136. Isaiah on the Spirit

aa4Zechariah hit on an eternal principle of truth when he wrote, ““It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord.” There are often statements of great depth and insight scattered throughout the Bible which, even when removed from the context in which they were written, are eternally true as stand-alone statements. No matter how mighty and eloquent Isaiah’s Hebrew was, and no matter the power of logic in his statements, it is the source of the statements that make them so gloriously influential and strong. That source is the Holy Spirit Himself.  Isaiah’s insights into the person and work of the Holy Spirit are incredibly broad in their theological significance. We list some of them here and make the briefest of comments merely to highlight the comprehensive nature of what we shall refer to as Isaiah’s pneumatology.

Messiah will be sent to dwell amongst men by Yahweh and His Spirit.

Come near to me and hear this! From the beginning I did not speak in secret; At the time it happens, I am there: “Now the Lord God and His Spirit has sent me.”(Isaiah 48:16)

aa3This is Isaiah, prophetically telling us words that somewhere in eternity were Christ’s, spoken to the Father, and/or the Spirit. Yahweh and His Spirit sent Christ into the world. That is the plain meaning of Isaiah 48:16. The body was prepared for Jesus by God the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:5-7).  The importance of this insight of Isaiah’s is profound. The fact of the three persons of the Godhead are clearly defined in a single verse on an issue that is so dear to every Christian believer.

Note also how God says that He does nothing in secret. He calls us all to draw near while He reveals both Himself and His intentions. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are seen in the vision of what Isaiah is saying concerning the incarnation, and the prophetic fore-telling of His mission. “A body” was prepared. It might not have been one hundred percent clear to Isaiah and his audience (then again it might have been), but to us it could not be clearer. God wants His plan and purpose known to the world. God has made His plan known publicly through a series of prophets, and writings proving His heart and His presence towards His people. Here Messiah speaks. Being sent by Yahweh and His Spirit, if one reads the entire context, it is also made plain that it is Yahweh that is speaking. Thus, we have Yahweh stating that Yahweh and His Spirit have sent Him. It is Yahweh the Son, declaring that Yahweh the Father and the Spirit of Yahweh, had sent Him on Mission. The Spirit’s role in the advent of Messiah permeates all that Messiah accomplishes as he tabernacles amongst men.

aa2Messiah and the Spirit will be conjoined in their work

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, and the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-2).

Messiah accomplishes the renewal of all things by having become a man with the Spirit of God resting upon Him and His life. I read it somewhere that there cannot be an authentic or biblical Christology without a thorough and complete accompanying pneumatology. Neither can there be an authentic and biblical pneumatology without a solid Christology overlaid upon it. The two may have been wrongly estranged in some minds over the centuries. The two spheres of revelation, however, can never be separated. Christology and Pneumatology are conjoined.

Isaiah 11:1-2 is a glorious and wonderful description of Christ’s character and wisdom. Jesus was conceived of the Spirit in Mary’s womb. He grew in the wisdom of the Spirit, and the purity that the Spirit leads us in. However, Jesus saw no miracle, no deliverance and no raising people from the dead, nor any casting out of demons until the Holy Spirit was given to rest upon Him. It is the Spirit of God that would show Him what Father was doing, and reveal to Him what Father was saying. It was by the Spirit that Jesus cast out demons. The Spirit that would rest upon Christ would cast engraft fruit as well as gifts into His person, behaviour and character. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel and might, along with a deep fear of the Lord would drive and motivate the Master all His days – and it would all be birthed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Such a criteria never fitted any man that ever lived until Jesus of Nazareth came. None of those famous acts that filled the days of His ministry started until the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him and remained upon Him. It is the “remaining” that was so radically new to the Jewish hearers of his words. It was true of Christ and it had not been true of any man prior to it occurring with Christ. It is true of all who are born of the Spirit, and who afterwards receive the baptism with the Spirit that descends upon them from above.

aa1The Spirit of the Lord would rest contentedly on the Nazarene. John saw the Spirit descend in the form of a dove, and remain upon Christ. The Spirit of God had found in Jesus what He had always sought after since the fall of man in Eden; a human being to abide with, who would maintain a comfortable and righteous relationship with Him. Isaiah was astute when he discerned how the Holy Spirit builds characteristics that precipitate behaviours that please and glorify God.

Messiah and the Spirit in unity together will be the delight of Heavenly Father

Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1).

 Imagine being one in whom the Father delights. Imagine what is contained in the statement of having caused Heavenly Father to delight in a person. It was because Jesus became a servant to His Father, that He was caused to delight in Him. Because of Christ’s total obedience and submission, the Spirit was given Him at the Jordan. The gift of the Spirit in His first Advent will have an impact upon Him after His Second Advent. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. According to Revelation, the justice and judgement of the unsaved gentile nations will not be until the end of His thousand year reign.

OXYGEN VOLUME 13Referring to Christ’s obedience and submission to the Father before the Spirit was sent to anoint Him does not mean Jesus received the Spirit because of works. Alignment of the will, the heart and the determined purpose of life must precipitate the Spirit of God locating the heart that He can fill and abide with. Many receive the Spirit in the gift of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and rejoice. But continued obedience and submission are key factors in the maintenance of that anointing and gift. Any believer can receive the Baptism. Not all can maintain the sharpness of the weapon of the gift after it has been given. This writer believes that many charismatics and Pentecostals devalue the baptism in the Holy Spirit when once received.

Isaiah talks as if He is staring at Christ in the present tense. Seven centuries before His birth, Isaiah sees Messiah plainly. Again, all the glorious and divine virtue and activity of God would be seen in Christ, because of the Holy Spirit that would comfortably rest upon Him. He would be the very delight of heaven. Christ is said to have had invested in Him and activated through Him by the Spirit of God, every single thing that constitutes the positive blessing of God, and the saving work as Messiah.

Messiah will be clothed upon by the Prophetic, Healing Holy Spirit

aa5The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor … to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of justice, the planting of the Lord to show his glory.  (Isa. 61:1&3, NKJV).

Oh the glory embedded in these lines. Percy Brewster used to call the first three verses of Isaiah 61, “The Manifesto of Jesus Christ.” The Spirit was upon the Saviour, anointing Him for the purpose of reaching the lost. Those facts are still true concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism if the Holy Spirit is all about power. Not power to be used and bragged about. Not to be squandered on one’s own benefits, but to be employed as a weapon to redeem mankind. The entire life and mission of Christ is here remarked upon, and the statement renders it possible for no other reason other than the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the Saviour. It was never by might nor human power. It is always by the Spirit of God.

Note that:

1) According to Isaiah 61:1-3, the Holy Spirit is the causal agent in in Messiah’s prophetic behaviour, saving grace, and Healing power and desire. That cache of logic is exactly the same today when Christian’s receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and evangelise in Christ’s name.

2) The Holy Spirit is the energizing source of the occurrence of the prophetic word, as well as the wisdom and the healing that Messiah would bring. And

3) The Holy Spirit is the source of the entire empowerment in that prophetic, healing and ruling scenario.

In plain language, the Spirit anoints a person to do a thing, then empowers the doing of that effort, and then begins to move on the recipient of that manifested gift.

Who has the ignorance to even suggest that the gift of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is anything but absolutely vital?

aa6The Spirit will impart wisdom and justice to believers as He did to Messiah

He will be a spirit of justice to him that sits in judgement and for the one who sits in judgment. A source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. (Isaiah 28:6)

Some academics believe that the immediate relevance of these lines is the implication that after the fall of Samaria, and the fact that several of the prophets had predicted the same end coming to Jerusalem and Judah, many of the civil servants and social leaders of the time would come to their senses and start walking in faith. When that walk of faith is commenced, the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives would be obvious to see. Thus, Isaiah 28:6 is a word of comfort to them.

However, the verse previous to 6 begins with “On that day…” which nearly always means the prophet is referring to the Second Advent and the millennial reign. “On that day,” normally means, “On the glorious day when Messiah reigns in power on the earth.” But the principle is the same with both interpretations. Perhaps both are correct.

The heavy principle that Isaiah states in this verse is focused on very much in the New Testament. This “presence” on people that gives wisdom and an inner knowledge of what is the right and wise thing to do at all times, is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. In all the decision making process of the righteous, the Lord, as a “Spirit of Justice,” will give His strength to enable all those who would be judges or rulers to do what is right. He will also be strength for those who take the battle to the enemy’s city gates. What was fully manifested in the character and person of Christ will be manifested in the body of Christ, that is, those that lean on Him, even though the anointing may be to a lesser degree. It’s the tip of a huge mountain of New Testament teaching, and Isaiah was there first.

The Holy Spirit is the source of all wisdom and counsel – Meaning: He is God

Who has determined the measure of the Spirit of the Lord, or given Him instruction as his counsellor? With whom did He take counsel and let Himself be instructed, and who gave Him instruction in the way of justice and taught Him knowledge and imparted to him deep insight.  (Isaiah 40:13)

I am convinced that here, the Spirit of the Lord is considered in His role as the agent through which God does all His creative work, ex nihilo and otherwise. So Isaiah’s question, in modern street language, would be this: Is there anybody alive on the planet who can determine and/or measure the parameters of the creative power of God? Isaiah is keen to assert the Holy Spirit as the agent of creation in all that God does. The Spirit of God is God Himself.

The connection of the Spirit with practical and creative wisdom is already evident in the Joseph story when he appears before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:37-39). Isaiah 30:1-2 demonstrates the “disconnect” between God’s Spirit and a hard-hearted nation that seeks counsel from the world (Egypt). Isaiah specifically says that being allied with Egypt was not “of Yahweh’s Spirit.” This clearly implies that the Spirit of God has strong opinions on political unions, and His desire should be sought out at all times.

aa10In the Book of Judges, we noticed how the Spirit confirmed God’s choice of leaders and also empowered the individuals concerned (Gideon, Samson, and others) to accomplish acts of deliverance on behalf of God’s people. This always involved military intervention or, in the case of Samson, his physical intervention and defeat of the enemy. Two passages in Isaiah show continuity as well as discontinuity with this strain of thought concerning the Spirit of God. For example, the future Davidic king & Messiah, spoken of in Isaiah 11:1-5. is still designated as leader by virtue of the Spirit being upon him (continuity – “and the Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him.”), but in place of an expression of military might, Isaiah identifies him as one who will render justice for and protect the weak (discontinuity, Isa. 11:4”he shall judge the lowly with righteousness, ad shall decide for the meek of the earth with equity.”). Although there is language about slaying the wicked, the instrument spoken of is not a sword or spear but “the rod of His mouth,” (Isaiah 11:4) and “the breath of his lips.”(Isaiah 11:4)

The king was expected to administer justice and righteousness by protecting the powerless in society and judging the wicked, resulting in not only the flourishing of God’s people, but also the restoration of God’s entire Creation into harmony and order as per Isaiah 11:6-9, which I believe portrays perfectly what the world will be like during Christ’s millennial reign. This is a radically different picture from that recorded in the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings. In Isaiah 42:1-4 while this passage once again connects leadership (and servanthood) with the Spirit placed upon him, the authority of the leader/servant in this case is one which is more related to “restraining Him” than to “constraining him.” Here there is a very strange reference to meekness and weakness, implying that empowerment is to minister meekly in weakness, and indeed to minister to the weak, meaning the crushed reeds and the smoking flax’z of humanity (Isaiah 42:2 ).

