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Until the land be utterly desolate

January 30, 2012

In Isaiah it is said the land will become desolate, without inhabitant. The cities will be wasted, the houses empty.

Isaiah 6:9-12
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

In Isaiah’s prophecy, the land to which the prophet refers, the land of promise, is not the literal land, but refers to the spiritual things that the promised land represents, which are promised to the saints, such as an understanding of prophecy, and gifts of the Spirit, and faith.

In one of his parables, Jesus indicated that he might find very little faith remaining in the earth, when he returns. [Luke 18:8]

Isaiah’s prophecy of the land becoming desolate implies that the people of God are in a kind of spiritual exile. If we take the land to represent the truth to which Jesus promised to lead his disciples, we must admit, for example, there is no denomination today that understands prophecy; and no seminary has the whole truth. Understood in this sense, there are none who dwell in the promised land; all are captive in other lands, some of them quite far from the location of the promised land. Even Christians who dwell in the Jewish state, or in the West Bank, or in the earthly Jerusalem itself, are as far removed from the land in a spiritual sense, as Christians elsewhere; most have no clue what the land represents.

The tabernacle in the wilderness, which was patterned after the things in heaven, was mobile, and was not attached permanently to the earth, but it was moved about, as the people went from place to place. In those days, heavenly things were encaspulated in the tabernacle, in its design, and in its contents. In it, was the ark containing two tablets of stone, on which were written the 10 commandments. These tablets of stone were probably two pieces of rock from near the summit of mount Sinai. Also in the ark, there was some manna in a container.

David brought the ark to Jerusalem. Solomon built a house for it. The holy place was then fixed to a specific location on earth. The temple was called mount Zion. This mountain, the mountain of the Lord’s house, was to be raised up, Isaiah said. The things pertaining to the tabernacle were transferred to mount Zion, and mount Zion was to be raised up.

During the history of Israel, the significance of the promised land was narrowed; after the northern kingdom separated from the house of David, the land promise became centered upon the city of Jerusalem and mount Zion. Psalm 87:2 says, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

The prophet Zechariah illustrates the narrowing of the meaning of the promised land. He described Jerusalem as elevated high above its surroundings, and the territory round about becoming a plain. In Jerusalem, he said, there is safety. [Zechariah 14:9-11] The allusion here is to the heavenly city, the company of the saints.

In the New Testament, Jesus identified himself with the temple. After his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven; those in Christ are also said to “sit together in heavenly places;” the heavenly Zion.

While mount Zion ascended to heaven in Christ, and was thus raised up, as foretold by Isaiah and Zechariah, the earthly Jerusalem was called mount Sinai, and was associated with bondage, and with Hagar the bondwoman, who was cast out of Abraham’s house.

The land becoming desolate in Isaiah’s prophecy precedes the return to the land of promise that the prophets foretold, another exodus. This second exodus is not a literal migration to Palestine, but a return to the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” [Jude 3]

When Isaiah asked, “Lord, how long?” he was evidently asking how long the meaning of prophecy would remain hidden. And the answer he was given, “until the land be utterly desolate,” refers to the “land” in a metaphorical way. If “land” represents “the knowledge of God,” the land becoming “utterly desolate” must mean there are none who really know God. This may also relate to Matthew 24:15-16, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)  Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” Its significance is that when the land is desolate, and the abomination causing desolation is recognized, is when prophecy will be properly understood.