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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 33:17-19

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 10, 2008

17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
     and view a land that stretches afar.
18 In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
     “Where is that chief officer?
     Where is the one who took the revenue?
     Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
19 You will see those arrogant people no more,
     those people of an obscure speech,
     with their strange, incomprehensible tongue. (NIV)

“The king in his beauty” is a direct look ahead to the Messiah. He would be the King that ruled over all kings. Although some earthly rulers claimed to be “king of kings” such as Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:37), Christ himself is the only “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14). He will overthrow all opposition—sin, death or devil—because “God has the power to help or to overthrow” (2 Chronicles 25:8).

“A land that stretches far…” Just after the sacred festival of Rosh Hashanah in 573 BC (Ezekiel 40:1), the prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of a spiritual temple with its Most Holy Place (Ezekiel 41:4) and vast, five-hundred-cubit long walls (Ezekiel 42:20), and a spiritual Israel that spread out far beyond the physical borders of the Israel that Ezekiel knew.1 This was a reminder that the Christ would not only reign in heaven, but that he would have an earthly reign as well. However, the earthly reign of the Christ is not over land or borders, but over hearts.

“The former terror,” the officers and officials who oppressed God’s people will be nothing but a memory. Some of that oppression took place right within the temple of the Jews (“‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:13). Some of it came from the outside (“Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?” Ezra 5:3, 9). But all of it will come to an end.

“Their strange, incomprehensible tongue” was the Assyrian language, related to Hebrew just as Aramaic was (Isaiah 36:11), but far enough removed that the people couldn’t understand it without training. The same is true of related languages today, such as English and German, or the Gaelic languages of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The point is that everything that was oppressive or incomprehensible will vanish with the arrival of the Christ.

There are two fulfillments of this prophecy. The first coming of Christ destroyed the power of the devil and freed believers to serve God on earth. The second coming of Christ on the Last Day will imprison the devil forever and destroy every last shred of sin and temptation for all eternity, and everyone who trusts in Jesus will be brought to eternal life in heaven. This is what our Savior has done.

1 God seems to have Ezekiel’s training as a priest in mind for these visions (“These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple will cook…,” Ezekiel 46:24). The intricate details are precisely the sort of thing a priest or Levite would be quite concerned about (“An area 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide will belong to the Levites, who serve in the temple, as their possession for towns to live in,” Ezekiel 45:5). But the dimensions are so perfect, so massive and so holy, that it is clear that God is not describing a physical temple built of earthly stones and cloth and gold, but the perfect spiritual building of God’s renewed and restored people, a people who are not just circumcised in their flesh; they are “circumcised in heart” as well (Ezekiel 44:9; cp. Jeremiah 9:25), a description of the newly created believer in Christ (Galatians 6:13-15).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.