The Spirit of Life
“The Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field” (vv. 15–16).- Isaiah 32:9–20
We are making our way through a section of the book of Isaiah that confronts the people of God with an important question: Whom should they trust? This question took on special urgency at the end of the eighth century BC after Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and made inroads into Judah. On the one hand, some leaders in Judah called for the nation to ally itself with other foreign powers against Assyria (2 Kings 18:19–21). We do not know exactly what these leaders told King Hezekiah and the Judahites, but it is hard to imagine they saw their call for Judah to seek Egypt’s help as faithless. We can easily imagine them making this argument: “We do trust in the Lord. There is no reason why we cannot rely on God and seek the help of Egypt.”
Perhaps this could have been true at other times, but the Judahites had a specific word from Yahweh, through the prophet Isaiah, that said otherwise. Egypt offered no real assistance, so trusting that nation for help against Assyria was foolish (Isa. 30:1–7). In fact, Isaiah told the people that if they refused to wait expectantly on the Lord to save them, God would wait for them, allowing foreigners to afflict Judah until the people came to the end of themselves, repented, and trusted His mighty hand again (30:18–22).
The idol factory that is the human heart causes many problems, not the least of which is that it makes us slow to learn and quick to forget God’s faithfulness to His promises. Consequently, the Lord must often walk us through affliction until we come back to our senses and trust Him again. For Judah in the eighth century BC, this meant a time of severe hardship. As the prophet tells us in today’s passage, even that which the people depended upon for sustenance would have to be lost before they would return to God. The land would no longer yield life-sustaining food but rather “thorns and briers,” and the city of Jerusalem itself would become a ghost town (32:9–14).
Yet the Lord pledged to show His grace on the other side of affliction. After the people realized the error of their ways, He would pour out His Spirit on them. The result of this outpouring would be the creation of new life for both an afflicted land and people, restoring agricultural fertility and bringing about a new love for righteousness and God’s faithfulness in the hearts of the Judahites. Just as the Spirit moved in creation to bring life out of the chaos (Gen. 1:1–2), He would move to restore His children (John 3:5).
The Holy Spirit certainly worked in the old covenant people, regenerating the faithful remnant to trust in the Lord. Yet the old covenant people knew that a greater measure of the Spirit was yet to come. Under the new covenant, we enjoy this fuller outpouring of the Spirit of God, which empowers all of His people for service and fuels the kingdom’s advance across the earth. We are blessed indeed to live in the era of the Spirit, so let us never fail to submit to His direction.
Passages for Further Study