(When I taught my two year long Bible study on Isaiah, I used The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell to give me a starting point and rough outline of the material covered in the chapters. In this article, when you read the phrase “my commentary”, I am referring to this volume.)
It seems to me that verse 1 of Isaiah chapter 4 should really have been included in chapter 3. Why exactly the original dividers of scriptures decided to put the break here is beyond me. The remaining 5 verses of this short chapter are quite descriptive and packed with meaning. This chapter describes God’s grace and mercy, after the judgment of the previous chapter.
Read Isaiah 4:2-6
From my commentaries, it appears that there are two main ways of interpreting these verses:
Isaiah is describing the immediate return and reconstruction and healing of Judah after the coming judgment/invasion Isaiah is predicting in the previous chapter. This is a fairly literal interpretation.
Isaiah is describing a time and event much farther in the future, the creation of the Church upon the Messiah’s first coming. This appears to connect in part with Chapter 2 and the mountain of the Lord (which we describing as representing in part the Church.)
I decided to explore the second interpretation and see how these verse could describe the birth and character of the Church.
Reread verse 2. It can be argued that these two clauses are parallel (ie. make the same statement, with slight variations.)
Branch of the Lord ———: beautiful and glorious
Fruit of the land ———: pride and glory
It is commonly accepted that the Branch is the Messiah (Jesus). Read Jeremiah 33:15-16, Isaiah 11:1. However, Jesus could also be described as the fruit of the land; Read John 12:23-24.
When I think of Jesus as being the Branch, I think of His life: His birth and lineage through Jesse and David. When I think of Him as being the fruit of the land, however, I think of His death and how the Messiah’s mission is not complete until He has died; only then can the fruit (salvation, saved souls) be born.
Now if this analogy holds true ‘” how is Jesus going to be “beautiful and glorious” and “the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel”? And who are the survivors of Israel?
Continuing in the interpretation of a future kingdom, I believe that the survivors of Israel are Christians, for reasons I’ll go into later. The idea of Jesus being some sort of ornamentation or “glory” to a person (after all He is God!) is foreign to us, but that is what the Bible teaches. Read Isaiah 28:5.
I believe that just being in Jesus’ presence is to be that person’s glory, to wear “a crown.”
Short rabbit trail: Crowns are mentioned several times in the New Testament. Read 1 Peter 5:4, 2 Timothy 4:6-8
What does it mean to wear a crown? Well, it shows your birth and status (you are royalty) and that you are someone special, standing above others, because of who your Father is. On the other hand, a “victor’s wreath” in ancient times was given to those who won the races in sporting events. It was for someone who had done something extraordinary and worthy of praise. So I believe the Bible talks about two different kinds of crowns ‘” one crown is given upon your birth into the “royal family of God” when you accept Christ. The other kind of crown is given for what you do, as a child of God. I think this shows the balance of grace and works that often puzzles those who study the scriptures.
Reread Isaiah 4:3-4. From these two verses, what can we discover about the survivors of Israel? (Who I believe are Christians.)
They were holy
They were recorded among the living
They were washed and cleansed by the Spirit
Christians are called “saints” and “holy” numerous times in the NT. Read 1 Col. 1:1-2. However, they are also called or admonished to “be holy”, which implies a process or effort on their parts. Read Ephesians 4:22-24.
When Isaiah describes the survivors as being recorded among the living, I believe he is referring to the Book of Life. There are two references about this book I would like to examine, one in the New Testament and one in the Old Testament.
Read Revelation 20:11-15. There are other books mentioned here besides the Book of Life. Apparently each person’s actions and thoughts are recorded in these books. Notice that it doesn’t matter what is written in these other books when it comes down to your final destination. If your name isn’t written in the Book of Life, you will eventually burn.
Short rabbit trail: The obvious question is then, how does one get your name written in the Book of Life? (ie. gain eternal life). In the midst of the story of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus we can find our answer.
Read John 11:23-27. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
Jesus is referring to escaping the second death mentioned in Revelation. It is belief in Christ’s sacrifice and accepting it for yourself (ie. acknowledging your sin, repenting, and asking Christ to take your place) that gets your name written in the Book of Life.
The Book of Life is mentioned in the Old Testament in Daniel 12:1-3. Notice there are many similarities to the passage in Revelation. This passage shows, however, that for the ones with their names written in the Book of Life, what one does on earth (ie. what is written in the other books) is going to affect your status or existence in some way in Heaven. I believe this is the “reward” aspect of being a Christian that is discussed in I Corinthians 3:10-15. What one does not get you into heaven (it is a gift of grace, through belief in Christ), but it can affect what happens once you get there.
The final description of the survivors of Israel is that they are washed and cleansed by the Lord and the Spirit. Read 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 9:14, and Ephesians 5:25-27
Read Isaiah 4:5 ” — a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night”
This is referring back to how the Lord protected and guided the Israelites in the Exodus. Read Exodus 13:21-22. This symbolizes God’s continual presence with the Church. He won’t desert her and He will provide protection and guidance. I think Isaiah is also referring to the promised Holy Spirit. Read John 14:16-17, 26.
Read Isaiah 4:6. In a desert culture shelter and shade would be very important, vital for survival. The Psalms is filled with images of shade and a hiding place. Read Psalm 91:1-2, 121:5-6, 32:7.
These verses show clearly that we are not alone nor vulnerable when we are under the Lord’s protection.
H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell (editors). The Pulpit Commentary Volume 10: Isaiah