After delivering the shudder-worthy oracles in chapter 10, God turned Isaiah’s eyes to the much farther future of Messiah’s reign.
Connectedness in Community
Because Jesus’s governance will also bring unity
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.Isaiah 11:10 (NRSV)
Think of all the carrying on in a football stadium when the team’s banner is raised. In a similar scene, the nucleus of Messiah’s kingdom will be formed by His people, rallying to His banner, from all four corners of the globe.
Messiah will gather His people together
On that day the Lord will again raise his hand to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
He will raise a signal for the nationsIsaiah 11:11-12 (NRSV)
and will assemble the outcasts of Israel
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
The greatest powers on the earth will not be able to stand in God’s way when the Lord calls God’s people to join God from the nations; great distances will be no problem.
The reference to the Lord’s hand reminded the people listening to Isaiah’s oracle of the great Exodus when God delivered God’s people through Moses. That deliverance was a shadow of this far greater one.
Isaiah’s prophecy is still in the future.
As the people listened to God’s promises of ingathering, justice, and righteousness, they knew that though these promises were being spoken to them in the present, the fulfillment of God’s promises almost certainly would come in a time future to them. They understood the Assyrian scourge would come first, that devastation and exile would come first, and only after all that would come Messiah. Most likely, all those gathered around Isaiah would not even live through the calamitous times ahead. But their children might, and their children’s children.
Understanding their greater, deeper sense of belonging to each other, to their previous and future generations, created a sense of solidarity among the people of God. In our modern, western culture we tend to see things through the grid of individualism. The Bible often does not.
Some promises made to us in God’s voice through the scriptures will be realized in subsequent generations of believers for us. We will share in those fulfilled promises still future to us, though most likely not in our earthly days.
That is how Isaiah’s listeners would have understood this prophecy.
The day of scattering had not come yet, so they understood that the day of gathering would be even farther in the future to them.
Harmony in Community
Ever since the days right after Solomon’s death, there had been a split of the kingdoms. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, had taken some bad advice and oppressed his people with even heavier taxes than Solomon had levied and pressed them even harder into forced labor.
The ten northern tribes, called Ephraim here, rebelled and pulled away to start their own dynasty, their own capital city, their own nation, and actually, their own hybrid religion, too.
Messiah will unite His people.
The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart;Isaiah 11:14 (NRSV)
the hostility of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not be hostile toward Ephraim.
Isaiah said all this was caused by the southern kingdom’s heavy-handed treatment of the north, and the northern tribes’ jealousy that Judah had the covenant promises of God through the line of David.
Jeroboam said to himself, “Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David.
“If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.”
So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.1 Kings 12:26-29 (NRSV)
But in the day that Messiah reigns, these two kingdoms will be reunited, and together they will realize their potential as a world power.
They shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west;Isaiah 11:14 (NRSV)
together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
Part of the justice Messiah will bring, as described earlier in this passage, will be the bringing to account of all those who have oppressed God’s people world-wide. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and always, we can be certain God will give more than enough opportunities to repent, just as God brought all the gods of Egypt, personified in Pharaoh, to account.
In the pitting of will against will, the people of Egypt soon begged their Pharaoh to let God’s people go. When Pharaoh finally capitulated (if only for a night) the Egyptians gave the people of God all the gold, money and treasure they asked for, as they left. In that historical account, found in Exodus, the people called these parting gifts the ‘plunder of Egypt.’ So here, Isaiah called the event still far in the future the plunder of the people of the east.
As in that day, when the Lord used a mighty wind and blew a dry path through the Red Sea for God’s people, so now, figuratively and perhaps literally,
the Lord will dry upIsaiah 11:15 (NRSV)
the tongue of the sea of Egypt
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching wind
and will split it into seven channels
and make a way to cross on foot
Messiah will bring unity to His people
In that original exodus, many Egyptians and other oppressed people groups in Egypt at that time left with the Hebrews, and were merged together with them during those forty years in the desert. Many nationalities were united to become one people called the Israelites. So now,
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious …
so there shall be a highway from AssyriaIsaiah 11:10, 16 (NRSV)
for the remnant that is left of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.
The redemptive rule of Messiah brings unity
Paul the apostle quoted Isaiah when he revealed this amazing truth in his own teaching.
When Isaiah looked at the people listening to his prophecy he saw a sinful nation that would one day walk the “highway of holiness” and enter Messiah’s righteous kingdom. He saw a suffering people who would one day enjoy a beautiful and peaceful kingdom. And he saw a people who would, soon enough, be scattered into exile but one day be regathered by their Messiah and be unified as one people under His kingship.
This is what Jesus prayed for the night before He went to the cross, what He wanted for His people.
As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.Jesus’s Prayer, John 17:21-23 (NRSV)