The Mystery Man of Isaiah

The Symbol Applied to the Mystery Man

By itself the text of Isaiah 28 and verse 16: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily" seems to apply merely to some projected building. But in context, the whole passage deals with an emerging judgement upon Ephraim and Jerusalem.

The Lord God of hosts is pictured as stripping away by His might the shoddy refuge of lies and falsehood in which the people have been hidden: "Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, 'We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement.

'When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves'" (28:14,15).

So the immediate impression of the words of verse 16 would be a place being built on a new foundation. This place would be in stark contrast to the disgusting abodes the people had sheltered behind, imaging that the Eternal God would neither notice nor be offended. For the essential nature associated with this stone is justice and righteousness: "Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet" (28:17).

It is when we look at other instances of the use of 'corner-stone' that the mental picture is transformed from a literal stone to a description of a Person. The Mystery Man of Isaiah is being described. His character and lifestyle are being unveiled. The contrast between the shabby habitations and lifeworks of the people, and the abiding place provided by God in this Person is dramatically portrayed.

Earlier the prophet had used the idea of the Lord of hosts being a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: "The LORD of hosts, him you shall hallow; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel . . . " (Isaiah 8:13,14).

To Isaiah the Lord God would be a sanctuary. To the covenant-rejecting Nation God would be a stumbling block. Isaiah's use of the word 'corner-stone' is in some way presenting the God of Israel as being intricately involved with this Mystery Man in a way not yet unveiled.

What appears to be expressed in this Scripture is that God is rousing Himself to judgement. However, His covenant promises and His grace seek to provide a covering for the faithful – those who are as Isaiah, committed to Yahweh and His worship. The corner-stone therefore is God's provision of grace. It is His answer to any charge by death-loving, condemned individuals that God is unkind in His actions. He has provided a place of safety. It is in a Person in whom God, and those who believe God, can meet.

This Mystery Man, as the chief corner-stone, is able to break the power of the covenant of death in which individuals, and the Nation seem to have become enmeshed. This has caused the anger of God to boil, and the doors of His patience to be unlocked. The people have sold out to Death; they have accepted the fallacy that the grave is the FULL STOP.

They have no more sense of accountability to the Creator, Redeemer, covenant-making God, who has invested His name, honour and purpose in them. The view "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (Isaiah 22:13) has stolen their hearts, for it refers to a mind set, not simply of despair, but of rejection of God and life beyond the grave.

How modern it all reads!

How sad it all appears!

Lost is the warm and tender concept which lies behind the Biblical phrase: "Now as for you (Abraham), you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age" (Genesis 15:15). The Messiah later put it this way: "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:32).

What was awaiting Abraham was life beyond the grave. The people of Isaiah's day had lost sight of this. Therefore they had no qualms about lying, debauchery, and making falsehood their habitation, for their covenant with Death was seen as cancelling out standing and being accountable to the Lord God of hosts. How wrong they would be!

God says that he will annul the covenant of death: "Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand" (Isaiah 28:18), and that will be done through resurrection. We read in Daniel 12:2 that there is a promised time when this will happen: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt."

The grave does not mean FULL STOP. It means simply a change of dimension. Whether or not we are included in the resurrection of those going to everlasting life with God seems from Isaiah's understanding of God's plan to depend on whether or not we are abiding in, on, and under the Corner-stone.

It is not God's purpose, nor Isaiah's intention, to play games with the readers of His message. What is happening is the presentation of information in symbol, in statement, in definition of character and work, so that when the Mystery Man appears He can be checked out.

There are always those who seek to frustrate God's purposes, or whose egos drive them to be messiahs themselves, simply to end up as fools. However, when the right time for God's purposes to be achieved has arrived, the real Mystery Man will simply have to say: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).