So we see how Isaiah’s insights builds from what had already been revealed of the Spirit’s work earlier in the divine revelation of the Pentateuch and the historical books of Judges and Samuel. Even the greatest revelator’s need to stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before. We need to tread where others have trodden before we dare go where no man has gone before.

aa88The Spirit creates fruitfulness in creation as well as the human spirit

Until the spirit from on high is poured out on us. And the wilderness becomes a garden land and the garden land seems as common as forest. (Isaiah 32:15)

Here we have a glancing reference to the Holy Spirit being poured out upon mankind. However, immediately after, Isaiah is referring to the wonders of nature being brought to fullest and bursting manifestation, because of the first phrase, which in this translation is turned into a complete sentence.

The vision of God’s complete rule on earth is a major concern of Isaiah’s writings. The rule of God, or Lordship of Christ, is universal in scope as it goes well beyond Israel, God’s people, and encompasses all of Creation.

This statement is clearly, primarily, eschatological, but also it creates mental pictures of land- real estate – being restored to blessing, which could also apply before the Second Advent. Isaiah 32:15-18 speaks of the pouring out of the Spirit and the fertility that is brought to the land, along with a restoration of righteousness and justice. I am convinced that the more a nation, or ethnic group walks in righteousness and the fear of the Lord, the serendipitous impact is that the land, the economics and the health of the people all simultaneously begin to improve. The ultimate improval will be when Jesus reigns on earth where e’er the sun shines.



The Spirit of God refreshes all things physical as well as all things human, in body, soul and spirit.

I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, streams upon the dry land; I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, my blessing upon your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)

In Isaiah 44:3-5, the pouring out of the Spirit brings fertility to the people and to the land. The imagery of water is repeatedly used to describe the coming of the Spirit in abundance here, as also in Isaiah 32. How glorious is the whole picture painted by Isaiah. The full statement links the outpouring of the Spirit on the earth and humanity alike. As the activity of the Spirit continues, everything He moves upon enters into full blown fruitfulness. The Holy Spirit maximizes creation wherever He is active.

This verse must also be included in the list of Old Testament statements that promise the outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh. Isaiah saw the day coming when, in response to people calling on the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit would fall upon those in the obedience of faith.

God plans to clearly bring about change by pouring out His Holy Spirit, acting as water being poured on a dry wasteland. It will be such a heavy downpour, it would be like streams flooding a desert. It will precipitate wonderful blessings and increase from God. This outpouring, however, is clearly in Isaiah’s future. Compare this line with Isaiah 32:15. 59:21. Jeremiah 31:33-34. Ezekiel 36:26-27. Joel 2:25-29.Zechariah 12:10-13:1.)

I suggest that the initial outpouring began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Its total fulfillment for Israel and in the resurrection, will be in the millennial restoration.

HS6The Spirit that prophecies is the same Spirit that fulfills.

Search through the book of the Lord and read: not one of these shall be lacking, For the mouth of the Lord has ordered it, and his spirit gathers them there. (Isaiah 34:16)

The immediate preceding lines to 34:16 reveal the context of this statement. In a nutshell, Isaiah was saying that, because he had written down his prophecies as given to him by the Spirit of the Lord, so, the same Holy Spirit would fulfill what he had given him to speak. If the Spirit makes a promise, be absolutely sure, the Spirit will fulfill what He has promised.

He was speaking directly of prophecies concerning Edom which was taken over by the Arabs, and then in 106 AD was taken over by Rome. Petra, also known as Sela, once Edom’s famous Capital city, is still a complete ruin. God’s judgement on the nations during Daniel’s seventieth week will come just as surely.

Spirit of faith and regeneration, as well as the Spirit of promise

This is my covenant with them, which I myself have made, says the Lord: My spirit which is upon you and my words that I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouths of your children Nor the mouths of your children’s children from this time forth and forever, says the Lord. (Isaiah 59:21)

“Which I myself have made,” emphasizes God’s total commitment to carry out His promises to us. His covenant is with “you.” That is, those who have turned away from rebellion against God’s purposes and have repented. God then speaks to the recipient of the promise which is primarily the Redeemer. His Spirit is upon Messiah. He is the anointed One, the Christ. God puts His own words in the mouth of Jesus (as per John 14:10 and 14:24).

His words will continue to be in the Redeemer’s mouth and in the “mouths of his children.” The word for children is the word, “zarakha,” which is strictly, “your seed.” It will be in their mouths and in the mouth of their children. In Isaiah 53:10 it talks of Messiah seeing “His seed.” His spiritual seed is referring to every true believer. The seed of His seed will become proclaimers of the same word which infers and implies that they will do so by the same Holy Spirit.

Grieving God is grieving the Holy Spirit.

But they rebelled and grieved his holy spirit; so he turned to become their enemy, and warred against them. (Isaiah 63:10)

Isaiah confesses the people’s sins. “They rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.”- not once, but repeatedly, almost addum infinitum throughout the generations, manifesting characteristics and behaviour like, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice of all shapes and sizes. God could not allow them to continue in presumptuous ingratitude and indifference to Yahweh’s “chesed” – the Hebrew equivalent to the Greek agape. God actually became “their enemy.” He used human armies to bring judgement in the days of the Judges, Assyrians and Babylonians. It was in that sense that He fought against them. It all happened because they had grieved the Holy Spirit.

2c8The cry for the Spirit of God

Then they remembered the days of old, of Moses, his servant: Where is the one who brought up out of the sea the shepherd of his flock? Where is the one who placed in their midst his Holy Spirit, (Isaiah 63:11)

These judgements caused the godly remnant among His people to remember the days of Moses and his leadership. It caused them to ask about the one who brought them all through the Red Sea. In those days He put His Holy Spirit not only on Moses and the 70 elders (See Numbers 11:17), but on Bezale’el and Oholiab as well (as per Exodus 32:2-3 and 6. Exodus 35:30-35.).

However, the people, generally, were asking, “Where is God now?” And even, “Where is the work and power of the Holy Spirit?”

As cattle going down into the valley, they did not stumble. The spirit of the Lord guided them. Thus you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name. (Isaiah 63:14)

The Israelites coming out of the wilderness were like cattle coming down from the barren hills into the lush green pastures of the Promised Land. Through the Holy Spirit and Spirit-filled leaders such as Moses and Joshua (Numbers 27:18), they were, “given rest,” again and again, as God promised (Joshua 23:1). God’s guidance thus brought glory to His name. It was the Spirit of God that guided them through and out of the desert and into the Promised Land.

My conclusions are straight forward. Just as we can clearly perceive a progression in the understanding and work of the Spirit of God when moving from the first five books of Moses, to the Historical Books, similarly we can see how Isaiah utilizes the same statements that had been introduced centuries earlier, together with further revelations that he also pushes to new horizons. The connection of the Spirit with a Davidic leader who will rule in power, yet also through weakness, clearly anticipates the ministry of Jesus. The renewal that the Spirit brings to all of Creation in the time to come, paves the way for the same recurring, yet ever expanding revelatory theme in the New Testament. The description of the function and work of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah is certainly an important development in the Scripture’s declaration of the nature of the deity, personality and manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah gives instructive continuousness of the permanence of past historical insights concerning the Holy Spirit, while demonstrating new features and fresh insights that later became be the staple bread and butter of the New Testament believer.

135. Isaiah through the Spirit – the Spirit through Isaiah

Biblical Faith must be Intrusive to Lifestyle and Worldview

1358It is not enough for a Christian to say, “I believe the Bible.” We need, inwardly, to define our parameters of what we believe in order to ring-fence what we mean when we discuss the Bible’s authority. Some people believe parts of the Bible and reject those areas that they are not comfortable with. Most of the contemporary debates, arguments and splits within Christian circles are caused by the discomfort some folks have with those sections of the Bible that contradict modern lifestyles. Issues like homosexuality, is there a hell? Sex outside of marriage and capitalistic greed are rarely argued from the stance of, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about it.” The case that even the liberal religious make is one of, “I know the Bible says something – but the Bible is out of date, isn’t it?” I have even heard some people, who claimed to be Christians, say, “The Bible is irrelevant.”


Then there are those evangelicals who claim to be Bible believers, and then proceed to dilute the parameters of what and how they believe its statements. I have heard often been told that, “We mustn’t make the Bible the end all or be all of the faith, or of Christianity.” These words are usually spoken after one has quoted scripture in order to make a point that the person I am speaking to does not agree with.


1357I remember once, speaking in a church in Belfast in Ireland. My three point address was an exposition of the three occasions in Romans 1 where the scripture says, “God gave them up.” It is a shocking piece of scripture, I grant you, but I quoted the scriptures several times in the course of my talk. On shaking hands with the membership, as they left the building, one man came to me shaking his head. He looked me in the eye and said with conviction, “With all your ministerial training, you should know better. God never gives anybody up – ever. Shame on you for saying such things!” I was about to engage with him on his remarks when the resident minister tugged my shirt tails and invited me to leave the man alone. The person concerned, the pastor told me, held quite a strong opinion on the Calvinistic perspective on the subject of “Perseverance of the Saints.” He argued the case so strongly that he perceived almost any other subject was contesting his conviction. The security of the believer was his one track mind. His mind being dominated by that one single perspective made him deaf to so much more truth.


I have been accused, in my time, of making too much of the Bible. The New streams in the charismatic church in the UK seem to produce people with this kind of response. Most of the challenges I have received from Christians concerning my own stance on scripture have come from that area. My thoughts are that such an opinion can only be held by those that don’t read it long and hard enough. I claim no monopoly of the truth, and I believe I am teachable. But I have read the Bible through many times, and I spend just as much time in Ecclesiastes and Obadiah as I do in John 3 and Ephesians 1. There are some passages of scripture I read simply because I do not understand it, and I want to. The Bible needs thorough and repeated reading. One needs to soak and marinate in its thoughts and concepts. One needs to read the hard bits, even though one’s understanding on certain parts may be a little dim or even totally blank. It is line upon line, line upon line. It is precept upon precept, precept upon precept. That is the only way forward to renewing our minds in order to align ourselves with God’s thinking. That might be nothing in the early attacks at the biblical coal face – but once one finds a seam of truth, one usually starts to see the consistency of the bible by finding more of one’s discovered truth scattered all over its pages.


1356We need to answer fully and honestly: To what extent do we acknowledge any authority that the Bible carries? The scope, magnitude, and absolute or relative nature of the Bible’s authority determines and defines the level of control that we grant it over our conduct. This is no backwater of a thought, nor is it an unnecessary after thought of having faith in Christ. I have heard from many that say, “I don’t need the Bible. Just give me Jesus and keep it simple!” (Yeh? Ok! I’ll leave you alone with that one. I might write a book one day in answer to the statement.)


The degree of inspiration we acknowledge and grant to the Bible in its every jot and tittle, the consistency of unity within the writings of its 40 different authors that we submit to, and the absolute inerrancy – or even the word which many shy away from these days – the “infallibility” of the Bible (something that the scripture claims within itself), imply with voluminous, empirical evidence that it possesses absolute divine authority. Since the Bible is perceived, by many credible and respected characters within its pages, to be the very word of God, or God speaking, the necessary conclusion is that it carries the weight of God Almighty Himself in its reading. I find my statements here difficult to contradict or even dilute. A study in the manner in which Christ utilized the Old Testament leaves the matter without question.


