THE stumbling blocks of unbelief - revisited
That a law will be established, which shall go forth to the nations for their “instruction in righteousness”, resulting in the abolition of war to the ends of the earth; and the “filling of the earth with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea”.—Mic. 4:2; Isa. 42:4; 11:1-5; 2:3,4; Hab. 2:14
The end “result” of the things detailed in this, and earlier clauses of the BASF is as stated in Scripture that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14)*. This is a most important point to be understood: the promises of Scripture relating to the future are more concerned with the glorification of the Creator, than the saving of souls. Salvation is but the means to an end, as it is written, “Surely his salvation is night them that fear him; that Glory may dwell in our land” (Psa. 85:9). Salvation is extended in order to cause Yahweh’s Glory to dwell in the land – in other words, the population of the globe with an innumerable multitude who show forth the Virtues of the Father (1 Pet. 2:9).
Micah chapter 4 details how it will be by the means of Law being taught, that the nations shall be brought to a “knowledge” of Yahweh’s Glory:
“in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of Yahweh shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, and to the house of the Elohim of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4:1-2).
The first event that shall “come to pass” amongst the things so described, is the elevation of Yahweh’s house to become a global centre of worship and learning. The next thing is the elevation of the natural man, to reach that high standard. Notice this: people are said to “flow unto” the elevated house. Naturally, fluid does not flow upward: it is always a downward motion. Just as the natural inclination of men tender to earthly things, ending in the returning to dust from which they are formed. But in the Kingdom, nations will “flow” upward – against nature – to reach Yahweh’s House where they will be instructed. That is, they shall aspire to things above – to heavenly things. So it is written that “The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from sheol beneath” (Prov. 15:24). And again, the Apostle exhorts: “if ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the Right Hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). Nations will flow upwards to Jerusalem, to be instructed in The Way, and to worship according to the Laws which will be established in the earth.
This is a vital point to be understood: it is through the discipline of learning and instruction that men will become elevated to walk in the paths of Yahweh. We live in an age when in religious circles “head knowledge” is disparaged, with the unspoken concept that only those who are “academic” should give themselves over to study. But this misses the point entirely: where else do we receive knowledge if not in our heads? The point of learning the Truth is to cleanse our way (Psa. 119:9) and purify our mode of life by elevating our minds away from carnal living to the ways of Yahweh. The prophet Isaiah describes a situation where the Word of Yahweh is presented before man, but:
“the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith I cannot; for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned” (Isa. 29:11-12).
Notice this: in the scenario here presented to us, everyone has a reason not to read the book. The everyday man claims they are not learned enough, so they can’t open it. And the learned claim that we are not meant to know the things contained in the book (a sentiment the present writer has too often heard expressed in relation to certain aspects of Bible Teaching). The truth of the matter however, is that if we would be regarded as acceptable workmen in the servitude of Christ, we will all give attendance to reading, and to labouring in the Word and the Doctrine. Even as it is written:
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
We never cease to be amazed at how University Students so often neglect Bible Study because it is “difficult”, whilst they can readily attend to their sometimes complex studies in natural things! But to labour in the Truth and the Doctrine is a duty for all who would be “approved of God,” and who seek the things of the Kingdom before all else in their lives.
It is part of the future work of Messiah then, to establish his Father’s judgements in the earth, so that the world can be subdued under him. So the prophet spake:
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isa. 42:2-3).
And the judgments administered by him shall not be according to outward appearance, or hearsay for the same prophet spake again:
“he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth”
But he shall:
“smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:1-5).
THE REBUKING OF NATIONS
This latter passage demonstrates that the taking over the affairs of men will not be a peaceful affair. There are those who think that the Kingdom of God will be brought about by preaching alone – but that is not the testimony of Scripture. The Bible speaks in the clearest possible terms that “the wicked” shall be “slain”, not converted. Again, the passage from Micah chapter 4, cited above, goes on to say:
“and he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Mic. 4:3).
Whilst we readily cite the latter part of this passage as evidence the Messiah shall reign as “prince of peace” (Is. 9:6), we need also to consider the earlier part which speaks of a judgment, and “rebuke”. The New Testament presents a consistent picture:
“ … the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord …” (2 Thes. 1:7-9).
For men to be condemned for “obeying not the Gospel” implies that they have been presented with the opportunity to obey it, and have chosen not to. It is plain therefore, that the preaching of the Gospel alone is not what will bring the earth into subjection before Christ – there is a need for judgment also.
The other side of the matter, is that focussing upon the judicial condemnation of men before Christ ought not detract from our vision the importance of the Gospel being preached. It is a consequence of this, that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh’s Glory. When Messiah comes, it is testified that “he shall speak peace unto the heathen” (Zech. 9:10). That is to say, the “gospel of peace” shall be made known to them – and men will either accept it, or reject it as they see fit, and reap the consequences of their decision. So it is written:
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God Reigneth” (Isa. 52:7).
Again, this vision of Yahweh’s Messengers being sent forth was shown to John, “having the Gospel of the Age to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6). Messiah will come to bring peace to a troubled earth, stilling the sea of nations and gathering out of his kingdom all things “that offend”, and which would otherwise mar the ensuing paradise of the Deity in the midst of the earth.
Isaiah chapter 11 describes to us the consequence of an earth filled with the knowledge of Yahweh’s Glory:
“the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:5-8)
Notice that in this passage, the harmonious situation thus described comes about specifically because “the knowledge of Yahweh” fills the earth. That suggests that the animals here represent those who are capable of receiving such a knowledge—which literal wolves, lambs, leopards etc cannot do. In this passage, we have a symbolic description of nations dwelling in harmony with each other, a situation brought about by the suppression of sin, the destruction of Daniel’s 4th beast power, and the proclamation and enforcement of Divine Laws across the whole earth. It is this symbolic aspect of Isaiah 11 that we shall come to consider, if Yahweh wills, in the next issue of this magazine.