Look, Their Brave Men Cry Aloud in the Streets

33: 7-16

   DIG: What treaty was broken here? Who invades and why? When will Jesus Christ arise, be lifted up, and exalted by all the nations? How does the context help us identify the timing of all of this? Why are the wicked, consumed by their own plans, always surprised by God’s consuming fire? Is this His choice or theirs (Second Peter 3:9b)? With regard to Genesis 12:3a, what countries or peoples are blessing Isra'el today? Which countries or peoples curse Israel today? Is this Scripture as true today as it ever was? Why or why not?

   REFLECT: How do you see the six characteristics in 33:15? When was the last time the Lord miraculously provided for you in your wilderness experience? Did you receive your provision in time? How did you show your appreciation? What kind of change must one undergo to be at peace with God?

    The context here is the far eschatological future at the end of the Great Tribulation. As is his style, Isaiah alternates back and fourth between ungodly lamenting over the antichrist breaking the seven year treaty between himself and Isra'el (33:7-9), the Second Coming of the Messiah (33:10-11), the insecurity of those who rebelled against Jesus Christ (33:12-14), and the security of the believing remnant (33:15-16).

    As the armies of the world assemble in the Valley of Jezreel, under the control of the antichrist, the nation is in total disarray. To the apostate Jews there seems to be nowhere to hide from the invading army. They thought they could trust the antichrist. But he had turned on them and was ready for his final solution. The brave men cannot help, neither can the Jewish diplomats. The antichrist has broken the treaty with Isra'el and all hope is lost. Everyone mourns, even the land mourns. At that moment, it will be painfully clear that there is nothing more human effort can do. God waits for those kinds of moments. It is not until we have exhausted our efforts that we are finally able to recognize the hand of the LORD at work and stop claiming for ourselves what is rightly His.

    But all is not lost for those of faith. ADONAI is a promise keeper. Once He is invited back by the believing remnant, He comes with a dual purpose. First, He comes to save the remnant (see my commentary on Revelation Ev – The Basis for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ). Secondly, He comes with judgment against those of unbelief. He will fight the Campaign of Armageddon alone with only His arm to sustain Him (see my commentary of Revelation Ex – The Eight Stage Campaign of Armageddon). Then, He will usher in the thousand-year Messianic Kingdom.

    Those in Judah who thought they could achieve peace with the antichrist with the signing of a seven year covenant will weep bitterly. As the antichrist and his armies sweep down from the Valley of Jezreel to Jerusalem, the results of the invasion are devastating. Look, the brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly (33:7). The envoys will weep bitterly because they failed to negotiate peace. They were responsible for negotiating the treaty, or covenant, that had been broken.

    Civil order will break down, and traveling along the highways will become unsafe. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected (33:8). There is distrust everywhere. If even the envoys cannot be trusted, then nobody could. If they could not bring peace, then nobody could. Without a condition of peace, travel was minimal because of fear. Anarchy will reign.

    The cities are destroyed and the Land becomes desolate. The Land mourns and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves (33:9). The areas he mentions are Israel’s most productive areas, and these most productive areas are the very ones that fail to produce. Lebanon, north of Israel and well known for its cedar forests, will wither. Sharon was the coastal plain south of Mount Carmel extending inland to the hill country of Ephraim. An extremely fertile area, it will become a desert, like the Arabah (which means arid or dry). Bashan (which means fertile plain), east to the Sea of Galilee, was productive agriculturally (Jeremiah 50:19) and known for its oak trees (Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 27:6; Micah 7:14 and Zechariah 11:2). Carmel (which means fruitful land) was a mountain range thickly forested and well watered. This destruction will show that the nation would not save itself. And so the land mourns and languishes. After the land is devastated, ADONAI turns around to destroy the invaders.

    Now I will arise, says the LORD. In Hebrew, each phrase in this verse begins with the word now and its use emphasizes that determination. This is not something God may do; this is something God will do. Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up (33:10). It is interesting that the two verbs, exalted and lifted up, are the very ones that in 6:1 and 52:13. Clearly then, for Isaiah, when ADONAI showed up, His enemies were defeated and His people were saved. However, those who are consumed with their own goals and plans are always surprised by God’s coming. But human failure is the LORD’s opportunity.

    You conceive chaff, you give birth to straw (33:11a). The enemy is viewed as being pregnant, but with chaff that will give way to straw. And the breath of fire applied to straw destroys it. Your breath is a fire that consumes you (33:11b). In addition, the enemy carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. This can best be explained by the principle in the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12:3a: I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse. Any nation that becomes anti-Semitic, that anti-Semitism in the nation carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

    The result is the burning of the enemy, the peoples will be burned as if to lime. It will be total, it will be sudden, and it will be quick, like cut thorn bushes they will be set ablaze (33:12). There are a great variety of thorny shrubs and plants abounding in Palestine that these people gladly gather and use for fuel. They make a quick, hot fire, which kindles easily and soon expires. The idea conveyed in the text is that of swift destruction. The wicked are to be destroyed quicker than the heat from a fire of thorns could reach the cooking vessels.114

