Isaiah 32: A King will Reign Righteously

Isaiah 32: A King will Reign Righteously / Listen to the audio

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Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Since the surrounding chapters address the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem in 701 B.C., a date approximately one year prior to that event fits the broad setting of Isaiah 30-32. Isa. 32:10 indicates that Jerusalem will be assaulted in “a little more than a year.”

Key verses:

Isa. 31:14-15 – For the palace will be forsaken, the busy city abandoned … until the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest.

Quick summary:

In verses 1-8 Isaiah describes the righteous rule of the Messianic king, and in verses 15-20 he provides some detail about the work of the Spirit in that day. Between these comforting promises the prophet warns the “complacent women” of Jerusalem that they will soon experience Assyria’s wrath (vv. 9-14).

Take note:

Isaiah places his comments about the woes in Judah between two prophetic views of the future, one involving the reign of the Messiah and the other concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In verses 1-8 we see a glorious foreshadowing of the righteous king, and in verses 15-20 we catch a glimpse of the Spirit sent from heaven. Verses 9-14, however, bring us back to Isaiah’s day and record the prophet’s warning to Judah’s complacent women. This chapter is similar to others in the book of Isaiah in which God’s message of pending judgment is tempered by His wonderful promises of future blessing. Through it all we are reminded that the Holy One of Israel is a covenant-keeping God.

The Righteous King (Isa. 32:1-8)

Isaiah calls the citizens of Judah to look beyond their current plight to the triumphant Messiah, who will reign in righteousness. Even the rulers under Him will project Messianic qualities. Their just leadership will be like “a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the rain … streams of water in a dry land, and the shade of a massive rock in an arid land” (v. 2). John the apostle also sees this marvelous day in his vision on the island of Patmos. Resurrected and glorified believers “will be priests of God and the Messiah, and they will reign with Him” – first for 1,000 years, and then “forever and ever” (see Rev. 5:10, 20:6, 22:5).

Warren Wiersbe writes: “In Isaiah 32:1, Isaiah writes about ‘a king’; but in 33:17, he calls him ‘the king.’ By the time you get to verse 22, He is ‘our king.’ It is not enough to say that Jesus Christ is ‘a King’ or even ‘the King.’ We must confess our faith in Him and say with assurance that He is ‘our King.’ Like Nathanael, we must say, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ (John 1:49, NKJV)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 32:1).

In the age to come, people will see and hear the Lord clearly – a stark contrast to their present spiritual stupor. They will understand God’s Word and speak its truths profoundly (compare vv. 3-4 with Isa. 29:10-12). Fools and scoundrels will be exposed as the evil-doers they are. Their nobility and respect will be taken away. The people will see that the fool (Heb. nabal, “senseless” one) “plots iniquity … lives in a godless way … speaks falsely about the Lord … leaves the hungry empty and deprives the thirsty of drink” (v. 6). In addition, the people will stand nobly for what is right, no longer falling victim to the scoundrel who “hatches plots to destroy the needy with lies” and takes advantage of the poor (v. 7). As D.A. Carson notes, “Above all, truth has ousted the fictions under which vice takes shelter” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 32:1).

Complacent Women (Isa. 32:9-14)

In the shadow of Jerusalem’s wicked rulers are their aristocratic wives, whose complacency and self-interest make matters worse in Judah. They trouble themselves little about urgent political matters, preferring to indulge in their lavish lifestyles (see Isa. 3:16-23). Isaiah warns them that in “a little more than a year” the land and the cities will be desolate. This comes to pass in 701 B.C. when Sennacherib’s Assyrian army overruns the land and devastates it. The Jews surrounded in Jerusalem naturally are worried about future harvests, and Isaiah has a word for them (Isa. 37:30-31). But before the siege ends and God miraculously delivers Jerusalem, the city’s leading ladies will suffer a great deal.

John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck comment: “The first evidence of the judgment would be the failing of the harvest of grapes and other fruit, perhaps because the Assyrians would overrun the fields. Therefore because of the ravaging of the land the women would mourn. If the noisy city to be deserted (32:14) refers to Jerusalem then Isaiah meant that the Assyrian attack was the beginning of the end for Jerusalem, which fell to the Babylonians 115 years later (in 586 b.c.). In that case Isaiah was not saying (v. 10) that the judgment would be completed in about a year but that it would begin in about a year. However, perhaps ‘the noisy city’ refers to any one of the 46 Judean cities Sennacherib king of Assyria claimed to have defeated” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1082).

The Spirit from Heaven (Isa. 32:15-20)

In the closing verses of this chapter, Isaiah turns his attention to the future ministry of the Holy Spirit, who will be “poured out” on the people, usher in an era of peace resulting from righteousness, and guarantee abundant crops. What a contrast between verses 14 and 15. From a forsaken palace and abandoned city to a thriving land of peace and prosperity, Jerusalem is revived by the divine presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s the same in the human heart. The unbeliever is spiritually dead, desolate and depraved until the Spirit makes him or her alive through regeneration (see Eph. 2:1-10; Titus 3:5-7).

The result of Spirit-produced righteousness is peace (v. 17). Lawrence O. Richards elaborates: “The Heb. word for peace, shalom, expresses a basic and vital biblical concept. The word suggests wholeness and harmony, that which is complete and sound, prosperous, healthy, and fulfilled. The word occurs over 200 times in the O.T. In narrative books it typically is used to describe an absence of hostility or strife. In the psalms and the prophets it goes beyond this, so that in at least 2/3 of the biblical references the word indicates a total fulfillment that comes when persons experience God’s presence. Isa. 32:15–16 portrays both the inner peace and material prosperity that will mark the joyful fulfillment of man’s hopes under the rule of the Messiah, God’s Prince of Peace” (The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed. S. 427).

The prophet Joel also foresees the future ministry of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), and on the day of Pentecost Peter declares that his fellow Jews are witnessing the beginning of that prophecy’s fulfillment as the Spirit falls on followers of Christ and they proclaim the mighty works of God in the languages of the world (Acts 2:16-21).

A foreboding message is inserted in verse 19: “But hail will level the forest, and the city will sink into the depths.” Some commentators say this is a word of warning to the Assyrians and the city of Ninevah. The “hail” is the Lord’s wrathful visitation (Isa. 30:30). The “forest” is the Assyrian army that surrounds Jerusalem and will be destroyed (Isa. 10:18-19, 33-34). Other commentators indicate that the destruction in this passage belongs to Judah, either in the days of Sennacherib’s invasion (701 B.C.) or 115 years later when the Babylonians utterly destroy the capital city of Jerusalem. In any case, “the basic principle expounded in this poem is that peace is not a thing God superimposes on a corrupt society: the ground must be cleared and re-sown with righteousness, of which peace is the fruit” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, S. Is 32:9).

Closing Thought

Gary V. Smith comments: “The theological principle that Isaiah teaches is that true security and peace are by-products of righteous living, and righteous living is made possible through the gift of God’s Spirit and the rule of his just king. Security cannot be gained through human effort or the manipulation of a person’s circumstances, but it can be received as a gift because of the Spirit’s work in one’s life” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 548).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips