We begin today with Isaiah’s prediction of final restoration. This will happen “in that day” (4:2). Note that in the previous pronouncement of judgment, “in that day” referred to the day of that judgment (see 3:7 and 4:1). As we have seen, the day of restoration is also going to be a day of judgment for some. Here, we see that the day of judgment is also going to be a day of restoration (final salvation) for some. The “branch” spoken of here is the remnant (the “survivors of Israel”) that the Lord will plant in the land. This is not, however, the physical land. This is the New Heaven and the New Earth (see Isa 60:21). This remnant is the church. We are the branch rooted in the Branch, Who is Christ (see Zech 6:12).
In verse 3, the final place of rest for God’s people is Zion, or Jerusalem. Only those who have been “recorded for life in Jerusalem” get to dwell in Jerusalem. This is another picture of the New Heaven and the New Earth (see Rev 21 and note the similarities to Isa 60:19-22 which describes the land the branch is planted in). In verse 4, that image of purification (see Isa 1:22, 25) is here applied to the Purifier: the Spirit of God that makes us pure. Verse 5 describes God’s eternal and visible presence in Zion (the New Heaven and New Earth), and verse 6 describes our eternal security.
Chapter 5 begins with a parable (5:1-7). God took great care to plant Israel in the land, but rather than produce fruit unto God (justice, righteousness, etc. – see v. 7) it yielded “wild grapes,” that is, something other than what was planted. This represents their fruit of sin. God asks the people of Israel and Judah what more He could have done (vv. 3-4). So judgment is pronounced (vv. 5-6).
God then pronounces six woes that elucidate the “wild grapes” of sin (vv. 8-23). The first woe is on the rich for taking from the poor (vv. 8-10). God will take what they have. The second woe is against those who pursue drunkenness and over-indulgence (vv. 11-12). God will humble them and be exalted through His justice (vv. 13-17). Sheol will indulge in their death. The third woe is against those who sin because they don’t believe God will judge them (vv. 18-19). The fourth and fifth woe go together. Those who rely on their own worldly wisdom and seek their own way (v. 21) wind up calling their evil good (v. 20 – see Prov 21:2). The sixth woe again condemns drunkenness, but it also condemns acts of injustice (vv. 22-23).
All of these sins are against God’s Law (v. 24). In living this way, Judah and Israel have rejected and even hated God’s Law. This is why He will judge them (v. 25). He will use Assyria (against Israel) and Babylon (against Judah) as His means of punishment (v. 26). They will utterly destroy them in battle as they are well prepared and ruthless (vv. 27-28). And they will take them into captivity (v. 29). God describes His people as stuck between a raging sea and a distressed land (v. 30) – it will be death or captivity.
Chapter 6 records the commissioning of Isaiah as prophet. In 6:1, we are told that this was in the year Uzziah died, meaning Isaiah’s ministry began at the very end of Uzziah’s reign (see 1:1). Isaiah either has a vision of, or is transported to, YHWH’s heavenly throne room. Note that Isaiah refers to it as a “Temple”. This is because the Temple on earth (like the Tabernacle before it) was a replica of the heavenly Temple (see Heb 8:5, Ps 11:4, Isa 66:1). YHWH’s robe filling the heavenly Temple echoes the glory cloud that filled the earthly Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11), as does the “smoke” of verse 4. Who Isaiah is seeing here is the pre-incarnate Christ (John 12:41).
In 6:2, we are told that Seraphim stood above Him. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew word (plural of Seraph). The word means “fiery,” but was associated with serpents. In Numbers 21:6. God sends “fiery serpents” (seraphim nahashim, Hebrew שְּׂרָפִ֔ים נְּחָשִׁ֣ים) among the Jews as punishment. In order to heal them, He tells Moses to make a “fiery” (seraphim, שְּׂרָפִ֔ים) and set it on a pole for all to see and live (Num 21:8). The word for “serpent” is not in verse 8. Because of this, the word Seraph came to mean “fiery serpent” (see Isa 14:29 and 30:6 where the word is used). In addition, Christ compares Himself to the Seraph Moses made to heal Israel (John 3:14). So what is Isaiah seeing exactly? I have no idea. Neither do most translators, which is why most translations just transliterate the Hebrew word. Whatever these heavenly beings are, they are agents of healing (see verse 7 and Numbers 21:8) that point us to Christ’s healing of His people.
These Seraphim use two of their six wings to cover their faces and two to cover their feet (again, these beings have feet, so they aren’t “serpents” as we would understand them). And they call to each other “holy, holy, holy is YHWH of hosts” (v. 3). In Hebrew, when someone wanted to intensify what they were describing, they would simply repeat a word. If they wanted to describe a quality to the superlative degree, they would say it three times (see Ezek 21:27). Here, God’s superlative holiness is being praised. In addition, when the earthly Temple/Tabernacle was built, there was a Holy Place, and a Most Holy Place (also called “the Holy of Holies”). In Hebrew, the word “place” is not there. There was the holy, and then there was the holy holy. The closer you got to God’s presence, the holier the place. Here, God Himself is the holy, holy, holy. He is the superlative “place” of holiness.
When Isaiah sees YHWH on His throne, he has the only response anyone can have. He becomes absolutely undone (v. 5). Isaiah was expecting to die horribly for seeing God (see Ex 33:18-20). Sin cannot be in God’s presence. That Isaiah declares himself a man of unclean lips, and one of the healing Seraphim (who point forward to Christ) purify his lips (vv. 6-7), symbolizes his guilt for sin being removed and his sin atoned for. This is why he is allowed in God’s presence: God took away his sin (through Christ)!
Having been cleansed, Isaiah is then given his commission. YHWH frames it as a question to the other heavenly beings: who will go for us? (v. 8). And Isaiah, his sin atoned for, volunteers to go. And we see that God is commissioning Isaiah to prophesy to Judah what they will not respond to (vv. 9-10). They will not repent and be healed as Isaiah just was. While this seems, on the surface, to be a ministry based on failure, that is not the case. For believers, success is not based on results. Success is doing what God calls us to do. Isaiah understands this, and asks God how long this will have to happen for (v 11). And God tells him to prophesy a message that will fall on deaf ears until Judah is destroyed and the people taken into captivity (vv. 11-12).
However, God will not completely wipe out Judah. There will be some (a “stump”) that will survive (v. 13). And we are told that the “holy seed” is the stump. God is saying that He will preserve a remnant of physical Judah in order to bring forth Christ. As we have seen, God’s covenant with David is the reason He will not utterly destroy His physical people (see 2 Kings 8:19). And the fulfillment of the covenant is Christ. So God preserved physical Israel to bring forth the “holy seed” (see Gen 3:15 – the word for “offspring” there is the same word translated “seed” here in Isaiah). That this is so is made more explicit in Isaiah 11:1-5 where the Messiah is described as the “shoot from the stump of Jesse,” Jesse being David’s father. The “stump” of 6:13 (the remnant) will produce the greater Son of David just as Jesse produced David. Preserved physical Israel is the “stump” that the “shoot” of Jesus Christ will grow from.
This is also evident from the fact that the ultimate fulfillment of 6:10 was not Judah who would not “repent and be healed” and would therefore be taken from the land, except for a small remnant. The ultimate fulfillment is the Jews who would not “repent and be healed” by believing in Christ (see John 12:39-41). They would lose the physical land again in 70 A.D., and only a remnant of Jews would be saved (the first disciples). The shoot that grew from that holy stump is the church.