Isaiah 32:15 – New Times!
… until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.Isaiah 32:15
Isaiah's reference to the Holy Spirit forms a decisive turning point in his discourse against the wayward city, Jerusalem. The first part of his prophecy announces imminent judgment and desolation because of the complacent and carnal attitude of the women of the city. But then a new time is heralded, in which destruction would give way to complete renovation and the whole land would share in the effects of renewal.
The prophecy is built around a harvest feast, most probably the feast of booths. This feast was marked by a great procession from the temple to the pool of Siloam, and this procession may be alluded to in the words "the hill and the watchtower," Isaiah 32:14. In the days of Jotham and Ahaz, this feast had become a popular, but frivolous and self-directed event among the people. The people took time for fun, but neglected to concentrate on the meaning of the feast. So the feast began to take on a carnival-like character. Its original purpose, however, was to commemorate the Lord's care of His people, even in the dismal conditions of the desert wanderings. The focus of the feast was to be on the Giver of the harvest, the God of all good! Because this had been forgotten, God announces His imminent punishment.
Yet in His punishment the LORD does not abandon His salvation purpose. The imminent destruction of the city will serve to plant a new city – the heavenly one! The arrival of the divine Spirit brings a situation in which not only the city but all creation is renewed. Creation itself shares in the power of rebirth, and the image of the paradise comes to mind.
Now one can suggest several events which point to the fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah's own life time. The threat of Sennacherib brought grave poverty and distress to the city. And the great judgment of the exile brought all the feasts to an end. We can also see the first rays of fulfillment in the restoration of the temple and city after the exile. After all, Cyrus is described as one who is 'anointed.' He was claimed for a specific task by the Spirit of God. Yet beyond these fulfillments we can find the definitive fulfillment only in the work of the Messiah. Indeed, the whole chapter is messianic, and opens with an allusion to Christ's reign in righteousness.
Therefore we find the great fulfillment of these words in the feast of Pentecost. The cross brings the judgment of God to a definitive climax. It is the end of judgment in the sense that all judgment henceforth only takes place in the cross. And after the work of the cross, the renewal of life begins. It begins in the church, the New Jerusalem. The text describes the Spirit as being 'uncovered' or poured out, much in the same way a jar is emptied of its contents so that its bottom is uncovered. Indeed, here the same word is used as found in Joel 2:28, another prophecy of the day of Pentecost.
The Lord Jesus also connects the feast of booths with the day of Pentecost. When He arrived at the feast of booths on its last day, He said:
If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’.John. 7:37, 38
And John explains that He said this about the Holy Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive.
Therefore we may see the cross of Christ as the beginning of the definitive judgment in the world. And we may see Pentecost as the beginning of the definitive renewal. The Spirit on high has come down from heaven, and renewal begins in the hearts of God's children. Yet it will not stop there. Indeed, many judgments are foretold, as the book of Revelation makes clear. Paul says that the creation groans in travail, waiting for the redemption of the sons of God, Romans 8: 22. And he ties the renewal of creation with the renewal of our bodies and the work of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit of Christ will renew not only the church, but all creation. The first fruits of the Messianic kingdom are already present in the church. But we know: more is coming!
Christ will return to institute His kingdom of righteousness in fullness. Jerusalem is founded in right and truth – the justice of God as revealed in the cross. And the effect of this righteousness will be "peace, quietness and trust forever." For the wrath of God against our sin has been stilled! Now the renewal can begin – a renewal which affects the whole creation. It's God's environment first of all!
So we may keep our feasts in the age of Pentecost. The Spirit of Christ dwells in our hearts and the first fruits of the new age may be with us. How do we then live? Let all our feasts, and our Pentecost feast as well, be directed to our God in heaven, from whom alone all rich blessings flow.