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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Isaiah 62

 

 

Verse 1

The big thing in this chapter is the New Name God promised to give his people in Isaiah 62:2; and much to the surprise of this writer, none of the writers we have consulted on this subject has anything convincing to say about it. Only one writer, namely, the 19th-century Adam Clarke, knew what it was (and is); and his total comment was less than four short lines; but he did tell us what the new name is, CHRISTIAN.[1]

True to Isaiah's pattern of "here a little and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10,13), the prophet here returns to the revelation regarding that new name, mentioned also in Isaiah 56:5, where the passage affirms that: (1) the name will be given by God Himself, (2) within his walls and in his house, in his Church, (3) a memorial name, (4) a name better than that of sons and of daughters, and (5) an ever-flaming name that shall never be cut off.

We find ourselves absolutely astounded that so many present-day commentators profess not to know what God's name for his people really is. We shall certainly attempt to clarify that.

This chapter, of course, is a continuation of the same theme which has dominated several of the preceding chapters, namely, the blessings of God under the New Covenant. The speaker is thought to be Jehovah, the Servant, or the prophet Isaiah; but regardless of which is correct, the message is that of God Himself. "The close connection with the preceding chapter is evident."[2]

Isaiah 62:1-2

"For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness shall go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth. And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name."

Terms like salvation, and righteousness, identify the period envisioned as that of the New Covenant in Christ. Some very significant additional information about that `name' which God promised his people appears in this passage: (1) it shall be a new name; (2) it will be given at a time when the Gentiles have been accepted into the family of God, and when kings have become aware of God's salvation, and (3) there is a repetition here of the fact that God Himself will give the name. These statements, added to those in Isaiah 56:5, make seven earmarks by which that New Name may be positively and unerringly identified. We shall discuss them in order, beginning with the five from Isaiah 56:5.

THE NEW NAME IS THE NAME "CHRISTIAN"

1. It was given by God Himself. This means that God assigned it, commanded it, and ordered his children to wear it. Where? In the Holy Scriptures, where all the rest of his commandments are recorded. "Let none of you suffer as a thief, or a murderer, or an evildoer, or as a meddler in other men's matters"; but if a man suffer as a CHRISTIAN, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name (1 Peter 4:15,16). To be perfectly candid about it, this command of God through the apostle Peter is as plain, definite, and binding upon the followers of Christ as are the other commandments in the same verses, namely, "Thou shalt not kill"; and "Thou shalt not steal."

Since the name was given and commanded by God Himself, this means that the name "Christian" was not invented and applied by the enemies of Christianity, as some vainly and erroneously assert. There is no way that men could intelligently assert that Satan would have assigned any name to the followers of Christ that contained a memorial to the Son of God as does the name Christian.

As to the question of how men can glorify God in the name Christian, the answer is "by wearing it," applying it to themselves, and using it to the exclusion of unauthorized, sectarian, and divisive names.

2. The name "Christian" was given by God "within his walls, within his house," This means that it was assigned and worn first within the church of our Lord, that being the only "house" God ever had. And where was that? It occurred at Antioch where, "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26).

The appearance of the name Christian in Antioch was no casual, accidental, or insignificant occurrence. It came as the result of a number of very impressive developments. God selected a very important person to bring that name and bestow it upon the disciples, namely, Paul the mighty evangelist of the New Testament, the reason for that choice evidently being the truth that the Twelve Apostles seemed unlikely, at that time ever to meet the conditions under which the New Name would require to be given (see under No. 7, below). (a) Thus Paul was converted in Acts 9; and in that very chapter God revealed that the apostle Paul was that "chosen vessel unto me (God), to bear my (God's) name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). The use in this passage of the very phraseology of this chapter in Isaiah declares the evident truth that the apostle Paul was to be the "Name Bearer," who would be the person through whom the New Name would be given to the church. (b) But as we shall see under 7, below, the Gentiles were first to be accepted into God's fellowship before the New Name would be given. Very well, the basis of that general acceptance of Gentiles took place in Peter's baptism of the house of Cornelius, as recorded in Acts 10. (c) Then in Acts 11, the New Name appears. Note the remarkable progression: Acts 9, the name bearer was converted and designated; Acts 10, a great Gentile congregation appeared in Antioch; and Acts 11, the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch! It is simply impossible to believe that all of these events fell into such a pattern accidentally. Some will wonder at our reference to Paul as the person "through whom" God delivered the New Name; but the last portion of Acts 11 shows this to be the case. When the Church in Jerusalem heard of the Gentiles being accepted into the faith in Antioch, they sent Barnabas, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Barnabas immediately went to Tarsus and brought Paul to Antioch, where a great Gentile church was gathered in about a year. Significantly, it was after Paul's arrival, that the New Name was given.