1353The Bible is THE Word of God

I therefore suggest to my readers that the authority of Scripture (i.e. the Bible) is co-extensive to, and with, the authority of God Himself. The differences that various translations have in their interpretations does not in any way weaken my stance. One of the may premises I see for such a claim is that the Bible itself occasionally refers to God and Scripture as if the two are interchangeable. Benjamin Warfield said, “God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that, in point of directness of authority, no distinction was made between them.” Now that remark is loaded. In plain modern English, the fact is that there are places in the Bible where it is obvious that certain references are made to what God said, yet, instead of saying, “God said,” the text references it by, “The scripture says.” Let me offer just a couple of examples:


Genesis 12:1-3 states:


“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”


But then Galatians 3:8 reports:


“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”


How is it logical to say that “The scripture foresaw?” My point being, that Paul claims the absolute veracity of the written text. He clearly believed in the absolute authority of the scripture or he could not have made that remark in Galatians. Sadly, we live in the midst of a commonly held worldview that there are no absolutes. That’s what the atheists proclaim. “There is no such thing as an absolute!” Do they include that statement in their claim?


Again, we read in Exodus 9:13-16


“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me…But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth…'”


Here we have it clearly stated in Exodus what the Lord Himself spoke to Moses. Yet, when Paul refers to this account in Romans he says:


“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)


1352Whereas the Genesis passage says that it was “the Lord” who spoke to Abraham, Galatians says, “The Scripture foresaw”, or, “The Scripture announced….”  The passage from Exodus states that it was “the Lord” who told Moses what to say to Pharaoh, but Romans says, “The Scripture says to Pharaoh….” If we believe that the Bible is the word of God, then we would also refer to God and the Scripture as if they are identical. We would personify the Bible as the writers do. Anyone who never does this, probably does not believe that the Bible is the word of God. Even Jesus, when attacked by the devil fought the devil by the word of God in Moses’ mouth. But the power that resisted Hell’s authority was the preface, “It is written.”


At the end of Hebrews 2 also, the statement concerning the word of God being sharper than any two edged sword, somehow, mid-sentence, switches and refers the context of the word of God to being Christ Himself.

The Bible is alive. If we read it properly there will be less static truths and more growth in knowledge.

One of the miraculous elements of the Bible is the way it causes character growth, moral development and profound creativity. The reformation did not merely sweep Europe by people declaring, “I believe the Bible! I believe the Bible!” It did not give Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the others a purely static unmoving list of tenets of faith. The theology of the reformation caused people to think for themselves, improve themselves, create and discover new directions in which to invest in society and civilization as a whole, and generally lift themselves into a greater dignity and stature. Declaring the Bible to be inerrant raises more questions than answers. But by standing on the answers that are clearly provided, we render ourselves free to go further and deeper in negotiating the whole volume of the 66 books. The will of God is a land to explore, not a tightrope to be terrified of falling off. The kingdom is not a 3 feet diameter circle to stand to attention in without moving, but a vast continent to enjoy, an ocean to swim in and mountains to climb. Exploration into realms of the Spirit, the mind and the physical world is part of the kingdom of God. Both Moses and Joshua sent men to explore the Promised Land and to report. The reports were discussed and debated by the entire two million refugees of Israel. The Promised Land for the Christian is clearly defined in the Bible, yet we have not, after two thousand years, completed the initial exploration and definition of its borders, parameters, and the lushness of its productivity. We talk of Christianity as if it is a boring ancient belief structure that is irrelevant to the twenty-first century. The twenty-first century will be irrelevant without the manifestation of the sons of God and the kingdom of God.  Declaring the Bible to be infallible and inerrant is not meant to make us argumentative unbending bigots, it should turn Christians into the most interesting group of explorers, inventors, philosophers, parents and workers that the world has ever experienced. What a hard time God has to find a man who will get out of the ruts of thought, and be honest in mind, willing to be taught by Him. It should cause us to impact society with greatness of heart and mind. Smallness of mind, an inability to learn or change is clearly not Christ-like. To say that Christ’s teaching was revolutionary is simply a huge understatement. It was a whole new creation of life and its rationale. The adventure is to discover what is unchangeable truth, and what is to be adjusted, and to be loving, teachable, and authoratative at the same time.  One of the greatest quotes I have ever come across in this area is by Charles Grandison Finney in the introduction to his Systematic Theology. He says:


A photo of one of the great leaders in the Second Great Awakening in the USA. Charles Grandison Finney.

The question is not, whether this accords with the past or present views of the church, but does it accord with the word of God?

I have not yet been able to stereotype my theological views, and have ceased to expect ever to do so. The idea is preposterous. None but an omniscient mind can continue to maintain a precise identity of views and opinions. Finite minds, unless they are asleep or stultified by prejudice, must advance in knowledge. The discovery of new truth will modify old views and opinions, and there is perhaps no end to this process with finite minds in any world. True Christian consistency does not consist in stereotyping our opinions and views, and in refusing to make any improvement lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast, as we can obtain further information. I call this Christian consistency, because this course alone accords with a Christian profession. A Christian profession implies the profession of candor and of a disposition to know and obey all truth. It must follow, that Christian consistency implies continued investigation and change of views and practice corresponding with increasing knowledge. No Christian, therefore, and no theologian should be afraid to change his views, his language, or his practices in conformity with increasing light. The prevalence of such a fear would keep the world, at best, at a perpetual stand-still, on all subjects of science, and consequently all improvements would be precluded.

Every uninspired attempt to frame for the church an authoritative standard of opinion which shall be regarded as an unquestionable exposition of the word of God, is not only impious in itself, but it is also a tacit assumption of the fundamental dogma of Papacy.

He later states:

135 11I hold myself sacredly bound, not to defend these positions at all events, but on the contrary, to subject every one of them to the most thorough discussion, and to hold and treat them as I would the opinions of anyone else; that is, if upon further discussion and investigation I see no cause to change, I hold them fast; but if I can see a flaw in any one of them, I shall amend or wholly reject it, as a further light shall demand. Should I refuse or fail to do this, I should need to blush for my folly and inconsistency, for I say again, that true Christian consistency implies progress in knowledge and holiness, and such changes in theory and in practice as are demanded by increasing light.

On the strictly fundamental questions in theology, my views have not, for many years, undergone any change, except as I have clearer apprehensions of them than formerly, and should now state some of them, perhaps, in some measure, differently from what I should then have done.

135 9Mr. Finney is the best example of the very principle he lays down in these words. His theology was received as strange in his generation simply because it could not be classified as one of the main theological constructs that were dominant in the Christian world in his day. Whether Mr. Finney’s theology was correct or off balance, read his writings and judge for yourself – but the above quote leads to dynamic thoughts and attitudes to the Bible and its truth. My personal admiration for Finney and his powers of thought know only few boundaries.

The Bible has the weight and authority of God

Therefore, since God, logically and obviously possesses absolute authority, the Bible must also carry a presentation of His absolute authority. Since there is no difference between God speaking and the Bible speaking, there is no difference between obeying God and obeying the Bible. To believe and obey the Bible is to believe and obey God. To disbelieve and disobey the Bible is to disbelieve and disobey God. The Bible is more than an instrument through which God speaks to us; rather, the words of the Bible are the very words that God speaks – there is no difference.

1351This opinion, once it becomes a conviction, must, by its very nature, become utterly intrusive into a person’s life.  Faith must be intrusive in order to be faith. Faith must have convictions to govern its coherence and meaning to existential living. Faith must be given space to intrude into one’s direction in life, otherwise it is relegated to mere opinion. Faith challenges one’s inclinations to do wrong and or be unwise. Now that is intrusive. If it does not challenge such inclinations it is downgraded to an insipid thought of little consequence. It is relegated to a little piece of inconsequential religious gobbled gook, if it is not the master of our existence. This makes issues of faith, and concepts and teachings delivered by the source of that faith, vital to one’s anchor of soul and spirit. The Bible is God’s voice, and the authority of Scripture is total. The Bible is the written word of God.

I make these remarks merely as a preface to looking at Isaiah’s glorious insights concerning the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that brings us to faith.  The faith we have was given to us directly by the Spirit of God. Jesus said to His disciples that, “He that is with you, shall be in you.” He was referring to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. So intimate, intrusive entanglement and relationship with the Holy Spirit is, to put it mildly, of vital importance to basic Christian living. Relationship with another, demands on an ever deepening understanding of the friend, as well as being vulnerable to the friend’s opinions. When referring to a relationship with God, we need to insert the demand of submission to His will and purpose, as well as our alignment with that will and purpose in our everyday conduct.


Accepting the authority of God and His word, I therefore move to those sections of Isaiah’s writings where he radically reveals aspects of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.


A World-view that believes in a non-intrusive God leads to an Insipid Pneumatology.

1350For centuries, in fact, nearly 2,000 years, the Holy Spirit was in many ways the neglected Person of the Godhead, even though He has always been asserted to be co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father and the Son. An intense level of consideration, learning and examination was given to concerns of the nature and person of Christ in the early centuries after the birth of the New Testament church. In the early creeds, it is noticeable that longer paragraphs of theological explanation are used for the Father, and especially the Son, while the Holy Spirit is often reduced to much shorter statements like, “We believe in God the Holy Spirit.”

In the middle Ages and Reformation times, when breakthrough into faith and breakaways from the Church of Rome were rampant, strangely, comparatively less attention was paid to the Holy Spirit in the Western Reformation than was ever made in the Eastern church. This is especially highlighted when we see the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church. There were no Dark Ages in the Eastern Orthodox Church. No matter how liturgical and full of pomp and ceremony the Eastern Church was (and to a great degree still is) its theological staples have always been more Holy Spirit conscious than the Western church, until the Pentecostal revival that started around 1900. Read the history books. The clouds of theological fog and spiritual blindness that fell across Europe in what we refer to as the Dark Ages, never hit the Eastern Church at all as they contended with the rise of Islam.

How many times have each of us seen art illustrations depicting God Almighty, Yahweh as, “two men and a bird.” Surely there is more to the all-powerful and life exuding ground of cosmic existence, “the giver of life” as we name the Spirit in the credo, than an immaterial “Ghost” only justifying a reverent postscript in our theological tenets of the faith. How can theologians talk seriously about issues like inspiration, prophecy, sanctification, worship, union with Christ and with one another, the “advocate,” and “loving fellowship” of God, not to mention the primary role of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the biblical accounts like Acts 2, if we give short shrift to the Spirit of God Himself? Something seems to have degenerated in our understanding of spiritual regeneration.

I was in a church one day when two disgruntled ladies came to verbally accost me. “We have been Christians for twenty years, and have happily attended here, and we have never needed to hear about, “any Holy Spirit stuff.” Christianity needs to be about Jesus – so leave the Holy Spirit out of it!” That’s a true story. My wife was present when it was screamed at me. My wife said she had never seen me so speechless before. I truly did not know whether to laugh or cry.

