One language

After the flood that wiped out all living creatures on earth (Genesis 7:21), it says in Genesis 11:1 “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” What that meant was that not only did everyone speak the same language, but also used the same jargon or slang words. Therefore, everyone understood each other perfectly. The descendants of Ham, the son of Noah’s that was cursed by God, worked together on a building project known as the tower of Babel. When God discovered what they were doing, he said, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:6-7).

The Hebrew word translated confound, balal means to mix (1101). Literally, what this meant was that words began to have mixed meanings. For instance, today a guy might say a girl is hot, which means he thinks she’s attractive. Anyone that didn’t know the slang meaning of the word hot would be confused by what he said. With each generation, words take on new meanings, therefore our speech is no longer pure. The prophet Zephaniah spoke about a time in the future when God would “turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9). Essentially, what he was saying was there would come a time when God would  clarify the meaning of words so that everyone would understand each other again, so that the world could operate as a single, unified kingdom.

Throughout the Old Testament, God called his people to be separated from the rest of the world. Israel stood apart as the one righteous nation among all the wicked nations. Because Israel failed in keeping God’s commandments and even the holy city Jerusalem turned to idolatry, God decided to create a new world order under which all the people of the world could be united to serve him (Zephaniah 3:8-9). Rather than save only his chosen people, God would purge the world of evil and save all who would humble themselves and put their trust in the LORD (Zephaniah 3;11-12). Among those who would be saved would be a remnant of the nation of Israel that would also accept Jesus Christ as their Savior (Zephaniah 3:13).

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The kinsman redeemer

The Israelite community was designed in such a way that families would remain in tact for centuries and ultimately for eternity. When they entered the Promised Land, each of the twelve tribes of Israel was designated a territory that they were to occupy. Every family was to have its own piece of property that would be passed on from generation to generation through an inheritance given to the oldest son. In the event, the family got into debt and had to sell its land, the property could later be redeemed by a close relative referred to as the kinsman redeemer.

It was the responsibility of the kinsman redeemer to preserve “the integrity, life, property, and family name of his close relative or for executing justice upon his murderer” (1350). In the role of executor of justice, the kinsman redeemer was referred to as the avenger or revenger of blood. Isaiah portrayed the arrival of the avenger on the scene as someone waging war on Israel’s enemies. He said, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:1-3).

Isaiah described the day of the Lord as one in which there would be much blood shed. Revelation 19:13 indicates that that day will come at the end of the great tribulation when God’s wrath is poured out on mankind. John the apostle declared, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11-14).

The Messiah’s role as the kinsman redeemer was unique to the Israelites because the kinsman redeemer had to be a blood relative. Although Jesus died for the sins of the world, he only came to redeem the children of Israel. Isaiah declared of Israel’s Messiah, “For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie; so he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:8-9). Israel’s rejection of its Messiah caused the door to be opened to the Gentiles who received their inheritance as adopted children of Christ. Eventually, the family of God will be integrated and all who are true believers will share equally in Christ’s inheritance (Isaiah 63:17).

Upside Down

The land God intended the Israelites to possess was described for Joshua as being, “from the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast” (Joshua 1:4). The closest Israel came to occupying the entire land promised to it was during the reign of king David when a friendship was formed with the king of Tyre, the Philistine hold on Israelite territory was broken, the Moabites were subjugated, and Damascus was forced to pay tribute to David (David’s Conquests).

Because Israel never gained full control of the land, kingdoms such as Tyre and Syria continued to exist and were a continual threat to Israel’s well-being. The only way for God’s kingdom to truly be established was for these kingdoms to be destroyed. God used the Assyrian empire not only to execute his judgment on Israel, but also to punish the universal sin of the nations that rebelled against God and the establishment of his kingdom on earth.

Moab, a kingdom to the east of Israel, was described by Isaiah as an extortioner, a spoiler, and an oppressor that would be consumed out of the land (Isaiah 16:4). Concerning Moab, Isaiah prophesied, “but now the LORD hath spoken, saying, within three years, as the years of a hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble” (Isaiah 16:14). “The destruction of Moab was probably connected with an invasion by Sargon of Assyria in 715/713 B.C.” (note on Isaiah 15:1).

The crushing of Damascus, the capital of Syria, took place during the reign of Tiglath-pilneser king of Assyria who captured Damascus and made it an Assyrian province (note on Isaiah 17:3). Damascus was like Tyre in that it was included in the land given to the Israelites, but it could not be converted from Baal worship and it influenced Israel into practicing idolatry. Referring to Damascus’ destruction, Isaiah declared, “At that day shall a man look to his maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves or the images” (Isaiah 17:7-8).

An indication that Isaiah’s message about the doom of Egypt was both immediate and ultimate in its significance was its partial fulfillment in 670 B.C. when Esarhaddon conquered Egypt (Isaiah 19:4), but some of Egypt’s transformation had yet to occur. In particular, references to Egypt being converted to the Lord make it clear that Isaiah was talking about things that would happen after the Messiah was born (Isaiah 19:19-21). Isaiah’s shift in focus to the eternal kingdom of God indicated that the transformation of the world would not be complete until the Messiah’s reign began.

Speaking about the end of time or last days, Isaiah said, “In that day shall Israel be third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed by Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance” (Isaiah 19:24-25). God’s judgment for universal sin has not yet occurred, therefore, the transformation that occurred during Israel’s captivity was only phase one of God’s plan of redemption. In the end, Isaiah predicted, only God’s kingdom would be left standing.

Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof…Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. (Isaiah 24:1, 23)

The last days

After Isaiah presented the LORD’s case against Judah and Jerusalem, he shifted gears and focused on the future. In the transition, Isaiah made it clear that God had given up on Judah’s kings. He no longer expected his people to do his will. Instead, the LORD would accomplish his purposes through a single person, the Messiah, who would once and for all triumph over God’s enemies.

Isaiah described the time period in the future he was referring to as “the last days” (Isaiah 2:2). The term “last days” is used frequently today in connection with Bible prophecy. The last days are always associated with the reign of the Messiah, but there is a discrepancy as to whether or not the last days occur before or after the return of Christ. According to Isaiah’s message, all nations would worship the LORD in the same location (Isaiah 2:2) and God’s law would be the law everyone was judged by (Isaiah 2:3).

Adistinct difference in the last days that indicates this time period has not yet occurred is there will be no war. It says in Isaiah 2:4, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This description is in stark contrast to what we are experiencing in the world today. At the time when Isaiah delivered his message, Judah’s army played an important role in the lifestyle of its people. The thought that weapons would no longer be needed must have made the people wonder if Isaiah had lost his mind.

Within the context of the last days, Isaiah talked about a day in which “the LORD alone shall be exalted” (Isaiah 2:11, 17). The Hebrew word translated day in this verse is yôwm (yome). Yowm can refer to a 24-hour period of time, but within the context of the last days, Isaiah was most likely focusing on the beginning or initiation of the last days, which would occur when the LORD was exalted over all other rulers on earth. “Yowm can also signify a period of time of unspecified duration” (3117). In that case, Isaiah may have been suggesting that the day of the LORD would begin during the last days and continue on for an indefinite period of time.

A characteristic of the last days that Isaiah made clear was that it would take place on this side of eternity. In other words, time will exist during the last days, so life as we know it will still be going on. With this in mind, it is understandable why the people thought the Messiah, Jesus, would establish his kingdom immediately. The point the people of Judah missed was that God’s kingdom would include everyone. The integration of Jewish and Gentile cultures had not taken place when Jesus was born. Therefore, God had to first make a way for everyone to know the LORD.