3. The name "Christian" is a memorial name, appropriately memorializing the holy Head and Redeemer of the body of his Church. The mention of the marriage tie several times in this chapter is appropriate in connection with the sublime truth that all of the members of the Bride of Christ should indeed wear the name of their bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing could possibly be more appropriate in this context than the New Name, CHRISTIAN!

4. The New Name was promised to be a name better than that of sons and of daughters; and whatever is included in such a declaration, it has to mean that the New Name will be different from that of sons and of daughters.

5. The New Name was to be "an everlasting name that would never be cut off." The name "Christian" qualifies under this characteristic also, because followers of Christ are today wearing the name "Christian," just as Paul attempted to persuade Herod Agrippa to do (Acts 26:28) during the first century of our era.

6. It was promised to be a New Name, and this is a most important qualification. This means that it could not be "Hephzibah," which Adam Clarke and others suggested as a possibility,[3] or Beulah, as some Bible concordances affirm; because neither of these was a new name. Hephzibah was the name of the mother of Manasseh, and our text also declares that "Beulah" would be the name of "the land," not of the people of God. This same qualification eliminates all thought of "disciples" being the New Name, because that is a very old name. In the days before Christ, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the Herodians, and John the Baptist all had their "disciples."

7. The appearance here, in conjunction with the promise of the New Name, of the declaration that the kings and the Gentiles should see the righteousness of God, as well as the mention of the very same things by Ananias upon the occasion of Paul's baptism when the "Name-bearer" was designated, is a powerful indication that the New Name would never be given until Gentiles were generally accepted into God's Church; and, as we have seen, the name was never given until a great Gentile congregation had been gathered in Antioch. This accounts for the use of the term "disciples" as the name of Christ's followers throughout the gospels and throughout most of Acts of Apostles. Significantly, after the Book of Acts, no sacred writer ever used the word "disciples" again as a designation of the Lord's people. The apostle John, for example, used "disciples" dozens of times in the Gospel, but never used it all in the four other books that he wrote later!

We do not believe that "disciples" is a proper term at all when used in place of the word Christian. What is wrong with the name God gave, commanded, and that he requested we should use to glorify God "in this name"?

McGuiggan is an able writer; and his suggestion that this New Name might have something to do with the name "Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," into which Christians are baptized,"[4] is interesting. However, my own conviction is that the name "Christian" is indeed "the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," in the sense of being the name that originated with the Godhead, was commanded by the Father, memorializes the name of Christ, and is received by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Verse 3

"Thou shalt also be a crown of beauty in the hand of Jehovah, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land be termed any more Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah; for Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee."

There is no indication whatever that the prophecy professes in these verses to reveal the New Name, which, as we have seen, would not be revealed until the times of Messiah when Gentiles became followers of Christ. Rather, the subject is the glory and honor and happiness that shall mark the righteousness and redemption to be received in the future. As Cheyne said, "For the present, Jehovah reserves the mystic name of the New Jerusalem to himself."[5]

"A crown of beauty in the hand of Jehovah ..." (Isaiah 62:3). Crowns are not worn on the hand, and some have questioned the appropriateness of this statement; "But with no propriety whatever could it be said that the church is a crown of beauty `on the head' of Jehovah."[6] The form of the metaphor honors that truth.

"So shall thy sons marry thee ..." (Isaiah 62:5). This impossible comparison of sons marrying their own mother is resolved when it is understood that the "sons of Israel, their mother" will not at all marry the Old Israel, but the New Israel which is Christ. There is a prediction here of that sacred relationship between Christ and his holy Bride, the Church.


Verse 6

"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night: ye that are Jehovah's remembrancers, take ye no rest, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Jehovah hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy grain to be food for thine enemies; and foreigners shall not drink thy new wine ... for which thou hast labored: but they that have garnered it shall eat it, and praise Jehovah; and they that have gathered it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary."

The marvelous protection promised here was directed to the nation of Israel upon their return from Babylon, and they have an ultimate application to God's people of all ages in the Church of the Redeemer. The great tragedy, as far as the Old Israel is concerned is that they appear to have accepted these glorious promises as inevitably applying to themselves without any regard whatever to the kind of lives they lived. The passage of the Old Testament that Israel seemed never to have believed, or even to have heard of it, is in Jeremiah 18:7-10, where it is revealed that "all of God's promises" are contingent, absolutely, upon faithful human obedience to the will of God. The "faith only" Protestants of our own generation need to heed the warning that Israel ignored.

"Watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem ..." (Isaiah 62:6). Dummelow believed these to be, "Angelic beings who report to Jehovah what happens on earth, and who intercede for mercy to Zion."[7] The problem we find with this view is that it contradicts the New Testament picture of the one intercessor for men, Christ, certainly not a corps of angels! It is much more likely that Jehovah is here speaking of the spiritual Jerusalem, not the old Jerusalem at all. The walls of this New Jerusalem are called "Salvation" and "Praise," as in Isaiah 26:1; 49:16; 60:18. In which case, "The watchmen are not Old Testament priests, prophets, or angels, as thought by some; but they are the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, whose work is the perfecting of the saints (Ephesians 4:11-12)."[8]

It is significant that the watchmen are commanded to pray to God day and night and to keep on praying until God indeed accomplishes all of the wonderful promises he has given to his people. Why does God need to be solicited to do that which he has already promised to do? Even in the New Testament we find the example of the importunate widow commended to us by Christ himself, because of her constant petitioning of the unjust judge. We do not pretend to know the answer to this problem. We do know, however, that it is the will of God that his servants pray without ceasing (that is, regularly and faithfully); and therefore, we are certain that such commandments have been given by God for the benefit of his human children.


Verse 10

"Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up an ensign for the peoples. Behold, Jehovah hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth, Say ye to the daughter of Zion; Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. And they shall call them the holy people, The redeemed of Jehovah: and thou shalt be called Sought out, A city not forsaken."

"Here the inhabitants of Jerusalem are urged to go out through the gates of the city and to prepare a highway for the return of the exiles."[9] The trouble with all such literal understanding of such prophecies is that it would be more than a hundred years after the return of the exiles before the literal Jerusalem would ever have an effective system of walls and gates. It seems more likely that the thing meant would refer to the diligence of the Church in her preparation and efforts to evangelize mankind.

"Behold thy salvation cometh ..." (Isaiah 62:11). This was the message of God's great proclamation throughout the whole earth, that the long awaited salvation of Israel was soon to take place. Historically, this was literally the truth. Many long centuries had elapsed after the weeping parents of our fallen race were expelled from Eden; but when Isaiah wrote, the far greater time of waiting for "The Seed of Woman" who would bruise the head of Satan had already expired; and the meaning here is that the Messiah indeed would hasten his arrival upon the earth.

"They shall call them the holy people, the redeemed of Jehovah ..." (Isaiah 62:12). This, alas is what God planned for His people after the exile; but it never took place, due to their wickedness. As Paul stated, the name of God was blasphemed all over the Gentile world, because of the wickedness of the Jews (Revelation 2:24). The Jews simply forgot to read Jeremiah 18:7-10, or at least forgot to heed it.

Rawlinson pointed out that the universal love and appreciation of the racial Israel has never taken place, and suggested that, "Perhaps the prophecy may be considered still to await its complete fulfillment."[10] Many scholars suppose that some future fulfillment of this may yet occur "in the Millennium," or "when national Israel is converted," or "when the fulness of the Gentiles has come in" or at some such other time; but we have never been able to find any sufficient grounds for such hopes in the Sacred Scriptures. God has only one plan for salvation; and that is in Christ. Therefore, when and if Israel (that is racial, or national Israel) is ever redeemed it will be in the same manner as that by which God saves all men. "There is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the New Dispensation."

The full understanding of the fact that racial origin has no bearing whatever upon salvation is so important that we submit here four testimonials from the sacred authors of the New Testament, a single word from any one of them being worth more than a thousand libraries of human speculations.

The Apostle Paul stated that:

For the scripture (the Old Testament) saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is NO DISTINCTION between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:11-13).

But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is NO DISTINCTION; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:21-23).

The Apostle Peter declared that:

"Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knoweth the heart bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; and made NO DISTINCTION between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), cleansing their hearts by faith (Acts 15:7-9)."

Again when Peter was at first unwilling to go to the house of Cornelius because he was a Gentile, God corrected Peter on this; and when Peter arrived, he explained:

The Spirit bade me go, making NO DISTINCTION (between Jews and Gentiles) (Acts 11:12).

These four references are among the most important in the New Testament:

NO DISTINCTION...Romans 3:12

NO DISTINCTION...Romans 10:12

NO DISTINCTION...Acts 11:12

NO DISTINCTION...Acts 15:9

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 62:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-62.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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