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134. Isaiah in the Spirit – The Spirit in Isaiah

The Holy Spirit “in” the Old Testament Prophets


It is, I believe, the teaching of the Bible, academically and empirically, that when Isaiah wrote those things we read in the book that bears his name, he was “in the Spirit.” By definition, this would mean that he wrote and spoke under the strong hand and influence of the Holy Spirit. This inspiration was so strong and deep that his words are utilized by Christ, the gospel writers and the epistle writers throughout the New Testament. His words, in the New Testament are quoted as absolute truths and divine wisdom.

It could be argued that Isaiah’s conceptual knowledge and experiential, intimate acquaintance with the Holy Spirit transcends that which is known by many modern New Testament believers, despite what 1 Corinthians 2 and Ephesians 1 explains about the Christians gift of the Holy Spirit wrapped up in the gift of being saved. The Holy Spirit, according to the apostle Peter, was present “in” the prophets and therefore “in” Isaiah – 1 Peter 1:11 says so. Isaiah predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow those sufferings by revelation. Some 700 years before the First Advent of Christ, Isaiah saw the Master’s birth, life and death, by and through the Holy Spirit. He heard the Spirit’s voice, dreamed the Spirit’s dreams and saw what the Spirit knew was coming.


By the Spirit’s presence within him, his prophetic declarations were never his own fancy or opinions. It needs to be understood that it wasn’t that the prophets spoke like some kind of robotic automatons, mindlessly repeating God’s words, mouthing God’s message like some wooden ventriloquists dummy. When Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:32 that, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets,” he was speaking a truth that had always been relevant from Adam onwards. The prophets received the words from The Spirit into their own spirits. They saw and heard what Heavenly Father was saying and doing by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. They were moved upon by the Holy Spirit to produce such statements and writings as we have in the scripture (2 Peter 1:21).The moving of the Spirit upon them was to such a degree that every word was the voice of God.  There is deep, deeper and deepest in the issues and results of Holy Spirit inspiration and anointing. What the prophets – and indeed all the writers of the biblical scriptures received was the very deepest of anointing and inspiration, We believe in the inerrancy of the scriptures. The prophets were inspired, carried along, compelled and so spoke under direct divine direction. They wept when God wept. They laughed when God laughed. They groaned when God groaned. That is the degree of intimacy they shared with the Almighty. How much of that sort of thing do we see today?


HS1Answers through Revelation raising more questions

Receiving these inerrant revelations and insights into the purpose and goal of the entire cosmos did not leave them without questions, or mysteries. One would have thought that by hearing God speak, and grasping some understanding of God’s mind, all enquiry and ignorance would be utterly annihilated. But, no! Again, it is Peter who tells us that the Old Testament prophets had more questions the more answers they received. They eagerly prayed, debated, studied and meditated in attempts to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ within them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow (1 Peter 1:11).  Jesus Himself said, as He unraveled His parables, that “many prophets … wanted to see what you now see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (Luke 10:24). Having declared what they grasped from heaven’s mystery source, they were left desperately seeking the whys and wherefores of what they then new. Their pursuing and searching validates that nothing at all came by the human will in what they saw.


HS2The prophetic insight gained and owned by Isaiah and the other writing prophets, allowed them to see clearly how after Messiah’s death and resurrection, heaven had to receive Him until the time would come for God to restore everything. And Peter taught that this fact of Messiah’s renewal of all things was “promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). The weight of the authority of the Hebrew Old Testament prophets in the realm of the spirit, and the accuracy of their vision, makes Christian neglect of the writing prophets academically and intellectually scandalous. The writing prophets should be utilized as a vital key to greater understanding of the New Testament.


The Revelation of the Person of Messiah seen as the Ultimate Cosmic Destiny

HS3Peter actually said: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). In other words, the prophets had a perfectly good grasp of the gospel of Christ. Paul’s insight and theological vision was understood by his reading of the prophets: “Apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21). The apostle to the gentiles was under no delusion that he had invented, or thought through from his own devotions the substance of his message. He told people that he had not yet met in Rome, that he preached, “The gospel that He promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2).


Jesus told a couple of His loyal and persistent disciples, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25)  The point that Jesus was making at the time is that the prophets reveal all things to assuage ignorance, grief and unbelief – so attend to the reading of their legacy.


HS4The revelation of grace and faith that the church of Christ should be reveling in, worldwide was clearly seen by the apostles as an integral part of what the prophets taught and wrote. “Beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days” Acts 3:24. I would gently suggest that we err not imputing to Isaiah and the other prophets the gravity and importance that Peter, Paul and Jesus put on them. Surely, it is true to say that we err if we do not emulate the apostolic emphases on scripture.


The Prophets searched to know more

One thing the prophets did know, was that, because their vision was future, that Messiah would come in the future, that He would suffer and then enter glory in what was to them the future, their message was therefore for those who would live in their future. Not that they had any clue of whether or not it was 7 years, or 700 years into that future. Peter states that it was revealed to them that their writings were for future generations. This means that they knew not by book learning, or University attendance, but by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, that they were not serving themselves but the upcoming generations of people who would believe in Christ and to whom their future vision would indeed be past history. They spoke of the things that have now been told us by those who have preached the gospel to us. And hopefully, that preaching would have come to us by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven (1 Peter 1:12). As an incredibly tantalizing P.S. to his statement Peter throws away a breathtaking “one liner:” “Even angels long to look into these things.”


HS5The only clue we have as to how they sought to know the circumstances and time of the fulfillment of their prophetic body of truth is the manner in which Daniel sought out to understand Jeremiah’s prediction of the Jewish restoration to Jerusalem, and the watershed of all prophecy, namely Daniel’s instructions from the angel concerning “70 weeks,” literally “70 seven’s,” understood by all those whose first language is Hebrew as 490 years.


It is a wonderful thing we see in this glorious tension between the paradoxical concepts of what the prophets saw, knew and declared – and what they didn’t know in their life time, yet sought to get their minds around. They “searched intently inquiring, and investigating with the greatest care” (1 Peter 1:10). What they had, led them to seek out what they did not have. What they saw on the horizon made them search all the more for what was to be seen beyond the horizon. This is exactly the same, although to a different degree, as it is for the Christian today. Everything the prophets said and did, saw and understood was leading to, if not part and parcel of, the revelation of Christ. “It is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus,” says the angel in Revelation 19:10. When one angel defined who it was that had sent him, when speaking to the apostle John, he referred to, “… the Lord, the God who inspires the prophets.” It was as if the angel considered the inspiration that the Holy Spirit gave to the Hebrew prophets to be His greatest masterpiece and His most magnificent work.  While John was overawed and amazed by the revelations that he was receiving of the end times, another angel  said to him, “In the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:7. (Italics mine). Isaiah’s grasp of the person of the Godhead, I believe, is more comprehensive than academics normally accredit to him – indeed, it makes me wonder if the greater part of academic learning has ever stated the biblical truth concerning what the writing prophets actually understood of the person of Yahweh..


HS6Isaiah’s clear understanding of the personhood of the Holy Spirit

From Genesis to Revelation there are persistent references to the Personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit, which, along with deity clearly attributed in places to “The Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament, reveals how the three persons of the Godhead are declared and demonstratively seen long before the birth of Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures. Both the Spirit and, “the Angel of the Lord” are seen in the early chapters of the narrative of Genesis. The New Testament goes further after the ascension of Christ, of course, revealing the change of the modus operandi of the Spirit moving from being for particular people with particular requirements at particular times, to a divine desire to be poured out upon all flesh that believe and abiding with them. That is a desire that has not yet been fulfilled. Peter quotes the prophet Joel as vindication and verification of all that happened on the day of Pentecost as a commencement of the process, in Acts 2:17–18. This writer is beginning to query that long held assumption on the grounds of 1 Peter 1:10-11.


Jesus spoke more than once about, “another Comforter, referring to the Paraclete as a “He,” and then referring to the same “He” as the Spirit of truth. From the gospel of John, we hear Jesus’s promise, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17).


We need to observe that there is so much more to know about this “other comforter.”

The Holy Spirit is a person.

He thinks (Acts 15:28),

He speaks (Acts 1:16),

He leads (Rom. 8:14), and

He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30).


The Spirit is rightly called God the Spirit, for the Spirit is God. The Spirit’s gifts of perpetual guidance include counseling; comforting; teaching; imparted power; conviction; quickened minds; sharpened faculties; a hunger for the Word, worship, and prayer; and many other heightened attributes within the faculties of man.


Our very desire to respond to Christ for salvation is initiated by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 12:3). We learn from various passages like – Ephesians 4:11, Romans 12:3-8, and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30 – about gifts of the Spirit – charismata, made available to Christian believers. In Galatians 5:22-23, we learn that the fruit of the Spirit, holy character traits, are brought forth in us by the Spirit. The Spirit is our “seal” or “deposit,” a guarantee of life eternal now with God and of, “something more,” that is coming (2 Corinthians 1:22).

133. Divine appointment for a “secular” job?

Isaiah 22:20-25

Eliakim 0 The lintel of Shebna-yahu's tomb. Now in the British Museum

Believe it or not, this is the lintel stone that was installed over a hewn stone grave that is in, I think, a British Museum. It is over two millennia old, and was found in the suburbs of Jerusalem. The name inscribed upon it is “Shebna-Yahu.” Coincidence? Or could it be the one that Shebna (in Isaiah 22) was building for himself? What do you think?

God is bigger than we can conceive. He has an individual plan for the entire six or seven billion people that are alive on the planet now, as well as the plan he had for the billions that have lived in the past and those that will live in the future. God is intimately involved in what is good, and what is the best direction for each of us to go. That is plainly and honestly how great and infinite He is. Do you know, if the entire six to seven billion people on the planet today started to pray at the same time, every single person, without exception, would have His total attention and focus. That is just one aspect of God’s infinite greatness.  We hear of people who are frequently in the eye of the media who are in high office like Presidents or Prime Ministers, and even those who are simply in the public limelight for reasons both trivial and major, and we thus find it easier to conclude that they were divinely appointed for their places of work simply because they are in High Office with great influence and power and we live every day aware of those characters being in office.


But be very assured that the completely unknown Joe Bloggs who is looking for any old retail job to pay the rent on his bedsit, or the socially ignored Mary Smith who is looking for a part-time cleaning job in order to feed her child in a single roomed apartment in a poor corner of London are all in the divine “high intensity focus” with His overriding plan, purpose and destiny that would be seen with great clarity if they only aligned themselves with Christ.


“Surely that is too small a job for God to be interested in or have any purpose for,” say many. If that is your opinion, I am so sorry. I press the game show negative buzzer as harshly as I can! That is totally the wrong answer concerning the character and purpose of God. Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground that He does not know about.


We are told absolutely nothing of the familial roots of neither Shebna, nor his successor on office Eliakim. And that silence is significant. When God makes plans for people, and He always plans things that enrich and better people, He absolutely refuses to consult their past.


Eliakim 4Judgement always comes because of unrepented conduct of the past. All have sinned. This means that all have memories, conduct, experiences, and feelings even, that need to be renounced, recanted and repented of. God calls us to wash and be clean. Faith in Christ is the ultimate in cleansing of past, present and future evil planned. The blood of Christ cleanses soul, spirit and body before God. The Spirit of God makes all things new.


