not to see that the presence of the Messiah and the presence of God are one and the same, just as in Isaiah 9:2–7 the Davidic king is also the mighty God. Here is the consummation of salvation. "The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isa. 12:2–3).
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