The end is in sight – Friday, 1st Week in Advent – Isaiah 29:17-24
The text of today expresses hope for change in the future. When this hope is to be fulfilled is uncertain. Yet, this hope, held out in this text, as also in several other texts in the book of Isaiah, was to keep up the spirits of the people and prevent them from sinking into a state of depression and despair. (Isaiah 1:24-31; Isaiah 2:2-5; Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 5:13, etc.),
It gives us several glimpses of the kingdom of the Messiah and a renewal of God’s precious promises to Israel. However, the Israel to which these sacred promises belong, was to be far different from the hypocritical, rebellious leaders of the secular nation during the time of Isaiah.
The nation had become perverse, sinful, formal, and hypocritical. But the time of change would come. The wicked would be reformed; the number of the pious would increase; and the pure worship of God would succeed this general formality and hypocrisy. These promises were given to comfort the “righteous remnant” who received them and believed them; but on the whole Israel continued to despise them.
What, one may ask, is the reason for such a rejection of God’s promises?
This texts draws our attention to two events; namely, the conversion of the Gentiles, and the rejection of God’s ancient people.(verse 17) The forest of Lebanon, a reference to the Gentiles, which was a barren mountain and a desolate wilderness, shall by God’s wonderful providence become a fruitful and populous place; and the ‘fruitful field‘ which reads as Carmel in Hebrew, (כרמל) representing Israel or a finely cultivated country (see Isaiah 10:18) which is now fruitful and populous, shall become as barren and desolate as that forest.
Verses 18 and 19 find its fulfilment in Matthew 11:4-5. It is Jesus the Messiah who makes the spiritually deaf to hear, the spiritually blind to see, joy for the meek and exultation in the lives of the needy. But it is also the same Messiah who will target those who take advantage of the innocent. God has a word of judgment for those who abuse the righteous. And that word is, the end is in sight.
“The gate” (verse 21)was the place where judgment was given and public assemblies held. It was here that one who had a grievance could stand and speak freely. But Israel had grown wicked and If anyone boldly stood up and reproved the oppressors “in the gate,” a trap was instantly set to work to bring that person to ruin. It is in this context that judgement is passed against Israel. The evil people who took advantage of others will be dealt with by God. It is for this reason that there is a sense of joy in the text for the power of those who do evil will be gone.
“Isaiah 29:22-24 describes the inner transformation that will take place within the people of Israel in the age to come. The Lord’s people, the meek and lowly, will find new joy in the Lord; and the ruthless and arrogant on the other hand will cease to be.