The bullet point observations of the account of the story of “Shebna out! Eliakim in!”  are both several and contemporary.

  • High Office offers no immunity to sin, shame and complete demotion. “Royal steward” in the Hebrew is literally “steward over the house.” i.e. The only office higher in society was the King himself.
  • Be assured that if everybody is blind to one’s conduct, and even if the king is not aware of immoral self-aggrandizement of public funds, God sees all. The word’s “this steward” (22:15) concerning Shebna has a “this” that sounds extremely derogatory.
  • The suggestion of Shebna’s story is that he was probably part of what we today would refer to as the “nouveau riche.” His wealth is contemporarily referred to as, “new money.” A less common epithet, but just as true and relevant is another French reference: Shebna was a “parvenu.” The word in its past perfect tense and sense suggests somebody who has seemingly overreached himself, and yet attained what he reached for. A pauper in wealthy clothes. An ignoramus being accredited as an academic. A lofty role player who lives in the gutter. All of which is utterly amoral and to be encouraged rather than discouraged, but the negative starting point can dangerously over emphasize and prioritise the trappings of wealth as the substance of life.  And such a paradigm is fraught with danger, horror and jealousy. These were dangers that Shebna sadly pursued and embraced.
  • If Shebna was still in office when the real time of Isaiah 30:1-5 took place, there is every indication that Shebna was one of the high ranking officials that pressed for Judah to link themselves with Egypt. This was not a neutral, amoral political opinion says Isaiah. This was an evil inclination that would bring horrible retribution on Judah. Good political opinions and morality are conjoined twins.
  • Pride sought after posthumous elevation. Self-importance is a sin. We are not talking of a healthy sense of dignity or self-worth. We are talking of evil thoughts of superiority and bias against others.
  • The comparison of, “This steward” when talking of Shebna, and, “My servant,” when referring to Eliakim,” is heavy. May we all aspire to be, “His servant.”
  • Utterly inappropriate nepotism is an evil.
  • Nobody is indispensable.
  • If one man does not fulfill the calling of God, it is highly likely that God has somebody else who will do the job better.
  • Note that God not only has a stern word to Godlessness beyond the borders of His Land and people, but is just as stern, if not more so, to Godlessness withing their borders.
  • Eliakim 4There is a lightly held tradition amongst Jewish ancient Rabbis that Shebna, having been elevated to high position under the reign of Ahaz had a distant relationship with Assyria. Ahaz had an almost sycophantic relationship with Assyria, a relationship that, if the rabbinical legend is true, would suggest that Shebna was reluctant to change under the administration of Hezekiah who succeeded Ahaz and would have no pull with Assyria whatsoever. The only thing in life that will never change, is the need for change.
  • Some people forget that no matter how grand, noble and stately an expensive mausoleum is, it is still only filled with dead men’s bones as is the cheapest body bag put under ground.
  • The deeper the sin that is unrepented of, the more costly the price – possibly in this life, but definitely in the next. Some Rabbi’s think that he secretly promised to assist Sennacharib in his assault on Jerusalem, and when the promised assistance never arrived that Assyria whisked Shebna off as a prisoner. Sounds good … but there is no biblical support for this suggestion.


And so… to the text itself:



  1. And then it will be said that it has come about in that day, I called for and summoned my servant and slave, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, to replace you.
  2. I will dress and clothe him with your tunic and robe and then strengthen him by binding your sash and girdle around him and will commit your authority over to him, by placing it in his hand. He shall be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.


Eliakim 1 Mosaic-of-St.-Peter-in-Basilica-Saint-Peter-Vatican-Rome-Italy-300x225 (1)

This foto is of the mosaic of the apostle Peter in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican. Supposedly in his hand is the key to the kingdom of heaven. Something inside me repels at the picture which my heart screams “IT IS SO NOT WHAT JESUS MEANT.”

At this point of the time line, Eliakim was a true and faithful servant of the Lord. God’s plan was to put Eliakim in Shebna’s lofty position, give him all of Shebna’s symbols and credentials of office, for example, the robe and the sash, and develope him as “a father” over the population of Jerusalem and Judah. These statements about Eliakim give us insight into the role that Shebna played.


Eliakim was commissioned to love and care for the people – a national pastor as it were. This implies he would be accountable to do what is right at all times, just as Shebna was, just as we all are. High and lofty or poor and ignored, brilliant or backward, extrovert or introvert, a firm sense of responsibility or otherwise, we shall all have to give account to the Divine Master for all we have done and how we lived. Sowing and reaping is and must be a principle that is effective through all of time and even into eternity.


  1. And I have placed on his shoulders, around his neck, the key to the house of David – the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them.


Eliakim would become what we might call in the UK, the Prime Minister, exercising the powers of government in the name of the king, much as Joseph did for Pharaoh as in Genesis 41:41–44. He was possibly the palace administrator when Sennacherib’s chief officer threatened Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Eliakim’s authority was nearly unquestioned, as was Shebna’s before him. The phrase, “Key to the house of David,” and, “What he opens no one can shut,” depict the power that would be invested in the man by virtue of his office. Jesus, the King of kings, now holds the key to the house of David (Revelation 3:7), fulfilling the Davidic covenant, which promised a man on the Davidic throne forever.


The key of the house of David will be upon Eliakim’s shoulder, and is now said to be on Christ’s shoulder. The key of the house of David is symbolic for the government of Eliakim, which is a type cum symbol of the government of Jesus Christ as described in Isaiah 9.  “The government shall rest upon His shoulder.” Note also that, according to Isaiah, the government or kingdom of Jesus Christ is established, or founded, on a work of righteous judgment. This is an important aspect of the key of the house of David that was presented to Eliakim and that Shebna abused.


The key of the house of David, possessed by Jesus, opens two important doors. John the Revelator sees the first door opened in Revelation 4:1. “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up here, and I will show you things which must be hereafter.”


  1. I have driven him like a peg into a firm place, like a nail into a wall; he will become a throne of honour and glory for the house of his father bringing honour and respect to his family name.
  2. All the glory of his family will hang on him and his peg, for he shall carry a great burden of responsibility – his family offspring and offshoots – and all its lesser vessels, from the cups and bowls down to all the flagons and jars, i.e. even the lowliest members of his family.


Eliakim 3God’s purpose was to make Eliakim’s position firm, like a tent peg driven in “a firm place,” like a “nail into a solid wall.” He would hold the business of the palace securely against the winds of adversity. He would be like an honorable seat for all his family, and the glory and reputation of his family would “hang on him” and what he did (as upon a wall peg).


  1. “In that day,” affirms the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “Moved will be the peg driven into the firm place. Though it was indeed safe, it will be pulled out and it will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall to the ground, and the load hanging on it will be cut down. Everything it supports will fall down, drop and be destroyed.” The LORD has spoken.


Unfortunately, Isaiah had to add an addendum to this prophecy. It seems that God saw that Eliakim would not prove worthy of his office. Perhaps the burden would be too great for him and, in turn, he too would be cut down.  Then again, I want to agree with those who hold the opinion that here Isaiah is referring back to Shebna for one moment and that it was his firmly set nail that was loosened and dropped. It was, after all, Shebna who was more concerned about the house of his father (his relatives) than he was about the house of Judah and the house of his master, Hezekiah.



Eliakim 5

132. Stereotypical Corruption in High Places!

Isaiah 22:15-19

Corruption 01Corruption in positions of authority, respect and morality has horribly and terrifyingly become one of the norms of twenty-first century society. Doctors, Teachers, Politicians, Police and greatly loved and well received celebrities have all caused the public, worldwide and especially in the UK to gasp in horror.

Recently, all within the space of 3 or 4 days it felt like I was bombarded with the thought of societal corruption in high places. Firstly in the news there was an extremely high ranking Policeman suspended from duty for misconduct in a sinister cover up of Police malpractice, which, as I write, even though the final verdict on his case has not been pronounced, the opinion of the general public is quite damning. Time will tell the truth of this case. While this Policeman in the corridors of power was being suspended, there is, of course, a required replacement to run the South Yorkshire Force. Yet within 48 hours, the replacement was removed because they were already being examined for corruption on the job in another Police force. The situation would be suitable for a comedy show on TV if it was not so damning of the present status quo concerning the public and truthful image of the Police forces of the UK. Strangely, the evening that the replacement Chief of Police was moved aside, I watched an old Panorama programme on BBC Iplayer. The title was intriguing about Police and criminals. I was shocked to watch an intensive hour long investigative documentary on the shocking corruption in the Metropolitan Police Force in London. The programme proved with witnesses and evidence that a huge number of officers in “the Met” were in the pay of organized crime, and that the Police were involved even to the point of murder.

corruption 01aAs if all the above had not been enough, the following evening I watched the last episode of what has been hailed as one of the greatest modern drama series that the BBC has ever produced entitled “Line of Duty.” It was a gritty and verging on the extremely realistic story of a complex plot of murder, child abuse and intrigue. The plot was a long and winding road of twists and turns leading the viewer to conclude almost every week that a different person was the “baddie.” The point of my highlighting this particular drama is that every single person in the plot line was a Policeman. It is as if the British people take it for granted that the Police can be more corrupt than the criminals – a statement that was actually made by a senior Police chief in the Panorama programme I mentioned above.

I felt burdened after such a 72 hour onslaught on my interest and consciousness to the degree that I concluded I needed to pray against the corruption in high places in British society.

Corruption, it seems is pandemic in Britain. Other sources tell me it is suffocating all societies on the whole planet.

corruption 02MP’s, Police men and women, Doctors, extremely high profile celebrities and even judges and magistrates have over recent years been in infamous cases of moral, financial, and sexual corruption in the UK. This is the exact same symptoms of society that the prophet Isaiah lived in. This statement can be verified generally by reading Isaiah chapter 1. However, the specifics of the corruption within his society are mentioned bit by bit as one ploughs through Isaiah’s voluminous insights of life in Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C. as noted in the book that bears his name.

Here in verses 15-19 in chapter 22, Isaiah highlights one man in particular who personifies the kind of corruption we are discussing.

Indulgent pride nearly always precedes a moral fall. The false comfort that high office, high salary and high public profile gives a person, injects delusions of safety and grandeur into the hearts of those considered the great and the good of society.

This man Shebna was given what we, today, would call, “a cushy number.” In fact it was the cushiest of cushy numbers. If it was at the palace where he worked he would clearly be meeting and mixing with the Davidic king of his day as well as the whole Royal family, mixing with princes and courtiers, working in a comfy little office in the Royal Palace keeping the books for the nation’s Treasury. He was a wealthy and publicly a well-respected man, embedded in comfort and regal company … as far as man could see.  Some think it was at the temple where he was the treasurer. If that was so, it would still expose him to the “high and mighty” of the land, giving him kudos and respect among the masses who would see him standing and talking regularly by the side of the nation’s leaders both civic and religious.

However, God saw him differently than the masses did. And God does nothing without telling the prophets. And so He told Isaiah what He was going to do with Shebna. And in these verses, we are witnesses of exactly what the son of Amoz actually heard from God and then said to the nation’s treasurer.

corruption 03Shebna was elevating himself in a manner that would cause the general public to think that the people he worked for had raised him up. Shebna however had made and awarded himself all the trappings of greatness and nobody seemed to have perceived His malpractice apart from the Almighty.

