Isaiah (Part 63): Glorying Offspring - Part 2 (Ch 54)
Although the Mosaic covenant faded, God did not give up on the Jews. They too are invited to become offspring of the Servant. In Romans, Paul speaks of the Jews being grafted back into covenant relationship. And thus we see the pattern of all of Scripture: union—fall away—restoration. Isaiah 54:4-10 reminds us of this outline in the picture of the deserted wife. It is, in fact, the very meta-narrative of the whole Bible. God’s image bearers dwelled with him in the Garden. They fell away. Through God’s effort in the Servant, they are restored. Over and over we see God revealing this plan: Joseph, the favorite son, sold into slavery, lifted up and restored; Daniel, the favored administrator, sent to the lion’s den, and miraculously restored; the Shulammite, caught up with the king, separated from her Shepherd Lover, is united with him again; Mary is pregnant, and Joseph will put her away, but God brings them back together. We even see Jesus in close communion with the Father, being torn away at the cross, only to be restored in resurrection. All those restorations bring victory and glory.
In the last part of the chapter, we read about Jerusalem restored. Jerusalem was the place of the temple—the place where God met with humankind. But it had been ravaged and destroyed. That again pictures the fall in the Garden. But God intervenes through the Servant to realize his purpose of everlasting love relationship with his image bearers. And so we read of fulfilled Jerusalem—realized restoration—as being adorned in sapphires and rubies. This New Jerusalem receives its righteousness (faithfulness to the covenant) from God (54:17b).
The struggle was fought in Isaiah 53. The victory was celebrated in Isaiah 54. Now there is a sense of settled life in victory in Isaiah 55. The chapter begins with an invitation for the thirsty to come drink. This ought to remind us of the very last chapter in our Bibles. In Revelation 22:17 the one who is thirsty is invited to come. In fact, we find quite a few similarities.
Isaiah 55:1 Come, everyone who is thirsty…
Revelation 22:17 And the one who is thirsty should come.
Isaiah 54:11-17 the New Jerusalem
Revelation 21:9-27 the New Jerusalem
Isaiah 54:4-10 “You will forget the shame of your youth; you will no longer remember.
Revelation 21:2-8 He will wipe away every tear; the previous things have passed away.
Isaiah 54:1-3 Offspring; Dispossess the nations; Enlarge the site of your tent
Revelation 20:11-21:1 People in book of life; People dispossessed of book of life; New heaven and new earth
Isaiah 53 Victory!
Revelation 19-20 Victory!
We notice parallel paths in Isaiah and Revelation—Isaiah depicting Christ’s first advent; Revelation showing the second.
Chapter 55 goes on to invite people to buy food and drink without money. In other words, God would supply the provision without cost to any who come. Notice that here in the victory of restoration, the image bearers are returned to the state enjoyed in the Garden. There God had “caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). He told Adam and Eve, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden” (Genesis 2:16b). And now in Isaiah 55’s restoration, God again tells his people to eat, but then admonishes that this time they are to “eat what is good” (55:2b), reminding them to trust what he gives.
At this point we should pause to consider a question that may arise. Has this restoration placed God’s image bearers back in the exact position and state in which they were prior to the Fall? Could they fall again?
One of the conflicts faith electionism has with Calvinism is the insistence by Calvinism that God chooses those whom he will regenerate unconditionally. Thus, a person that is an enemy of God with no desire for God is changed by God to accept God’s goodness and offer him love. The faith electionist would argue that that kind of love, which is, in effect, coerced, is not what we find defined in the Bible as true love. Jesus told us, in describing the ultimate of love, that it evidences itself in the giving of oneself even to the point of death for someone else (John 15:13). Calling this “love” would, of course, make little sense if the person giving his or her life were forced to do so. Thus, the faith electionist concludes that love offered in acceptance of God must come from a will free to do so without coercion.
