Ronald Bryer was there when the bomb was dropped. He was a prisoner of war and was being held at Nagasaki when the United States dropped the Atomic warhead which would end up bringing World War II to a close. By the amazing providence of God Bryer survived the explosion because he was pressed into working in an air raid.
Of course, this was an amazing thing. The city of Nagasaki had been reduced to a pile of rubble by the explosion. Yet Bryer lived to tell about it. For 34 years Bryer carried the memory of the absolute carnage that was left.
But in 1979 Bryer was asked by the mayor of Nagasaki to return and see what had become of the devastation. Bryer accepted the invitation and took the trip. Upon arriving, Bryer was amazed to see that the city which once lay in complete ruins had now become a bustling city with highrise buildings and major commercial companies, such as Mitsubishi and Mazda.
Bryer said that the thing that amazed him the most was the children. He couldn’t believe that they were out in the streets laughing and playing with all their childlike curiosity. He said it didn’t used to be like that.
To Bryer, it was a completely new world. It was a transformation that seemed utterly impossible.
The experience this former prisoner of war had is somewhat of the same experience that we find in our passage today. The people of God in Isaiah’s time were living in a land which had been devastated. It was not due to an Atomic explosion though. It was due to something far more devastating. Sin had left the people stripped bare. The land had been reduced to a pile of rubble by the Almighty strength of God.
But in our passage this morning, we see that a whole new world arises out of the ashes. God, by his grace, constructs a new city—a new nation, where righteousness dwells.
This passage is a reminder to us that God does not disavow his people entirely. He shows that his love for his people will never run dry and he will never give up on his promise to establish them in his kingdom. And in this passage we see that God does establish his kingdom. And in reading this passage we see that it is a new world order. Out of the rubble of failed human works, God brings to fruition his long promised Kingdom of glory.
That is something of the irony of this passage. It is a new world order that we see here. However, it is not altogether new. It is an old world order in that this was what God had intended from the beginning. The promises given to Abraham was that he would make of him a mighty nation.
But here we look to see the ripening of the fruit. We see what that God perfects what Israel could not attain on their own.
What does God want us to learn about this new world order though? I think we should begin by noting that this new world order has a messianic flavor.
I. Its Messianic flavor 
In verse 2 it says, “In that day the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.”
Now, this is not the easiest passage in the world to understand. If you don’t quite understand it, don’t worry. You are not alone. I wrestled with it all week long. And in looking at the commentators through the week, it was evident that they were not altogether clear on what it meant.
But the Jews viewed this passage as a messianic passage. And you may too, especially when you compare it with other passages of Scripture. For instance, in Jer. 25:5 it talks about this branch and it says, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
You could also look at Zech. 6:12 we read, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.”
We could look at other passages as well that develop this idea of the branch. All of those passages are elaborating further upon what is said here. And all of them indicate that was going to be a man who would be raised up by God to do marvelous feats of righteousness.
And so we find that this new world order would be spearheaded by and established through the work of that Messiah.
You know, we often say that you just can’t find good help now-a-days. And isn’t that true? When we need something done, we know that if we want it done right we better do it ourselves.
I was talking with a fellow just this week. He said that when he was out on a job, he would sometimes have to have other people handle certain tasks. So he would say, “Hey, can you get this over to so & so?” But rarely did it ever get done, or if it did get done, it was not done right or right away. This would always frustrate him to no end.
Well, when it comes to God’s kingdom, it is much the same way. God is here saying, my kingdom is going to be established. No one is going to be able to stop it. But if it is to be, it is up to me.
We’ve seen what happens when it is up to us, haven’t we? All of what we have studied so far and all of what is recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles are a testimony to what we can do to establish God’s kingdom. The whole point of the books of Kings and Chronicles is that we only we are a bunch of failures. When it is in our hands, things go south and it typically falls apart.
So if it is to be, it is up to God. God himself has to bring it to pass. That’s why we see Christ being born in a manger. That’s why we see him leaving his Father’s side and stepping out of heaven. Because it was up to him. When Christ came to earth, he came to be the messiah who would spearhead this new world order. That’s why he said, “The kingdom is at hand.” He was saying that he had come to establish this new world order wherein righteousness would rule.
And that kingdom is still being established through the ministry of the Word and Spirit. In the book of Acts we read how the church begins to spread out. In essence, it records for us the triumphant march of Christ across the globe. You might say that the gospels tell us how Christ began to establish his kingdom, and the book of Acts tells us how He continues to establish it.
You might say, “Well, he is still using man to do it, isn’t he?” Yes, he is. His people and his ministers are doing the work. But what do we find happening at the beginning of the book of Acts? There is the empowerment of the Spirit as it is poured out from heaven. Christ comes to dwell in each of us so that we can carry forth the work of the Messiah.