He made himself chariots. Chariots were banned in the Levitical commands. Biblical philosophers tell us that this precept was to prevent class distinction and people gaining social clout simply because of wealth. Only the aristocracy and the moneyed people of the time could afford chariots. That is how we know the man was legitimately, or illegitimately, in the money.  His position allowed him to create an image of himself in society that the king and courtiers probably never caught a glimpse of. He did these things without asking for Royal permission. If the king or Priestly leaders had OK’d his conduct Isaiah would not have been divinely spoken to about his conduct. But those “beneath” his status in society would simply assume his actions and elevation took place with Kingly sanction, if not Kingly instigation. Shebna had bestowed huge cost on hewing out of a rock face, somewhere in or around Jerusalem, a burial tomb for himself. In a nutshell, he considered himself much more important than he actually was.

corruption 03aSuch personal decision making to create an aura of greatness around his person absolutely demanded secrecy of motive, and often secrecy of activity. One needs secrecy in order to be deceptive. Without secrecy deception dies. Indeed, secrecy is essential for long undiscovered corruption. I may be leaning on Isaiah’s silence here, but it seems to me that nobody had a clue what Shebna was doing deceptively. His deception was hidden amongst the work and toil of his daily routine. Nobody would normally question workmen hewing out a crypt from a rock face.  Desire for wealth, greatness and public respect without any personal desire for greatness of character is universally engrafted in all political corruption. Shebna wanted posterity to remember him as great, yet, not only had he done nothing to justify his self-invested greatness, but he had no intention of planning to do anything that would attract sympathy to the thoughts of greatness in him. To call a spade a spade, he was a crook wanting to look respectable in the public eye, and fooling his superiors as to his integrity – or perhaps impressing them simply because he was as crooked as they were.

corruption 04However, the true word spoken to Isaiah by the ever-living, ever-loving Yahweh is that this man Shebna was solidified in his self-inflatedness like quick dry cement in the foundations of a hundred story office block. Nothing is missed by the all-seeing eye of Yahweh. The man nation’s treasury accountant, who would have the whole population think he was God’s gift to Jewish society, was to be, quite literally, thrown away. He was to be the shame of his master.  The chariots he had made for himself, perhaps his greatest external display of wealth and splendour, were, in the future, to be owned and kept by those who would take him away in exile, and be used to display the victorious class of people who would become his Assyrian slave master. God was to screw his splendour up into a ball and exile him … to Assyria.

God’s plan was for Shebna to die abroad, and utterly lacking in greatness and/or splendour, his name, his riches and even his occupation was to be forgotten. Where it was remembered, it would be derided, or even denied.

Having explained the story, now, to the text of my own translation:

  1. This is what the sovereign Lord, Yahweh Almighty of Heaven’s Armies, said to me: “Come, go, confront this scribe cum steward – Shebna, who is the House Administrator cum chancellor and supervisory treasurer and say to him:

corruption 05Here is the stark message! Isaiah, for the first and only time throughout his 66 chapters, gives a prophetic word against a particular person in Jerusalem. I find it fascinating to note that the Douay Rheims translation has it that Shebna lived, “in the tabernacle” and oversaw, “the Temple,” as opposed to, “the Kings Palace,” which is more commonly interpreted as his sphere of work in early English bibles. Several translations simply say that Shebna’s responsibilities were, “over the house,” which, a strict read of the Hebrew, would prove to be more exact as a translation and much less of an interpretation. It leaves it open as to where it was that Shebna operated.

The prophecy exhibits the darkness he was in and the determination he held to fulfil his evil purpose. The  most frightening observation, to me, is that nowhere is Shebna encouraged to repent. This is undoubtedly a word of judgement. His hardness of heart has rendered him incapable of responding positively to God, and/or His prophet.

Shebna was a corrupt, self-sufficient and remarkably self-centred official. Wherever it was that he worked, Palace or Temple, he was manager and keeper of the keys. He was treasurer to either of those splendid facilities and had access and responsibility for huge amounts of money.

corruption 06As a, “By the way!” the name, “Shebna,” is Aramaic and means, “Tender Youth.”  Obviously the dreams that his parents carried for him in naming him in That manner, were never fulfilled. He had deep hardness of heart, and a solidified aged corruption of self. He was neither tender, nor youthful.  Because his name is Aramaic, as opposed to Hebrew, he was possibly a foreigner, or even, perhaps, of mixed race. He apparently rose to power by learning how to be sycophantic and please the king in a manner that at any particular moment was required. The term “steward” comes from a root word meaning “to be of use to.” Shebna had made himself useful. Yet he himself owned nothing and was directly accountable to either the king, or the elders of the priests, depending on where it was he worked. The man is also referred to in Isaiah 37:2. Where he is said to be a scribe. Had he been demoted by the time that the events of Isaiah 37 took place.

The words of the Prophet, in allusion to Shebna, lead us to determine that he deeply and personally cherished wicked envy. Nor is it improbable that this prediction of Isaiah’s was uttered, when Sennacherib’s army was discomfited, and Jerusalem was exulting in Sennacharib’s departure.

  1. What are you doing here? Who are your relatives? As if you were somebody! Who gave you permission to cut out a beautiful and impressive grave for yourself here, hewing your tomb on the height at the choicest location and most prominent site, chiseling a monument as your home or crypt and resting place in the rock?

corruption 07Shebna was using his stewardship purely to advance his position in society. By arranging a sepulchre high up on a rock face, he was bequeathing to himself posthumously the legend, honour and place in history due to the likes of a king. He was not a true servant no matter who it was that he worked for. He only served his own selfish desire.  He was betraying the trust of his superiors, King or the High Priest.

  1. “Beware, Yahweh is about to grab and take firm hold of you, shake you up and down and hurl you away violently with a mighty captivity, O you mighty man.

Because Shebna had misused his position, the LORD was about to take him down and cast him out. One cannot mistake the sarcasm of Isaiah referring to him as a “mighty man.”

  1. He will roll you up tightly into a ball and throw you into a large country – a distant barren land. There you will die and there your splendid chariots will remain (perhaps broken and useless)—you are a disgrace to your master and his house!

“Like a ball,” Shebna would be thrown where he would perish outside the city, possibly not Jerusalem, but somewhere in Assyria in exile. He would be buried without ceremony. He was a disgrace to the Palace of Hezekiah, or the Temple – wherever it was where he worked, where he was in charge. His “splendid chariots” were part of his attempt to honour himself as if he were royalty.

  1. I will depose and remove you from your house and drive you out of office and you will be ousted from your position, brought down from your station.

God Himself would take him from high office. The final fulfillment of God’s judgement on him may have come after his demotion.

It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

corruption 09 These tombs in the photo above and below date from the time Isaiah would have spoken to one of the royal stewards.

131. I see it as Happened even though it’s going to Happen and the Spirit explains it as a “Now” event.


I read in a Christian magazine, recently, some academic Theological Seminary professor making a vague and faithless kind of point asking the question; “How can the Old Testament Prophets be talking of something that was future to them, whilst using past tense language?” Oh dear! He then attempted to convince his readers that because certain classically famous lines of scripture, universally seen as referring to the Second Advent of Christ, are written in past tense, the entire bible reading world over the last two millennia must have it wrong! “How can it be future when the prophets talk in past tense?” When intelligent and academically qualified men with thoughts like this are given the responsibility of teaching future ministerial material, one has to shudder at the thought of where things are going. It is as Henry Ford said (at least I think it was He) “The existence of the Church is one of the greatest proofs that God is alive, for no organization or group of people, could stay in business for two thousand years under such incredibly bad human management without direct divine intervention.” Unfortunately people are influenced by this kind of perversion of biblical interpretation, especially when it’s a Bible College tutor in his later years and claiming something like 50 years ministry experience, and “wisdom.” So, I proffer my immediate and hasty response on two levels.

  1. A Principle of Prophetic revelation explained in plain English.
  2. The Plain Facts of translating Biblical Hebrew.

tense 3I do not claim to be an academic, but I have mixed and mingled with Prophets, Prophetic ministers, and many who prophecy in local churches, and I herewith offer my answer to the above referred to academic, who shall remain nameless. (The truth is that it was a magazine I glanced at for a few minutes in a church foyer. I don’t even remember the name of the publication. All I grasped was the writer’s thought.)

The Spiritual Principle of Prophetic revelation in regard to tenses used in its delivery.

The source of prophecy is God Himself. The means by which a divine prophetic word comes to human kind is varied and diverse. Visions, dreams, voices and transcendent experiences are aplenty in the Bible. It has to be said, the recipients of God’s word occasionally sound as if they are not quite sure where they were at the time, or indeed, whether it was anywhere in the physical realm at all. The weird and wonderful divinely supernatural scenarios abound throughout the Scripture’s metanarrative. Paul writes at one point about not knowing whether he was in the body or out of it. How strange an experience was that? Ezekiel talks of being picked up by a single hair of his head and being transported from Babylon and the River Chebar over several hundred miles to Jerusalem in order to see what was going on there prior to the fall of that great city in 587 BC. Was he physically transported? Or was it some spiritual vision? One has to concede how remarkable some of these episodes are no matter how it is interpreted by believer or Atheist alike. Isaiah was in the temple when he saw God’s glory. But Isaiah was not of the tribe of Levi, and so was not allowed into the Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem at all. And so we are left wondering. Was he actually in the heavenly temple, in a transcendent world – a parallel universe, if you will ? God clearly spoke at sundry times and diverse manners to the fathers.

tense0Various tenses are forms taken by verbs that indicate the time of an action or a movement. In English there are three main tenses, of course, past, present and future.

Prophecy, even today, in my experience as an observer and an insatiable enquirer, can often occur in the same varied manner as of within the Old Testament.

Prophecy is a thing of the Holy Spirit. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. The divine source of the prophetic is outside of time. The manner in which a prophecy is delivered, whether it is a divine remark about something historical, predictive of something future, or stated as being at the present moment of the pronouncement is sometimes irrelevant when the prophetic matter is properly understood. Understanding and discernment are vital for the correct dividing of the word of truth.

tense01I am English. English is my first language. I speak a spattering of German, but I think and talk and dream in English. My knowledge of Hebrew is tiny.  If and when I negotiate Hebrew, I surround myself with books and websites to keep my conclusions straight.  My love is English. The English language is absolutely wonderful and expansively expressive. I want to explain my take on an issue. Follow my line of thought as I present to you several scenarios of a hypothetical prophet speaking supernaturally of something that is to happen in his future.

Our first hypothetical scene is straightforward. Our imaginary man of God is consciously standing in, let us imagine, 700 years prior to the birth of Christ. He sees, hears and/or perceives that in a far off future date that the Messiah is coming. So, he pronounces in a straight forward and plain manner. “Messiah will come. He will be born, live thirty three years and die, and on the third day will rise again.” No problem! Future tense. Our hypothetical prophet has made himself understood and spoken clearly.

