Life-Study of Isaiah, by Witness Lee

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Jehovah had brought up Israel and raised them; yet they rebelled against Him (1:2b). God did so many good things for them, but they still acted toward Him in the way of rebellion.

At this point, I would like to help you understand the difference between God’s chastisement and His judgment. These two matters involve two classes of people—Israel and the Gentiles, the nations. Both are related to God because they were created by Him. Israel is God’s elect, His chosen people, and the nations are those who were apparently given up by God. Actually, God has not given up the nations, for among them there are many who have been chosen by Him. In the Old Testament Israel was God’s chosen people, but most of the chosen ones in the New Testament are from the Gentiles. Hence, although God gave up the nations temporarily, He would not do this for the long run, because He has chosen many from the Gentiles to be believers and to constitute the Body of Christ, which is much more crucial to God than Israel is.

Both Israel and the nations, the Gentiles, are dealt with by God, but in different ways. God’s dealing with Israel, His beloved people, is always in love. For this reason, I consider this dealing not as judgment but as chastisement. God’s dealing with Israel is like a father’s dealing with his children to correct them, to improve them, and to bring them onto the right track. This is chastisement.

In the book of Isaiah, God’s love toward Israel is exercised in a threefold way, as a Father (1:2-3; 63:16; 64:8), as a nursing Mother (66:13), and as a Husband (54:5). God was Israel’s Father, Mother, and Husband. Since God dealt with His beloved Israel in a loving way, His dealing with them was not a matter of judgment but of chastisement.

God’s dealing with the nations, however, is a matter of judgment. This judgment is not based on God’s love; it is based on God’s righteousness, on His justice.

When God comes to deal with people, He deals with them according to what He is. The Bible reveals that God is holy and righteous. He is the Holy One and the Righteous One. As the Holy One, He deals with His people, and as the Righteous One, He deals with the nations.

God deals with His elect in love that they may be holy. Because the children of Israel were called by God and separated unto God, they must be holy, as God is holy. God’s chastisement of Israel was for holiness (Heb. 12:10). Since they had become common, worldly, and completely unlike God in His holy nature, He came in to chastise them. His chastisement of Israel was that they might learn the lessons of holiness and be holy.

God’s dealing with the nations is different from His dealing with Israel. Whereas God chastises Israel according to His holiness, He judges the nations according to His righteousness. God judges the nations because they are not just and righteous. Therefore, based upon what God is in His righteousness, He comes in to judge the nations.

As we read the book of Isaiah, we need to keep in mind that God’s dealing with people is in two aspects—the aspect of His holiness and the aspect of His righteousness. Holiness is God’s requirement for His chosen people, and righteousness is God’s requirement for the nations. God wants His people to be holy, and He wants the nations to be righteous. Based upon His holiness and righteousness, God deals respectively with these two classes of people. He chastises Israel in love for holiness, and He judges the nations for righteousness.

Having made this distinction between God’s chastisement and His judgment, let us now go on to consider the details of Jehovah the Father’s complaint against His children Israel.

(Life-Study of Isaiah, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)