By Rousas John Rushdoony
In Isaiah 10:5-34, God singles out Assyria, the great world power of that day, for a sharp judgment. God declares that He raised-up Assyria to judge“ an hypocritical nation:”5. O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.6. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets (Isa. 10:5-6).
Assyria ascribed its power to itself and failed to see the power of God behind its role and power (Isa. 10:13). As a result, God’s wrath was kindled against Assyria also, for their’s was an evil self-confidence. The instrument saw itself as the power, and not the tool:15. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift-up itself, as if it were no wood.16. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. (Isa. 10:15-16)
These words are directed against Assyria, but they are also given as a general principle. They therefore apply to every man and every church and nation which, being used of God, imagines itself to be necessary to God. My tools I can readily replace; my arm, I cannot. For men and nations, who are tools in God’s hands, to imagine that they have been made God’s actual arm is very common, but an absurdity all the same. God declares plainly that he shall destroy the arrogant instrument. Assyria is compared to a mighty forest, whose trees are all cut down by the wrath of God: 33. Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. 34. And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one. (Isa. 10:33-34)As Hengstenberg rightly points out, this judgment of Assyria “refers to himas the representative of the whole world’s power.”
This means that God here speaks concerning all the nations of our day. Every power, including men, their institutions, and churches which does not see itself as God’s instrument, with a total duty to serve and obey Him, is thus under condemnation. All have a common duty to believe and obey the Lord totally. The alternative to faith and obedience is madness and revolution, war against God. Immediately after this judgment, Isaiah declares, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). Assyria is represented as a mighty forest, Jesus Christ appears as a small shoot from a stem cut down. Out of the roots comes forth a growth which shall rule the world. The reference to the stem is to Jesse, not to David, his royal son. There is thus no reference to Davidic royal glory; the stem is, like Jesse, one of obscurity and insignificance. This Son of Jesse shall be the great world ruler, whose reign is one of wisdom and righteousness. He is the great king whose reign brings in all the glory of God’s Kingdom:
- And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
- And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
- But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
- And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. (Isa. 11:2-5)
Scripture describes the Messiah as truly human and truly divine. But this is not all: He is set forth as truly royal and political. A world-state is set forth, not as a union of all nations, but as the submission of all nations to the Messiah, whose government rules over all, and whose law is the law of all nations. This Ruler is directly the expression of the Spirit of the Lord. The Spirit does more than use Him or speak through Him: He rests upon Him. Both the Ruler and the Spirit are thus the fullness of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might or strength, and of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. The perceptions of this Ruler shall be infallible, exercised in the fear of the Lord, and without reference to seeing and hearing (v. 3).
All these attributes the Ruler or Messiah has, not merely for Himself, but as the Second Adam, the regenerating power and source of the new humanity. In John 2:24-25, this infallible perception of the nature and mind of all men is manifested, John tells us, in Jesus Christ. Perfect justice or righteousness marks His rule, and omnipotence as well. He is the fulfillment of Proverbs 29:14, “The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever.” His word is the creative word. Since “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3), the very words He speaks are sufficient to bring judgment, and “the breath of his lips” in anger sufficient to “slay the wicked”(Isa. 11:4). Righteousness and faithfulness go hand in hand in the Ruler, and therefore in His Kingdom and new humanity (Isa. 11:5). As against the tyranny of Assyria, the Messiah shall manifest a supernatural wisdom, a “quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” This wisdom is not dependent upon sight nor hearing, but on the Lord and His law.
Righteousness or justice is the nature of His rule, and “The girdle of his loins,” the tie that binds his clothing and enables Him to function. Righteousness is that which conforms the norm of God’s character and law. The word righteousness in both the Old and New Testaments (tsedeq in the Hebrew, dikaiosune in the Greek) means both the law of God, and the salvation of God by His sovereign grace (in the New Testament, the salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ). Thus, the word righteousness refers both to the law of God and the grace of God. Both law and grace are aspects of the covenant mercy of God, and His favor to man. Thus, while there is a differing emphasis in the words law and grace, they are alike aspects of the covenant, and of God’s righteousness. An added use of the word righteousness refers to the moral conduct required of the believer. Paul uses the word righteousness in all three senses: as the law of God in Romans 9:31; as the salvation of God through Christ in Romans 3:21; in Romans 6:16, it means obedience or works of faith. (Paul also uses the word law to mean the death sentence against us, a works religion, and the righteousness required of believers, among other things. The context makes clear the meaning.)
