Paul paints an elaborate word picture of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6, but where did he get the image? Was it because of his frequent encounters with Roman soldiers? Or, could it have been an image written long before there was a Roman army? Isaiah 59 speaks of a Warrior to come, who would also clothe Himself with the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation. This week, let’s take a look at Isaiah 59:14-21 as we lay the groundwork for our time this Sunday in Ephesians 6:14-20.
Wednesday, June 19th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Isaiah 59
Focused Passage for Reflection - Isaiah 59:14-21
Reflecting on the Text:
What is the main purpose of the prophetic writings? It’s a fair question to ask as we read from the prophets. Many of us look to the prophetic writings as if the main point is to “read history in advance.” In other words, we look to the prophets for predictions, as if their main role was to prognosticate. But God had another purpose. He spoke through the prophets to communicate His timeless Word.
At various times, God spoke through the prophets to pronounce judgment, at times to encourage His children, at other times to bring a word of conviction, and always He spoke to draw them into relationship with Himself through a lifestyle of faith and repentance. In these prophetic words, the Lord often told His people what was to come, but it was always for a reason.
With that understanding, we come to a passage where the Lord is voicing His displeasure (v. 15) over the universality of sin, both among the nations, and among His chosen people. This is His Word of conviction, meant to draw His people back into relationship. Yet even in the conviction, God speaks a Word of judgment. There is no justice, nor is there a man who is able or willing to intercede. With this sad state of separation pronounced, the Lord is displeased.
Something had to be done, so the Lord God, in accord with His eternal will, declared that He would be the One to do it. He would put on the warrior’s armor, and His own arm would bring salvation. He would be the One to redeem His people and bring wrath to His enemies. He would be the One to plant His unchanging Word in the mouths (and hearts) of His people, for generations to come. It would be His Spirit who would sustain them. He would be the victorious warrior who would do what man could not, nor would not do.
Those were the words of Isaiah 59. They are the words of Isaiah 59. But are they prediction, or conviction, or comfort? We go back to the purpose of the prophetic writings and see that in fact, these words are all three. And that leads us to another aspect of the prophetic writings which we as readers must understand.
Often times, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophets spoke with multiple future days in view. Maybe that helps us understand why the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 picks up on the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, while leaving aside (for the time being) the garments of vengeance (v. 17) and the wrath for His adversaries. (v. 18) You see, the prophet Isaiah seems to be looking forward to the time of Jesus’ first coming, and also to His final return.
For the people of Isaiah’s day, the whole image was meant to call them back into a right relationship with their graciously covenanting God by repenting of their sins. His call was part conviction, part comfort, and all truth. For you and I today, Isaiah’s word speaks the same timeless truth. Our God has secured salvation by His own arm. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Questions for personal reflection:
How does this text apply to Jesus’ first coming? How does that understanding bring comfort?
How does this text apply to Jesus’ second coming? What emotion does that understanding stir within you?
In verse 21, God covenants (promises) that His Spirit will be upon His people and will keep His Word in their mouths (and hearts) for generations to come. How does this promise stir you to pray for the generations yet to come, both within your own family, and within the broader covenant family of the church?