October 13: The Far Off Land

“Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty. They shall behold the land that is very far off.” Is. 33:17

Jerusalem, 2700 years ago, was under siege (II Kgs. 18:17). The Assyrian army under Sennacherib had surrounded the city. King Hezekiah had done all he could to prepare. He had strengthened the walls of the city and had dug a tunnel to provide water. Still the future did not bode well for King and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He had placed his trust in Egypt. Day after day, Hezekiah searched the horizon, but no help came from the hills. Then the news came that all the fenced cities of Judah had fallen. Then the king of Assyria demanded tribute, or Jerusalem would suffer the same fate.

Sennacherib wanted three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah, in an effort to meet this ransom, gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and all the treasures in his palace. Still this was not enough. Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the Temple and from the pillars within (vs 15-16). This he gave to Sennacherib, but he demanded more. His servants — Tartan, Rab-saris, and Rab-shakeh — required yet an additional two thousand horses and riders (v. 23).

Hearing this, Hezekiah rent his clothes, dressed in sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. He sent the priests who were also covered in sackcloth to find Isaiah the prophet. The prophet, then delivered a word for them to give to King Hezekiah: “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou has heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” (II Kgs. 19:6-7).

The King was encouraged and continued to pray and seek the LORD. And Isaiah again spoke a great word to the King: “Thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD” (II Kgs. 19:32-33).

The prophet records yet a third word in his writings to the king and the people. “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.” Isaiah’s word was twofold. It spoke to the king, and yet it spoke of a coming Messianic King. King Hezekiah could forsake his sackcloth and dress in royal apparel once more. Yet an element within his word was visionary. Isaiah “saw the LORD, sitting on his throne, high and lifted up.”

This was the true King who would reveal to all His wondrous glory. Isaiah’s word spoke to the people that the siege was soon to be ended and they could travel again to the furthest part of the lands of Judah with fear. Yet it heralded a vision of establishment of the limitless Kingdom of God.

Soon after Isaiah’s words, the writer of Second Kings notes: “It came to pass that night that the angel of the LORD went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh” (II Kgs. 19:35-36).

A wondrous victory, at the hands of God who defends His people.

The Jewish Targumim
The Messianic word in Isaiah becomes more pronounced in translations found in Jewish Targumim. These popular explanations of the word were given by rabbis orally to the common people in their local language. Thus Isaiah’s word has been recorded in these commentaries to mean: “Thine eyes shall see the Shekinah of the King of the Ages.”* Other rabbis have interpreted this passage as: “Thine eyes shall see the glory of the majesty of God.

The Greek Septuagint translation of Isaiah states that “Ye shall see a king with glory: your eyes shall behold a land from afar.”

Beauty
Beauty as we know it is transit. It moves and disappears only to reappear in other forms. Tastes and styles change over the decades as to what makes “beauty.” Many definitions exist for describing what its nature is. Perhaps “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” says it best. Beauty goes hand in hand with youth. It is a quality, a gift. Some would say it is happiness or being pleasing to look at. Others might see it as a certain flawlessness. Beauty attracts, and brings delight. True beauty, though, is not outward but comes from a purity of soul. We long to be with the LORD and “dwell in his house forever.”

The Psalmist describes the King’s beauty in what has been called “A Royal Wedding Song.” He writes: “Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God has blessed thee forever” (Ps. 45:2). The Hebrew word for “fairer” in this passage, yaph-yapheh, means to be very beautiful. Its wording is doubled in the scripture, thus meaning “beauty on top of beauty.”

A king’s beauty is found in his majesty, word that can be defined as splendor, dignity, regalness, and glory. Majesty brings a certain awe in the eyes of those beholding it. The Psalmist in describing the LORD declares that “Honor and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Ps. 96:6).