But that isn’t the full content of the story.

tense1The following day, perhaps, our pretend prophetic character receives the same communication, yet in a different manner. This second scenario is of exactly the same message. It is still 700 B.C. However, this time our man has a vision. The vision is so lucid and clear that he sees it in motion in the same way that we today would see a movie. Without doubt, many of the writing prophets were seers. In this vision he sees Messiah born, he sees Messiah full grown, he sees Messiah die and be buried, and then he is aware of His rising from the dead. So he stands up to deliver his message. It is exactly the same message as in scene 1 above, excepting for the language which is, by necessity of integrity, of a different tense. This time he declares, “I saw Messiah having arrived. He was born and lived for thirty three years, and then was executed. On the third day I saw Him and clearly He rose again.” So here we have exactly the same message delivered in exactly the same chronological perspective and geographical location. But this time he speaks in past tense. He knew it was future. In retrospect we know full well that it was 700 years distant (as in Isaiah’s future), yet, he speaks in past tense. The simplicity of my logic is painfully obvious. One needs assistance to misunderstand it.

But we still haven’t finished with this issue.

Let us picture again, the following day, a third prophetic revelation. Our blossoming prophet dreams a dream, and/or sees a vision in which he follows the Messiah as if he is present throughout each scene. I have heard modern prophets report such revelations, and am sure that some of the Old Testament seers and prophets had this kind of experience. In such a wonderful, “real-time,” vision, the prophet declares, though still living in the year 700 B.C., “I am seeing Messiah being born. I am seeing Him walk amongst men. I am seeing His being abused. I am witnessing Him die. I am seeing Him rise from among the dead. I see it. It appears to me as in the now.”  The futuristic scene, is here seen and declared as if it was contemporaneously seen in his very presence, even though it is 7 centuries before the events were to take place place.

tense1aJust to fill in the picture further, we need to add that it is not necessary for the prophet to know whether his vision will be fulfilled in the following week or seven millennia from the day he saw it. We also need to note that the language I am using to make the point is much more specific and particular than any of the prophets wrote. The New Testament tells us that the prophets did not really fully grasp what it was they were speaking of.

In these three hypothetical scenes, we are explaining what happens in stark and concrete reality.

There are several other tenses and modus operandi of legitimate prophetic speech that I will not necessarily pursue, but there is one final remark that rounds up all I have written above. These issues may not be important in the spoken prophetic gift today, but it is vitally important when reading such things in the inspired words of scripture. My final example seems even more complex, yet absolutely essential to be noted to maintain the integrity of our hypothetical prophet.

What if the prophet saw the entire revelation in sections on different days and in different modes? He sees it differently each time. So much so, that when he stands up to declare the message he prophesies and says. “Messiah will come (future tense). See! He is being born as a man (present tense). I saw him live amongst men (past tense). He was abused (past perfect tense), and I see Him die (present tense). He will rise again from the dead (future tense) and has ascended in great glory! (past tense)” So now we have, legitimately, the one coherent message in correct chronological order, but stated in different tenses. Even in such a manner as this, the message still has complete integrity and accuracy. The prophet is declaring what the Spirit of God has showed him, and he is plainly stating what he has seen and what he knows.

Some academics of the English language claim that there are up to 24 tenses in English. How wonderful is that! I was taught at school that there are only twelve tenses in English, that is 4 modes each of past. Present and future.

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard, Time concept.

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow words on blackboard, Time concept.

I am making the point that when a man is “in the Spirit,” and receives heavenly communications, we are playing with fire if we are to deride the inspired remark simply because he doesn’t use the correct mode of normal written English in the pragmatic and natural world in which we live. Prophets, quite often, are neither pragmatic nor natural, normal nor novelists. The Spirit speaks from eternity into time, and the prophets speak the word in the earth in order to impact eternity. And the human recipient might not always fully comprehend what he or she sees, senses or says.


Wonderful! But there is only one problem with my thoughts hitherto! Isaiah wasn’t English, neither did he speak English. We read our English Translations, but the Old Testament was written nearly all in Hebrew, with a little Aramaic thrown in, and the New Testament was originally Greek. So we need to press further.

The Plain Facts of translating Biblical Hebrew.

The Facts of Biblical Hebrew.

tense2aIsaiah was a Hebrew by descent who spoke Hebrew. The issue of tenses is made slightly more complex inasmuch as the Hebrew language as spoken in biblical times was a different Hebrew as is spoken these days in Israel and by Jewish people around the world.

However, considering all our words above about tenses, when reading Old Testament prophecy – hold on to your seats while I inform you of the most phenomenal fact that we need to get our head round when discussing the translation of Biblical Hebrew into English (or indeed into any language):  There is no such thing as “tense” in biblical Hebrew.

Modern Hebrew does indeed have tenses, and that we must not forget, however, biblical Hebrew is not a “tense” conscious language. Modern grammarians refer to biblical Hebrew as an “aspectual” language. The same form of a verb can be translated as either past, present, or future depending, of course on the context and, uniquely, various grammatical prompts. The most well-known grammatical prompt in “translator circles,” is what is referred to as the “Vau-consecutive” that makes an imperfective verb refer to the past. This Vau-consecutive is a linguistic structure in Biblical Hebrew that comprises prefacing a verb form with the letter Vau in order to change its tense and/or aspect.

Therefore it is wrong to say that Isaiah 53 and a huge number of other prophecies are in the “past tense,” and therefore must refer to a time before Isaiah. Biblical Hebrew has no tenses. There are many examples of what is wrongly called the “past tense” (properly called “the perfective” or “perfect”) being used for futuristic predictive prophecy. This so called “prophetic perfect tense,” is simply a literary technique used in the Bible that describes future events that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they already happened. It sounds profoundly confusing if you don’t know Hebrew, but that is exactly what folks say when English is learnt as a second language.

tense3aIn the Hebrew ( as well as a little Aramaic) in which the Old Testament was written, when something was categorically set to to occur in the future, it is often spoken of as if it had already occurred in the past. Hebrew scholars are familiar with this turn of phrase and refer to it not only as “the prophetic perfect,” but also the “perfective of confidence,” and/or “the historic sense of prophecy.” I have read some volumes on this subject where it is referred to as the, “here now, but not yet,” or the, “already – but not yet.”  The fact that so many experts call it something different suggests it is a kind of unwritten law of the language which has no definitively final epithet. I would suggest that most Bible readers are in no way aware of this aspect of the original Old Testament language. This is the reason why, in all the translations of the Old Testament, in passages where this phenomena occurs, translators cannot make a literal translation into English no matter how hard they try. This means, logically, that they have to actually change the tense of the original in order to keep the translation as understandable English.  The English language, in spite of all its glorious complexity, breadth, depth and flexibility cannot cope with the Hebrew “prophetic perfect.” Thus, the “prophetic perfect” is not perceived in English Bibles.


The problem is such that when one has different colleges, universities and official bodies formulating a new translation, a hundred learned experts would hold a hundred differing ideas on how the Hebrew “tenseless” text should be translated into readable English. This is why the Old Testament prophets especially vary so much in the multiplicity of English versions. The only people I have spoken to in the flesh that I trust and believe concerning Old Testament translations are those few I have met whose first language is Hebrew. All the English speaking academics who do their work on the grounds that they “know” Biblical Hebrew seem to differ from person to person. Who is the man on the street to trust? I am not saying that translators corrupt the meaning at all. I am saying that English does not have a grammatical construct like the “prophetic perfect.”  As a totally random example of what I am saying, here is a huge number of examples on one “prophetic perfect” phrase from Isaiah. You will clearly see what I mean. Remember that all these translations come from translating the same Hebrew text. (By the way, if anybody thinks my statements concerning the tenses here, please feel free to correct me.)


Isaiah 5:13


“Therefore my people removed without knowledge.” (Young’s Literal Translation) PAST SIMPLE

“Therefore my people have gone into captivity…” (KJ 2000 Bible. Webster’s Bible Translation.) PAST PERFECT

“Therefore my people go into captivity …” (Amplified Bible. Amplified Classic Version.) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people go into exile” (ESV. ESVUK. NASB. ISV. NAS. WEB. CEB. CJB) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people go into exile because they lack understanding.” (ISV) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people go into captivity” (New Berkeley Bible. MEV.) PRESENT SIMPLE

“Therefore my people are gone into captivity;” (KJV. American KJV. KJ21. ASV. JPS Tanakh. Jubilee Bible. ERV.  BRGV. ) PRESENT CONTINUOUS

“Therefore my people are led away captive…” (Darby Bible Translation) PRESENT CONTINUOUS

“Therefore is my people led away captive…” (Douay-Rheims Bible) PRESENT PERFECT

“Therefore my people are gone into captivity…” (JUB)  PRESENT PERFECT

Therefore my people is gone into captivity…” (1599 GeNV) PRESENT PERFECT

“By want of knowledge my Race is stripped” (Ferrar Fenton) PRESENT PERFECT

“Therefore my people will go into exile without knowledge…” (Lexham EB) FUTURE SIMPLE

My people will go into exile because they don’t understand” (NOG) FUTURE SIMPLE

“… my people will go into exile … (NIV. Holman CSB. H.C. Leupold. NLT. God’s Word Translation.). FUTURE PERFECT

“My people will be captured and taken away [be deported; go into exile/captivity]. (EXB). FUTURE PERFECT

“Therefore my people will end up in exile because they don’t know the score.” (MSG) FUTURE PERFECT

“And so you will be carried away as prisoners.” (GNT) FUTURE PERFECT

“So my people will be captured and taken away” (ICB) FUTURE PERFECT

“Therefore my people will be deported … (NET.) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“Therefore I will send you into exile far away” (TLB) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“… That’s why many of you will be dragged off to foreign lands.” (Contemporary EV) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“My people don’t really know God. So they will be captured and taken away.”(ERV) FUTURE CONTINUOUS

“Therefore my people will have to go into exile … (New World Translation) FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS


tense4As you can see, so many experts have so many different perspectives concerning the tenses that the prophetic writings convey. To be perfectly frank about this, because English never uses anything like the “prophetic perfect,” (OK! Perhaps, very rarely) most Christians would only be confused if it were in the English read. The past tense is used instead of the future tense when the speaker views the action as being as good as done. This is very common in the Divine prophetic utterances where, though the sense is literally future, it is regarded and spoken of as though it were already accomplished in the Divine purpose and determination. This figure of speech is to show the absolute certainty of the things spoken of.


Friedrich Gesenius (1786 –1842) – one of the greatest ever Hebrew linguists, wrote: “The “perfect” is sometimes called, the “past tense,” but the Hebrew and English do not look at verbs in quite the same way as the Hebrew writers do. Although the perfect tense is normally associated with action that has already taken place, the perfect is used in some cases when the event is still actually future.”


Gesenius also said that in Hebrew, the perfect was used to express future actions, when the speaker intends by an express assurance to represent them as finished, or as an equivalent to accomplished facts. The perfect is also used to express facts which are undoubtedly immanent, and, therefore, in the imagination of the speaker, already accomplished. After stating these things, he then writes: This use of the perfect occurs most frequently in prophetic language (perfectum propheticum which is Latin for “prophetic perfect.”  The prophet is so transported by the Spirit that he describes the future event as if it had been already seen or heard by him. Isaiah’s usage of the so called prophetic perfect is seen many times, such as:


tense5Not infrequently the imperfect, meaning the actual future tense, interchanges with such perfects either in the poetic parallel line or further on in the narrative. Anyone studying Biblical Hebrew will notice that there are many times when ideas are expressed in couplets or parallel expressions. It is often the case when one of the couplets is the prophetic perfect that the other is the literal imperfect, or future, tense. Coupling the perfect with the imperfect alerts the reader to the use of the prophetic perfect idiom because an event cannot be both past and future. If there is no couplet, the context and the subject matter are usually enough to allow the reader to determine whether or not the prophetic perfect is being used.


