Isaiah 32:1-2: A King and the Streams

I am doing a year-long study of Isaiah through Community Bible Study. It forces me to study each line of Isaiah with intention and gives me the opportunity to discuss it with women of all ages, including those who have much more wisdom than I. It has been invaluable to my understanding of 7th and 8th century BC events and of the 1st century AD expectations of Messiah. Today, I found myself in Isaiah 32, with the chapter beginning with these words in vv1-2:

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
    and princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
    a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
    like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

This is part of a Messianic prophecy which details the reign of God’s Anointed One. As I read it, a myriad of Jesus’ words floated through my head and sent my brain spinning.

First, I want to remind you of the hermeneutics of 1st century reading comprehension, called midrash:  the rules which Torah scholars used to interpret the text, focusing on the interconnectedness of Scripture (e.i. “let Scripture teach Scripture”).  For our purposes today, I want to talk about two very important ones we see frequently in the New Testament:

G’zeirah Shavah. Simply put, it connects rare phrases or words to another and infers meaning from the connection

Remez: though this is a late rabbinic term, it describes the ancient technique of inference. Since ancient Jewish culture included memorization of the Torah and much of the historic books and writing, the rabbis would pluck a phrase out and say only a few words which really inferred the context of the full passage. For example, there is a story about a modern rabbi who’s disciple later chose to become an outspoken atheist. This rabbi was honored in a ceremony and was asked about his lost disciple. His response was, “Children I have reared and brought up…” On the surface, this is a confusing response to the question. However, when one knows the passage from which he quoted (Isaiah 1:2), it becomes clear that the passage continues, “…but they have rebelled against me.” This is used all over the New Testament and so, it is very important that we know our Bibles!

As I read the words above from Isaiah 32:1-2, I heard these words from Jesus’ mouth in Matthew 19:28:

 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Thinking with a midrashic mindset of the two techniques I just explained, what was Jesus implying with this statement?

In a moment of quiet intimacy, Jesus revealed not only the disciples’ future fulfillment, but his status as King of Israel. And if he is the King, they are his princes who will judge their brethren.

In Hebrew, “to judge,” is often used as an idiom meaning “to save,” as shown in the book of Judges. The judges God raised up in that time of Israel’s history were not legal decision-makers, but figures who were empowered for a time by God’s Spirit to do amazing acts which would free God’s people from external threats.

Think about the ways the disciples were righteous judges for their brothers and sisters. They led them to Jesus, the way to salvation. They healed them from all manner of diseases or infirmities. They freed them from spiritual oppression and demonic possession. Acts 2:46-47 reminds us of the success of the princes who ruled under the King’s authority: “and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Truly, through King Jesus, the disciples were the judges of Israel who led them to spiritual freedom.

As I continued into the second verse of Isaiah 32, I found a description of the justice which will be found in the princes, or disciples, of Jesus:

  • a hiding place from the wind
  • a shelter from the storm
  • streams of water in a dry place
  • shade of a great rock in a weary land

Before Isaiah applied these descriptions to the “princes of Messiah,” they were only applied to God. The Psalms are full of these same pictures of God as our refuge from the wind and storms and as shade in the desert. Isaiah himself previously described God as such in 25:4. Yet, previously God led to water or streams, but was not described as water himself.

It is amazing, then, that Jesus claims these words in John 7:37-38,

John 737–38 [widescreen]

During Sukkot, one of the pilgrimage feasts of Judaism, Jesus was faithfully at the Temple among the rest of the faithful Jews. This festival not only remembered the time when the Israelites dwelled in God’s midst in sukkahs (tents), but it had also become a calling-for-rain ceremony at the end of very long dry season. I lived in Jerusalem during this dry season; coming from the eastern USA, I never knew one could miss the rain. While there, I longed for the rain. The land is dry and dusty. The animals come ever further into the cities from the desert seeking some kind of sustenance. The cisterns are dry and the crops cannot begin to grow. Sukkot was (and still is) a time when the Jews would come together and pray to the LORD their God for the rain he promised, that they might be sustained for another year of life. In this moment of desperate pleas for rain, Jesus stood up in the massive crowds and said, “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink…. and from his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Using remez, we know that Jesus is quoting Isaiah 32:2 and thus implies v1 as well. In front of all his people, Jesus made a massive claim to be the rightful promised Messiah, the King of the Jews; the one who would reign in righteousness, the one who would have princes of justice and salvation, the ones who themselves would bear the characteristics previously only attributed to God Himself.

As disciples of King Jesus, we are likewise called to bear God’s characteristics through the transformation of the Holy Spirit. To be:

  • a hiding place from the wind
  • a shelter from the storm
  • streams of water in a dry place
  • shade of a great rock in a weary land

And once more I hear the echo of Jesus’ words:

Mt 25.36

If you wear the name of King Jesus, you must ask yourself:

“Am I a hiding place for others to find shelter from the wind and storms of their lives?”

“Am I a stream of water for those dying of thirst?”

“Am I shade for those finding themselves weary from their deserts?”

“Do I reflect the righteousness and justice of my King?”

For these are the characteristics that label us as princes and princesses of the King.

Amen.

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