“Thine Eyes Shall See”

When Moses returned from being in God’s presence for forty days, his face radiated the glory of God. And all who saw him were afraid to come near him. His very countenance had been changed by God’s glory (Ex. 35:29). Isaiah caught a glimpse of the LORD’s majesty and found his life changed. “Here am I, send me,” he cried (Is. 6:8). Ezekiel saw the likeness of God’s splendor and fell upon his face (Ezek. 1:28). Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured before them. “His face did shine as the sun, and his clothes were white as the light.” They heard the voice of God and fell on their face and were greatly afraid (Mt. 17:1-7).

The blind man who Jesus healed declared he was the Son of God and “worshiped him” (Jn. 9:38). John saw the Son of Man with “eyes like fire” and hair as “white as snow.” He too fell at His feet as if dead, until the Master raised him up (Rev. 1:13-17). Later, John, after worshiping the Lord, had another vision of Him as the Righteous Judge dressed for war and seated on a white horse (Rev. 10:11-16).

How do you see your Savior’s beauty? Perhaps it is as your Bridegroom, “the chiefest among ten thousand” and the Lover of our soul (S. of Sol. 5:10). Or maybe as the perfect sacrifice, a man despised, rejected, and without any outward beauty, until the LORD God raised him up (Phil. 2:7-11). Jesus said that only the pure in heart would see God. Holiness in you invites the King in all His beauty to dwell within your soul. Once you see His glory, you will be forever changed (II Cor. 3:18). Worship Him and come into His chamber. Pray to Him and behold His beauty. Read His word and discover His Presence within you.

The Far Off Land
Pilgrims from the ends of the earth sought to travel to Jerusalem as early as the 4th century. They would sell all to obtain all, and then use these funds to make a pilgrimage for spiritual gain. They came, Jew and Christian, both rich and poor, alone or in caravans, each one seeking a city that could not be hid. Their destination was Jerusalem, the birthplace of their faith.

Once reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christian pilgrims would carve a small cross in the stone walls, signifying their arrival in the far off land. Those who were Jewish would leave Hebrew graffiti on the stone ashlars near where the Temple once stood. These engravings and markings can still be seen today, each one giving a mute testimony of a sojourner’s victorious journey to the uttermost.

The far off land also beckons us. It is your inheritance in Christ, a place where joy and peace are everlasting. It is your faith-promise to go to the ends of the earth with the Gospel seed (Mt. 28:19). It is also the Kingdom of God, a land eternal without borders and limits.

A Word of the Lord
My beauty is everlasting. It shall not diminish with time. I am the source of all beauty. I created you to be beautiful.

When you praise me, when you direct your thoughts to me, when you l00k upon me, I see your beauty. You are like a sparkling light that reflects its brightness greater than a diamond’s fire. My beauty is in my love for you. I created you to dwell with me in eternity. You will not die nor wrinkle. You will have my presence and my beauty within You.

Truly I will give you beauty for ashes. Your sorrows and disappointments shall become joy. Allow me to wash you with my love even now. I will dry your tears and give you my presence to walk victorious.

Your spirit will outshine your natural beauty when you allow me to dwell in you. I will cause others to see my presence in you. They will be drawn to my light and love. Speak of my love to these poor ones. They dwell in darkness and are searching and seeking my presence. Lead them to my marvelous light. They will see me as their King and know me in my radiant beauty and rejoice.

Devotional Prayer
David heard the LORD and penned these words: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:8).

Lord, we ask for souls in nations far off for our inheritance. Let us share with them your beauty and your kingdom. Let us answer your Macedonian call to come and help those in need. Allow us to see your beauty in the eyes of those we minister to, knowing that we who are in Christ Jesus now were once far off ourselves, but have been made near by your precious blood (Eph. 2:13).

Let us joyfully share the good news of salvation with those who are afar off and those who are near to your kingdom (Eph. 2:17).

Scriptural Reflections
“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty for he is thy Lord: and worship thou him” (Ps. 45:11).

“Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (Ps. 90:17).

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl 3:11).

“For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty” (Zec. 9:17a).

 

 

Jerusalem, Lest I Forget Thee by Gene Little
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*Targum: Jonathan Ben Uziel/Jerusalem.