So don’t think for a moment that it is up to us. We would be fools to do so. Kingdom work is the work of the King. While he might be pleased to work through us, we must not forget that it is he who works the work. The New world Order, from beginning to end, has a messianic flavor.
But as you look at this passage you will also see that it has a redemptive quality about it.
II. Its redemptive quality [3-4]
Verses 3-4 make it clear that this new world order would be made up of a people who are completely transformed. The passage makes it clear that redemption comes to this people. It says that the people who take part in this new world order are going to be called holy.
But the question arises, “How do these people get to be holy?” This is radically different from what we’ve been looking at so far in the book of Isaiah. What we’ve seen is that the people are anything but holy. They are depraved. How do they get to become holy?
The passage talks about this redemption in two ways. First, we have to see that this has something to do with the gracious election of God.
Verse 3 reminds us that there are people who are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem. In other words, after God came through to clean up the mess, he chose to leave a few behind. Now, it wasn’t because he forgot them or just overlooked them. You know when you are cleaning the table after dinner you might do that. There can be some scrapes that you missed when you wiped up the table.
God didn’t do that though. He doesn’t fudge things like that. People were left behind because he had chosen to leave them there. It was part of his plan to save some, and he knew exactly who he wished to save.
As a matter of fact the passage says that everyone who was left was a person who had had their names recorded in a book. It is saying that long before the Lord came and visited the people of Jerusalem, God had specified who would receive his gracious salvation.
So those who participate in this new world order are there because of God long before had determined who would be there. They were predestined according to His sovereign grace in election.
A friend of mine was once talking with a co-worker of his about spiritual things. His co-worker found out that he was a Calvinist and he would sometimes chide him about it. But one day they were talking about heaven and he asked my friend, “What will you say when you get there?” And my friend said, “Why me?” In other words, “Why am I here? I am nothing but a wretched sinner? Why did you choose me?”
That’s the beauty of grace. It leaves you questioning God, “Why me?” You don’t deserve it. But God gave it to you anyway, solely because he wanted to.
But we still have the problem of the unrighteousness. That God elects us by his sovereign grace shows us that we get to be redeemed, but it does not show us how we come to be redeemed. We still are yet to figure out how do these people come to be denominated as holy? The answer to that is found in verse 4, and how it directs us to the vicarious sacrifice of Christ
In verse 4 it says that all the evil ones are like filth and bloodstains that are purged. They are just wiped out in one purging sweep. As God’s judgment comes upon them the place is swept clean. Then at the end of verse for it says that there is also this cleansing by a spirit of burning (or it could be translated purging).
What we see are that the sins of the people are burnt up. It is a refining process where their sins are purged from them like alloys are purged from gold.
This is exactly what happens on the cross when Christ was sacrificed as the Lamb of God. On the cross, Christ stood in the place of his people. He took upon himself the sins of his people. Then, as the wrath of God came upon him, the sins of the people were purged in a fiery heat.
This is what allows the people to be called holy. It is not because they were able to clean themselves up. It was because of what Christ did for them when he gave up his life. It was because through Christ their sins are purged.
Now this new world order has a messianic focus and a redemptive quality. But let’s not forget that it has a personal application too.
III. Its personal application [5-6]
Verses 5-6 put forth a beautiful picture of how God touches each and every one of us in this new world order. It says that the Lord creates over the whole site of Mount Zion and over all his people canopy of sorts. Above Zion there is a cloud by day and fire by night.
Those of you who are familiar with the Bible know that in the Old Testament the people were lead through the wilderness by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. It was a constant reminder that God was their guide through the wilderness. He was always there through the hardships of that adverse territory.
But even though God was obviously there, he was still distant. You couldn’t approach the cloud. It was always over there out of your reach. You didn’t dare go near it for fear of being consumed.
Here in Isaiah 4 though, you have a different portrayal of that cloud. It isn’t off in the distance. It is right over you. It is ever present with you. It is a message that God would constantly be with his people in this new world order. His presence would be personal.
I believe that this is God’s way of depicting the way the Holy Spirit dwells in and with his church today. His presence abides with each and every one of us each day and each moment.
This is the essence of what Christ communicated about the Holy Spirit in John 16. Jesus said that he was going away, but the disciples were not to fret because he would send them the Holy Spirit. And the word he used there was the word parakletos, which means Comforter of Helper. The Spirit would be the one who helps and comforts us in life’s troubles. He is our shade by day and the shelter from the storms of persecution and affliction.
And isn’t this what we see at Pentecost. The church becomes indwelt in a new and powerful way. God sent forth his comforter/his helper, so that we might have the personal presence of Christ no matter where we go. And by that Spirit we are ever reminded that we are a part of God’s eternal Kingdom. We are in the New World Order that God is establishing.
To be sure, this new world order has not come to its completion. But it is being established in our midst. And we have the great joy of participating in it through our Messianic King.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.