That idea, however, becomes problematic when viewing love after the person has become a child of God. Is that person still free to choose? Arminians will argue that, to be consistent, love must come freely even after salvation, and therefore if a saved person stops loving—chooses no longer to maintain faith in the Redeemer—he or she would lose the covenant union and become once more a child of death. Arminians, however, don’t seem to realize that this does not satisfactorily solve the problem for them either. Once this age is over and God’s people all dwell in the new earth, would a free will love continue to put us in jeopardy? No Arminian believes Hell would still be a possibility then. But why not if love can be love only on a free will basis? It would seem that no system offers both an uncoerced basis for love and eternal covenant security consistently in every step—to love in partaking of salvation, to continue to love while still here, and then to continue in love relationship in our eternal home.
I believe that we can realize both that highest form of love and secure relationship. The answer, however, must be approached carefully. To begin we should first take a step back to remind ourselves of what being an image bearer means.
God is truth, goodness, and beauty, and all God’s condescending attributes (things such as love, justice, holiness, etc.) flow from these three. But significantly to understand our image bearing, we need to focus not merely on the fact that God is truth, goodness, and beauty, but also that we can know God is truth, goodness, and beauty. We know what truth is. We can sense what is good and what is bad. We can appreciate beauty in its appearance around us. The point is that we are able to recognize God’s revelation as truth and goodness and beauty. So the qualities we hold as image bearers that I’m intent on highlighting are not the truth, goodness, and beauty themselves, but rather our ability to apprehend that truth, goodness, and beauty. In the apprehension, we image our God.
Of course, everything issues from God. Everything we know and see and live among proceeded from his hand. As God reveals and as we learn, we gain context of both the universe and life itself. We learn truth from God. Therefore, truth recognition is part of our image. We’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a conceptual intelligence.
We also realize the perfection in macro and micro detail of the universe about us. In perfection there is satisfaction and fulfillment. As God created, he pronounced each day not merely done, but also good. As he made his image bearers on that sixth day, he pronounced the creation very good—a degree of goodness indicating a scale of judgment by which he measured his satisfaction in the activity. We learn goodness from God; we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a conscious morality.
God’s creation functions not only in practicality, but also in artistry. God’s Eden presented to the senses of his first image bearers the sounds, smells, and sights that delighted as well as nourished. God told us, “The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food” (Genesis 2:9, emphasis mine). We learn beauty from God; we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a perceptive aesthetic.
So, then, through conceptual intelligence, conscious morality, and perceptive aesthetic we apprehend truth, goodness, and beauty. But to believe what we apprehend of truth, goodness, and beauty, we must accept them as such. We believe and will and hope in response to what we apprehend through our intelligence, morality, and aesthetic. Thus, those image-bearing qualities of apprehension are met by image-bearing qualities of approbation (assent or commendation). We respond in appreciation or rejection. Thus, we’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a volitional faith.
Originally, through the progression of creation, the command to fill the earth and subdue it, the preservation of life through the food God provided, and the anticipation of rest, God showed how he has built into our existence a forward-looking hope that stems from, in, and toward relationship with him. We’ve been given the image-bearing quality of a spiritual hope.
Finally, once revelation is apprehended and approbated, we can put in practice (articulate) revelation learned and appreciated and believed. In the very act of our creation God revealed the relationship he enjoys and the relationship he wants with us. His Three-in-One is mirrored by our two-in-one. Therefore, we’ve been given the knowledge and experience of the image-bearing quality of relational love.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they didn’t lose the image, but the image was distorted. What about it was distorted? It wasn’t that suddenly we were left without the ability to believe or hope or love. The distortion came in how we perceived things—in those qualities of apprehension of truth, goodness, and beauty. We began to look for truth, goodness, and beauty to satisfy ourselves from sources other than God.
When God regenerates, the distortion of our apprehenders (conceptual intelligence, conscious morality, and perceptive aesthetic) is righted. Our faith, then, can see rightly (spiritually) and receive God’s truth, goodness, and beauty as it should. (That ought to sound a little Calvinistic to you because I’ve just spoken of regeneration prior to faith that perceives rightly. But bear with me. We will see where all this leads next time.)