Todays readings.. 1 Samuel 23, Isaiah 66, Matthew 11
“WHO HAS HEARD SUCH A THING?”
Isaiah completes his prophecy as a message, not to kings, the high and mighty, but to a particular class of people. “Hear the word of the LORD you who tremble at his word” [Ch.66 v.5] Then comes a strange statement. “Before she was in labour she gave birth, before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such a thing? Shall a land be born in one day?” [v.7,8]
What is this about? As we read on, we learn that the prophet’s final vision is about the suddenness, the unexpectedness of the final restoration of Zion, of Jerusalem, of God’s nation.
Look at the words, “Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labour she brought forth children.” [v.8] This, we conclude, must be the time of resurrection, suddenly the people of the LORD are there. At the same time there is “The sound of the LORD rendering recompense to his enemies” [v.6]. Recompense!? That surely means, ‘Judgement’ – punishment for their godlessness and denial of his creation!
It is a time of the greatest rejoicing for those who have trembled at his word, “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy … drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.”[v.10]
The picture of events widens out further in the next verse, “For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream … the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see my glory … all flesh shall come and worship before me, declares the LORD” [v.10-12,18,23]
But that is only one half of the picture the prophet speaks about! The other half is the same as we read in Revelation, the annihilation of those who do not know God, who do not tremble at his word. We have not quoted those words. Look at v.15,16, “For behold the LORD will come in fire … to render his anger in fury and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire the LORD will enter into judgement … and those slain by the LORD will be many”
The point to be stressed is that all this happens suddenly. As Jesus says in the parable “the door was shut” – just as the door of the Ark was shut and it was too late for those who scoffed at Noah to change their minds – as Jesus said, “at an hour you do not expect” [Matthew 24 v.36-44 which we will read in a week or so] . That question again, “Who has heard such a thing?” Well, we have, oh what peril for us if we ignore what we hear.