In verse 4, the scope of the Messiah’s realm, as well as the nature of His justice, is set forth. We are twice told that the covenant king shall rule the earth, the whole world. He gives justice with impartiality or equity “to the meek of the earth,” and He judges and slays the wicked of the whole earth. He destroys these wicked ones by “the rod of his mouth” and “with the breath of his lips.” Because He is very God, the Messianic King has the creative word (Deut. 32:39). Isaiah makes the point even more emphatic: by the very breath or life of the Messiah, whose being is righteousness, the wicked are fore-ordained to death.
This perfect King demands and requires a perfect world, one in which the evil brought in by the first Adam is undone and is replaced by the Kingdom of God. Christ, having been made king by His resurrection (Rom. 14:7-9), began at once to rule. We have therefore the second great shaking of the nations, all nations, so that the things which cannot be shaken will alone remain (Heb. 12:18-29). The realm to be brought forth by the king’s judgment and the king’s law and grace is then described:
- The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
- And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
- And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
- They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.(Isa. 11:6-9)In these verses, the Kingdom of God is described. The description is both a metaphor of the great change which will take place in man, and also, as Calvin and Hengstenberg held, the change as a result in the material creation. The earth was subjected to the curse and a bondage because of man’s sin. The very ground was cursed for man’s sake (Gen. 3:17). Now, in Christ, the whole creation looks for its deliverance in Christ together with His elect people (Rom. 8:19-22).
No matter how men may seek to interpret these verses, they plainly point to a remarkable and supernatural change in the nature of the earth and its inhabitants. This change, moreover, is more than a “spiritual” change; it is very obviously a physical one as well. In verse 9, we have the precondition of this change: the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the LORD, “as the waters cover the sea.” This knowledge is religious: it is the awareness of God’s reality, and a life in faithfulness to God and His law word. The focus of the Messiah’s work is thus more than His people; it is the totality of his kingdom and righteousness. It is in terms of this that our Lord orders us to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt.6:33). If the Messiah does this Himself, His people dare do no less. We dare not limit the scope of Christ’s Kingdom to man only, or to man’s soul. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). He is therefore the cosmic lord, and His government is overall things. There is not an animal, stone, or atom unrelated to or outside His government and purpose. Jesus Christ is more than a religious figure: He is the Lord, the cosmic Christ. *(The term “cosmic Christ” comes from the thought and pen of Cornelius Van Til.)
The Wisdom of God
St. Paul, in I Corinthians 1:24 declares Christ to be “the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Modernist commentators somehow try to make this text mean something other than it plainly reads, and to question whether Christ is called the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Their quibbling need not trouble us (Prov. 26:4). Wisdom (sophia) is in its absolute sense an attribute of God. Total wisdom and knowledge belong to God alone. To declare Christ to be “the wisdom of God” is to declare Him to be in Himself God, the second-person of the Godhead. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, God incarnate.
At this point, by way of contrast, it is of value to contrast Christ as wisdom, the wisdom of God (cf. Col. 2:3), with Satan, the tempter or serpent of Genesis 3:1, nachash in the Hebrew. This serpent is identified as Satan in Revelation 12:9, 14,15; 20:2. In the verb, the meaning of nachash is to hiss, whisper, foretell. The word is one among many in Scripture used for serpents. The meaning of foretell or divine comes from the silent or hissing aspect of the serpent, and its hidden nature, i.e., hidden in grass and bushes. The word of all occultists is such a word, dark, hidden, and not clearly spoken. Satan thus is one who offers the occult word or “wisdom” so called. It is an insinuated word, a hissed and whispered word, a “possible” word, never the sure word. Astrologers are given to asserting that the stars indicate but do not determine. Occult “knowledge” is prone to speak so. It speaks about the future apart from God as a possible future.
In verb form, we meet with nachash in several places. In Genesis 30:27, it is translated as experience, Laban’s experience. In Gen. 44:5 and 15, it is rendered as divineth. In Leviticus 19:26, it is enchantment . In Deut. 18:10, an enchanter is nachash. In I Kings 20:33, nachash is translated as “diligently observe,” or divine; in II Kings 17:17, it is “enchantments,” as it is also in II Kings 21:6, and II Chron. 33:6, and in Num. 23:23 and 24:1 (as a noun).Very clearly, occult knowledge is Satanic knowledge. It offers knowledge about the future as a knowledge outside of God and His eternal decree.
