Isaiah 33-34, Jude 1
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. – Jude 1:24-25 ESV
One of the difficult things about reading the book of Isaiah is how it mixes together events that will take place in the not-so-distant future and those that have yet to take place. Within a single chapter you will have prophecies concerning the coming destruction of Judah at the hands of the Assyrians, and predictions of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. There would be more immediate fulfillments of many of the prophecies contained in the book of Isaiah. But some of them would be partial in nature, to be fulfilled in their entirety in the end times. God's divine plan has an end to it. There is a final aspect to His dealings with mankind and the people of Israel. And yet, He is operating in time and space, all along the way, orchestrating events in such a way that all things will culminate on His predetermined schedule. God told Isaiah, “Now I will arise…now I will lift myself up, now I will be exalted” (Isaiah 33:10 ESV). There is a day coming when God will implement the final phase of His great plan. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8 ESV). The difficult we face is our inability to see what God has planned out into the future. We are limited in our perspective. So God told us what would happen. He gave us a glimpse into the future. He provided us with an assurance that He has it all taken care of and there is nothing for us to worry about.
What does this passage reveal about God?
The people of God would find themselves falling victim to the attacks of Assyria and Babylon. The northern kingdom of Israel would end up destroyed and living in captivity in Assyrian. Not long afterwards, the southern kingdom of Judah would fall to the Babylonians and end up in living in exile for 70 years. But God was not done yet. He would eventually restore them to their land. He would keep His promise to Abraham and allow them to return to the land of Canaan. He would miraculously provide for them so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem, restore the walls that surrounded it and reconstruct the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. But they would find themselves without a king. Over the next centuries, they would be relatively powerless and helpless, unable to defend themselves against outside forces and constantly ending up the pawns of more powerful forces. But God was not done with them yet. He would eventually send His Son to be born as one of them. He would grow up among them. He would preach a message of repentance to them. But they would eventually reject Him, demanding His death. But again, God was not done with them. God's ultimate plan for His people, the Jews, involves a yet-to-be-fulfilled event that still looms out in the future. Isaiah is given a glimpse of that yet future event. “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty” (Isaiah 33:17 ESV). “Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, not will any of its cords be broken. But there the Lord in majesty will be for us” (Isaiah 33:20-21 ESV). How easy it is to judge the faithfulness of God based on our limited perspective. How quick we can be to jump to conclusions and question God's sovereignty or doubt His love. But we must always remember that God is not done yet.
What does this passage reveal about man?
As God's people, this world will always be a place of difficulty and confusion. This world was never intended to be our permanent home. We should not allow ourselves to get too comfortable here. But because we have limited perspective and are unable to see very far into the future, we can find ourselves becoming infatuated and enchanted with what this world has to offer. We can end up expecting all of God's blessings to show up here and now, forgetting that His plan involves the hereafter. God has an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. Our greatest challenge is to keep our eyes focused on Him and not what we see happening around us. We must cling to His promises concerning the future. But the world will want us to see this life as our preferred destiny. We will find ourselves tempted to try and get all we can get now, to live for the moment. But God wants us to live for the future. So He has provided us with glimpses into what is going to happen. He has made it clear that there is a day coming when His Son will return and the final chapter of the story will be written. In this life, we will find ourselves surrounded by those who would tempt us to follow their lead, discounting the activity of God in our lives and dismissing the inevitability of the life to come. They will infiltrate the people of God, disguised as one of the flock, but with evil intentions and motivated by wrong motives. Jude described them in very stark terms: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4 ESV). He goes on to say that they “defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones” (Jude 1:8 ESV). “These people blaspheme all that they do not understand” (Jude 1:10 ESV). They are “grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires, they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16 ESV). Basically, these people are worldly and devoid of the Spirit. He compares them to hidden reefs, waterless clouds, fruitless trees, wild waves and wandering stars. In other words, they can't be trusted.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
But there is one we can trust: Jesus Christ. He is able to keep us from stumbling. He is able to keep us in the love of God and protect us, even when we find ourselves surrounded by those who would deceive and distract us. Isaiah found himself surrounded by those who would reject not only his message, but his God. He had to be reminded that God was not finished, that He had a plan. God would prove Himself faithful. The test for Isaiah would be whether he would remain faithful to God as his world seemingly collapsed around him. He would have to trust God while his contemporaries continued to live in open rebellion to God. He would have to continue preaching his message of repentance when no one seemed to be listening or responding. Jude told his readers, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21 ESV). We must remain faithful. We must trust that God will be faithful and send His Son to finish what He began. In the meantime we are to “have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire, to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:22-23 ESV).
Father, You are trustworthy. I can rest in the knowledge that You have a plan that You are working and there is no one who can stop it. I must not let the presence of those who would distract or deceive me disturb me. You told me there would be those who would try to sneak in and take my focus off of the reality of Your sovereign plan and Your Son's eminent return. Help me stay faithful even if those around me decide to follow their own sinful desires. I want to remain blameless and true, dependent on You and determined to stay the course until the end. Amen