The major point is that the past is frequently used to express the certainty of a future action. In some instances, the certainty of an imminent event in the mind of the speaker is enough to justify the use of the perfect. This usage of the perfect is especially common in prophecies, promises, and threats. In such cases, one should render the Hebrew perfect by the English present or even future.


tense6I do not want readers to think I am claiming any expertise on Biblical Hebrew. Almost all that I am saying here is what I have made notes on from lectures or books, or gleaned from the few people I have known in my life whose first language was Hebrew.

Several people that I know who are heavily into Hebrew have told me that, in their opinion, the only translation that accurately translates the prophetic perfect as a past tense is Young’s Literal Translation (YLT). It seems that in his passion of preserving the literal meaning of the Hebrew and Greek in his translation, this overarching principle and practice made his translation very different from the common translations of his day (i.e. the late nineteenth century) and many translations of our day. He wrote somewhere that he was often queried about why he put a past tense where other versions usually had it as future tense. This led to his writing a preface to his version titled, “The Battle of the Hebrew Tenses.” The matter is as clear as though it had already passed. In the paths of the prophets who speak of something which will happen in the future in the language of the past, since they saw in prophetic vision that which was to occur in the future, they spoke about it in the past tense and testified firmly that it had happened, to teach the certainty of His word and his positive promise that can never change and His beneficent message that will not be altered.





130. Unwanted Stand alone Skeletal Bones of Doctrine or a Living Warm Body of Truth?

Isaiah 22: 12-14  

12. The Lord, the LORD of heaven’s armies, called you to weep and to mourn to tear out your hair, shave your heads and put on burlap sackcloth to demonstrate your remorse.


A normal healthy skeleton. But what did the person look like? How did he smile, cry and what was the tone of His voice?

A discovered skeleton does not allow us insight into the characteristics and/or the muscular strength of the human being that once inhabited the framework of the bone structure that was designed by divine genius.  I have seen enough historical documentaries to know that from a skeleton and its joints and teeth it is possible to see some diseases that once afflicted the person while they lived. They can even tell whether it was a male or female human being that lived in the house. Added to that they can even say authoritatively of the general diet that the person lived with. They can even tell the approximate age at death. How astonishing is all that.

But none of those indicators can inform us of the warmth or coldness of character, the beauty or ugliness of face, gait or posture in life. They can occasionally tell if a female has borne offspring. But the intimate knowledge of a person is lost.

Nevertheless, if an alien discovered complete skeletal remains they would only have the vaguest concept of the human life form. The skeleton tells us the facts of the life, and certain aspects of the being that was once in motion, breathing, eating and producing offspring – but it is only part of the beauty of the created being.

The beautiful or handsome person, with smiles, tone of voice, love, anger, arms that embrace and five senses that we live with, as well as the much neglected spiritual capacity and facility to repent, pray, choose one’s destiny in God, or choose evil and death cannot be discerned by the skeletal frame alone, no matter how perfect the bone structure and its completeness.

Isaiah 22:12-14 is a skeleton.

It is the skeletal outline of the deepest and warmest facts of life that one can ever discover.

Repentance of one’s sin is one of the strongest spiritual weapons that human beings have been divinely given. The backbone of all biblical teaching, when isolated and reduced to “Number 7 on our list of tenets of the faith, is” reduced to a stark cold statement that hardly suggests the amazing potential of life that it produces.

The call to turn around and change one’s life style and world view has presuppositionally embedded within its thrust a whole new way of thinking and living. Repentance often brings tears, prostration and a momentary immersion into unworthiness and a need to afflict one’s self with discomfort. But it is not just a cold isolated vertebrae that some consider as unnecessary as the appendix. Repentance is the opening of the human spirit that says to Christ Himself, “Come in! Make yourself at home. My home is Your home. Do what you wish.


Husband, wife, dog and horse. But what did he eat? What were their names? Was he a friend to many?

The call to make visible proof of that repentance and to work out in daily living what God works in us is another vital skeletal necessity that makes the Christian form more fully like Christ. But yet again, “Good works” when seen in isolation without the repentance and faith and alignment with God’s character are actually seen as an abomination to Isaiah and indeed all of the writing prophets.

Thoughts of motive, and understanding of the divine origin of man, morality, destiny and present existential meaning, no matter how basic, are all part of the skeletal framework of the individual person and all people of God. This exposes “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” as a Godless, purposeless statement spewed out by the sick stomach of unbelief and atheism.

The concept of free choice being utilized to run from God and all things to do with the way He sees things, is a perversion of the human skeletal belief system revealing an arthritic or even an “Elephant Man” type of deformity in what should be the most wonderful means of attaining Godliness, Christ-like character and grace. This skeletal member of the spiritual skeleton is possibly the easiest to deform or mismanage.

There is a point where deformities of the skeletal frame can never be corrected. Curvature of the spine can leave a person permanently bent. Childhood rickets can be evidenced in even the most ancient skeletal discoveries.

Lack of repentance, and joy exulted in evil that seems to have been glossed over for the moment by circumstances or even delayed by God, and leading to false assumptions that God is not really bothered with evil – whether it be national evil, familial or individual sins, can only lead to a condition that, because of a human being’s personal choice, leaves them eternally lost. That lostness, Jesus Christ referred to as being “damned.” Yet another cold hard bone in the warmth, the embrace and the structure of the skeleton of truth in the Bible.


An irredeemable flaw in the bone structure. Was he a genius? How did he live?

I do not like it. I wish it was not part of my armoury of biblical concepts and philosophical hardware. But I am not called to cherry pick truth. I am, if in alignment with God and His word, obliged to submit to the concepts He speaks about. When my son was a toddler, the overwhelming tenderness, love and passion I had to see him grow into a man of character and wisdom was deeper than any volcanic source on the planet. Having told him several times concerning the dangers of playing with fire and hot coals, and then to see him on the cusp of endangering his life in that same arena of fire and death, if anybody had heard my passion, anxiety, anger and desperation in saving him, grabbing him from danger, and my repetition of the message of potential harm and/or death, an observer may have doubted for a moment my love and commitment to my boy’s welfare. My tears of anguish and tones of emotion were such that it reduced him to tears in seeing how his father cried about his “near miss” with death.

The depth of my love was expressed in the action that endangered my own life in saving my greatly loved son. If he had been harmed I would have deeply desired to have substituted his pain and offered him my strength and wellbeing.


Did Yahweh really ask the people of Judah to tear out their hair, shave their heads and wear sackcloth? You better believe it. Some folks get so soft and fluffy in their negotiations with the New Testament that they have problems with this sort of language in the Old. God never talks of pretense, play acting, or carnal drama. God is after reality. God is after folks who take Him as seriously as He takes us. Yahweh wanted the entire population of Jerusalem to unpretentiously humble themselves and repent with solemn and palpable indications of their mourning and sorrowfulness – not because of, nor anything to do with the danger from Assyria, but because they had turned from God totally.

Skel4 Richard_III_s_skeleton_found_under_a_car_park_in_Leicester_was_f-a-11_1429015613224

Purported to be the skeleton of Richard III. A malformed spine that could not be corrected.

Basic biblical truth for every person: If there is no repentance – there is no salvation. The deeper the sin, the deeper the repentance needs to be. Yes it has to be initiated from the heart. Yes! It has to be real, premeditated, intelligent and total. If that can be done without the tears, the emotion and/or any outward manifestation, like falling on one’s knees or lying prostrate on the ground, I do not have a problem at all. All God wants is deep permanent lifelong change of lifestyle, with a violent turning away from anything that God calls sin, and anything that interferes with a walk with God. However, when Yahweh calls on people to show it outwardly – when we have the understanding that it starts with the inner man, I think we are forced to surmise that God wanted the people of Jerusalem to repent and to repent deeply. I mean deeper than deep.

Sinful religiosity is horrible. It anaesthetizes the spiritual senses. After living for many years with a religiosity that touched there entire life, yet never touched God, all the spiritual senses become numbed and lacking in reality. Costly sacrifices, public fasting, and deeply set religious practices without the slightest interest or thought of God’s real character is a spiritual killer. Sack cloth, ashes, tears and hair tearing were asked genuinely asked for by Yahweh, through Isaiah. The very nature of this instruction helps us understand how entrenched the people were in their idolatry and godlessness.

skel5 elephant man

The skull and photo of John Merrick, hideously known as “The Elephant Man.” Those that knew him referred to his character as being beautiful and gentle. How the bones alone can lie without the life and warmth of the true person present.

God had called the people to demonstrate complete remorsefulness for their sin. What left them overall deprived of defense and excuse was the detail, that while they were uncovered to so great endangerments, they derided the righteous argument of Isaiah – and indeed all the prophets – and overruled the very offer of the grace of God, when he desired to set them right and restore them.

13. But see, instead there is outright gaiety, joy and festive revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! “Let us eat and drink,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”

The people just plainly ignored Isaiah, engaging in fatalistic merriment, carousing and indulging. They had not seen any hope of defeating the Assyrians. Now the massed armies and their king had left, they had decided to enjoy what time they had been given. Some believe they partied in the face of death, and now they were even partying after the threat of death had gone.

14. The LORD Almighty, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has directly revealed this to me in my hearing: “Surely, because of you, till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for. That is the judgment of the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

This is neither something Isaiah would or could say lightly. In fact I believe he would not find it in himself to state it as a sample of his staple diet of a world view or belief system. The issue is far too serious for the prophet to reel off as tenet of the faith. He could only say it because he had heard it from the mouth of Yahweh Himself. This was conceivably the main reason the prophet stated earlier in the chapter that he wanted to be left alone to weep and moan for the spiritual status of the people of Judah. It was this revelation that was breaking Isaiah’s heart.


What the people of Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day were called to. Burlap against the skin is not comfortable at all.

It is never because God is unwilling or unwanting to save folks drowning in perverse lifestyles. It is ever because people have chosen to reject God’s word and have therefore willfully placed themselves beyond his grace. God sees our capability of free choice as sacrosanct. It is God Himself that gave us that capability. It is to us that God Himself says, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

“This sin will not be atoned for.” Now that is frightening. We need to realise how huge this statement is from the prophet’s heart. Like other such warnings throughout holy writ, however, the reason for this lack of atonement is always man’s refusal to repent. Thus, an implied hope was still there if they should repent.  Here the mighty, weeping and yet broken prophet, named Isaiah, states clearly that nothing is as displeasing to God as impenitence. Paul says, in Romans 2:5 that we “heap up for ourselves the treasures of God’s wrath,” and shut out all hope of pardon while we remain in unrepentance.

May God give us all the grace to repent.



Not quite Burlap against the naked flesh, yet these esteemed Jewish elders probably have a better understanding than the typical western mindset. It is always and forever the integrity of the heart God looks for.