    The terror of the Jewish unbelievers who had tried to placate the antichrist is clearly seen. They will experience Magor-Misabib (Jeremiah 20:3), or terror all around. The LORD of the universe declares to them: You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge My power (33:13)! Sooner or later everyone must hear of God’s greatness. Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

    There is a call to Jewish repentance in light of this coming judgment. The sinners of Zion, the apostate Jews, will be terrified because the judgment will be clear. Trembling will grip them. They have acted in a totally godless way during the Great Tribulation and their fate is inescapable (Micah 7:1-4). The question, at the end of this verse, is who is capable of surviving this period of consuming fire and everlasting burning (33:14)? Many of the Tribulation judgments are carried out by fire and well over three-quarters of the earth’s population will be killed. Who among the Jews will survive? The apostates cannot and will not survive. These are the many of Daniel 9:27 who enter into the covenant with the antichrist. While 33:13-14 describes the insecurity of the apostate Jews, 33:15-16 describes the security of the believing remnant.

    But in contrast to the apostates, the believing remnant will find security in the LORD. The prophet tells us that the means of their security, the means by which the faithful remnant of the Tribulation will survive in spite of the burdens of the time, is by living according to the six characteristics listed in 33:15. These characteristics are essentially using the Torah as a blueprint for living (see my commentary on Exodus Dj – The Ten Commandments), but with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

    As a review, there are four different groups of Jews in the Great Tribulation. First, the largest group is the apostate Jews. They are the many of Daniel 9:27 who enter into a covenant relationship with the antichrist. They believe that he is the Messiah, and they enter into a covenant relationship with him for the purpose of security. Secondly, there are the 144,000 believing Jews, 12,000 from each tribe, who are the evangelists of the Great Tribulation. Thirdly, there are other Jews who become believers under the preaching of the 144,000, but are not a part of that number. Fourthly, there is the believing remnant, who are described here.

    The question of 33:14 is answered in this next verse. Who can dwell with the consuming fire of divine judgment? Over one hundred years later, Jeremiah says that they needed new hearts, saying: I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people (Jeremiah 31:33 CJB). This can only happen by His grace. It is impossible to live a godly life without God. It is impossible to be righteous without the righteous One. The verbs here are all singular, pointing out the individual nature of the actions.

    The elements of that character are described in three couplets. The first describes the general style of life, he who walks righteously and speaks what is right. The second and the third amplify the first, making it plain that character is what you do when no one is looking. This changed heart is one who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes. Those who have put away their old nature and have become a new creation stops their ears against plots of murder and shuts their eyes against contemplating evil (33:15). This is how the righteous of the TANAKH should live.

    Jewish teachers have at various times attempted to make summaries of the Torah. Rabbi Samlai gives one very remarkable one to us; he said: Moses gave six hundred and thirteen commandments on Mount Sinai. David reduced these commandments to eleven in answer to the question: ADONAI, who can rest in Your tent? Who can live on Your holy mountain (Psalm 15:1 CJB)? After David, Isaiah came and reduced the eleven to six, as may be seen here in 33:15. Then came Micah and he reduced the six to three (Micah 6:8). Once more Isaiah brought down the three to two (Isaiah 56:1). Lastly came Habakkuk, and reduced them all to one: but the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).115 The believing remnant will live by faith (Hebrews 11:1).

    The believing remnant will comprise about one-third of the Jewish population during the Great Tribulation, and will not have anything to do with the antichrist. Both in this passage and especially in Chapters 40 onward, when Isaiah describes the actions of the faithful remnant in the Great Tribulation, he always points out that they live up to the light given to them. In other words, they will be Orthodox Jews trying to live up to the Torah and the six characteristics of 33:15. For this reason, they reject the Covenant with the antichrist. The reason they survive is because of these characteristics. Isaiah points out in Chapter 65 that because they will not take the mark of the beast, they will not have the legal right to buy or sell. But God will miraculously provide for them. They will survive the Great Tribulation by fleeing to Bozrah (Petra) from the middle of the Great Tribulation onward. These are the Jews who will ask Jesus to return and are saved (Zechariah 12:10 to 13:1). When Paul writes that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), he is describing the believing remnant at the end of the Great Tribulation.

    Then Isaiah points out the place of their security, which is given three characteristics. First: this is the man who will dwell on the heights, meaning a mountainous region (33:16a). This is exactly what Matthew 24:15-16 says: So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. When the remnant flees, it flees to the mountains.

    Secondly: whose refuge will be the mountain fortress, meaning a wilderness area (33:16b). This is consistent with Revelation 12:6: The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days, and Revelation 13-14: When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times, and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. The remnant flees into the wilderness, to the city of Bozrah or modern-day Buseirah in Mount Seir.

    Thirdly: his bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him (33:16c). As God provided for the Jews in the wilderness under Moses, He will provide for the Jews in this wilderness as well. Bread and water symbolize the most basic needs of human life. Many people today, as well as in Isaiah’s day, need something more basic than food and drink. They are starving spiritually, because they have been attempting to meet their own needs without realizing that ADONAI has already provided refuge and nourishment for everyone through faith in the Messiah (Ephesians 2:8).

 

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