Thus, even when occultism at times gives us valid forecasts concerning the future, as with the Witch of Endor (I Sam. 28:7-25), it is false, because it offers that information as a forecast in a world stripped of God and His predestination.The same is true today of all who are busy forecasting a variety of predictions concerning the future of the Soviet Union and the United States. Many of these forecasters have valid data; some of them, given the many kinds of predictions, will be true as to events. All are false if they see the present and the future apart from God and His predestination. As such, they are dangerous, because they offer a realm of possibility outside of God. Christ as the wisdom of God gives us a different kind of knowledge and forecast.
First, as the wisdom of God, omnipotence is His. He is “the power of God” (I Cor. 1:24). The dynamics of history are totally in His power (John1:3); nothing exists apart from His determination, nor can exist. For Him, there is no “possible” knowledge, but only certain knowledge. He knows the beginning and the ending absolutely, because He is “the Almighty” (Rev.1:8). There is thus no power, nor future outside of Christ.
Second , not only does Christ by His sovereign power ordain all history(John 1:3), but He also is the central force in history. By His incarnation, and by His sovereign rule and power, He is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Rev. 1:8). From creation to the Last Judgment, Christ, in His person or in His government, is not only the determiner of history but the central person therein. His is not an abstract or remote government or presence.
Third , Christ is also the savior and redeemer of the world (John 3:16), so that His wisdom is manifested not only in His determination and government of history but in His redemptive work therein. Man’s idea of God and of redemption is foolishness and futility. Christ’s redemption is both wise and particular. The universalists reject Christ to offer a plan of universal redemption. We live in an age of universalist politics. Whether it be Marxism, Fabian Socialism, National Socialism, or democracy, the prevailing belief is in some of universalism. In National Socialism in the German form, this universalism was limited by blood, but applied indiscriminately to all within the blood-line. Universalism thus professes to care for all (however it defines all), and thus to be a broader and nobler faith. However, by its insistence on salvation for all, it denies the person. The fact of particularity is denied. If all humanity is to be saved, or all Nordics, there is then an unconcern about the very real individual differences of faith and character. As a result, universalistic faiths tend to be brutal in their disposition of the particular person. We can say that, the more universalistic the faith, the more brutal it is. Marxism surpasses all others in its universalistic zeal, and also in its brutality and inhumanity. In the name of humanity, universalism practices radical inhumanity. Its wisdom becomes slavery and death.
On the other hand, according to St. Paul, God’s wisdom is manifested in the particularity of salvation (Rom. 11:32-35). He concludes all in unbelief, and makes known to man the implications and consequences of unbelief, so that those whom He mercifully saves might know His grace and wisdom in salvation. Wisdom is practical and successful (Luke 14:28-32). It accomplishes that which it purposes. Christ as the wisdom of God infallibly accomplishes all that He purposes, to bring His new humanity and creation to its predestined purpose. To see Christ’s work apart from the wisdom and certainty of God’s absolute power is to view Biblical faith and our history as occult knowledge, not revelation. To remove the certainty from Christ’s command of history, of time and eternity, is to deny the Christ and to affirm Satan. Satan allows for a great measure of probability to God’s word. He adds, however, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Surely (ak in the Hebrew) means only. Death is not the only option, according to Satan; God’s determination is not total, nor absolute. However powerful God’s word, a realm of possibility escapes His control. It is in this realm of religious possibility that man’s opportunity lies, and must be exploited. This is the meaning of occultist wisdom: it is a theological principle, and has been, since the Garden of Eden.
In Jesus Christ, we see God’s absolute wisdom, and His determination of history in incarnate form. He declares himself to be the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). There is no possibility outside of Him: there is no occult knowledge. To know Christ as “the wisdom of God” is thus to seek no presupposition, knowledge, wisdom, possibility, or determination apart from or outside of Him. He is the Lord. All attempts to gain wisdom apart from Him are doomed (Job 5:12; Isa. 29:14; Jer. 8:9): “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (I Cor.1:19).
Article from www.chalcedon.edu.
Article from Systematic Theology Vol. I, by Rousas John Russdoony; 1994.