The Connection of Isaiah 28:11 to the Gift of Tongue
In 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 the Apostle Paul based his conclusion concerning the purpose of the gift of tongues upon a statement found in Isaiah 28:11. The fact that Paul did this indicates that the Old Testament provided background for understanding the purpose of the gift of tongues in the New Testament Church.
The previous article on spiritual gifts examined this background and noted the fact that Isaiah 28:11 expressed a principle which was developed in the Old Testament. The principle was as follows: every generation of Jews to which God sends a prophet spokesman and which God judges for rejecting His message and prophet spokesman will be forced to listen to foreign language which it cannot understand as a sign of that judgment.
In light of this principle expressed in Isaiah 28:11 and the fact that Paul used it as the basis of his conclusion concerning the purpose of the gift of tongues in the Church, the previous article concluded with the following question: since the Isaiah 28:11 statement was made several centuries before God gave the gift of tongues to the Church, what connection was there between His Old Testament statement and the gift of tongues in the New Testament Church?
This article will deal with that question.
The Purpose of the Gift of Tongues
An explanation will indicate the connection between Isaiah 28:11 and the gift of tongues. God’s ultimate prophet spokesman whom He sent to Israel was His own Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus indicated that He was a prophet (Mt. 13:57; Lk. 13:33; Jn. 4:43-44). He repeatedly claimed to be God’s spokesman, sent by God to speak His message (Jn. 7:16-18; 8:26, 28-29, 38, 40, 42; 12:44-45, 49-50; 14:10; 17:8, 14). He insinuated that His words and deeds were greater than those of the Old Testament prophets (Mt. 13:17; Lk. 10:24).
Other persons recognized that Jesus was a prophet spokesman of God (Mt. 21:11, 46; Lk. 7:16; 24:19; Jn. 4:19; 6:14; 7:40; 9:17). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews testified to that effect when he wrote, “God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1·2). The writer of Hebrews then made statements about Jesus which clearly indicated that He was God’s ultimate prophet spokesman, far superior to other prophets (1:2-12).
Moses foretold the fact that God would send a significant prophet to Israel. He declared that God would place His words in that prophet’s mouth. As a result, that prophet would speak to the people of Israel all that God would command Him to say. Moses warned that the Israelites should listen to that prophet (Dt 18:15, 18). By Jesus’ time the Jews called this prophet to whom Moses referred “that prophet” or “The prophet” (Jn. 1:21; 6:14; 7:40). These designations indicate that the Jews understood that this prophet would be special, more significant than other prophets. Peter indicated that Jesus was this special prophet (Acts 3:20-22).
In light of the Old Testament principle expressed in Isaiah 28:11 and the fact that Jesus was God’s ultimate prophet spokesman to Israel, a parable which He taught was most significant. Jesus talked about a man who planted a vineyard, turned its care over to tenant farmers, and then took a long trip. When the harvest time came, the man sent his servants to the tenants to receive his share of the fruit. The tenants beat and killed the owner’s servants. Being frustrated with the wrong actions of the tenants toward his servants, the owner sent his own son to the vineyard. He thought that the tenants would respect his son more than his servants. However, the tenants gave the owner’s son the same treatment as his servants – they killed him. When the owner of the vineyard returned from his trip, he severely judged the original tenants and turned the care of his vineyard over to new tenants who would give the owner his share of the fruit at harvest time (Mt. 21:33-41).
In this parable, the owner of the vineyard represented God. The vineyard represented God’s program of operation in the world, particularly as that program centered in the nation of Israel in Old Testament times (v. 43). The tenant farmers represented the spiritual leaders of Israel. The owner’s servants represented God’s Old Testament prophet spokesmen. The owner’s son represented Jesus Christ.
In light of these representations, it can be concluded that Jesus taught this parable in order to communicate the following concepts to the spiritual leaders of Israel in His day (v. 45). When God planted His program of operation in the world in Old Testament times, He centered that program primarily in the nation of Israel as His base of operation. He entrusted the care of His program of operation to the spiritual leaders of Israel. They were to nurture God’s program in such a way that it would produce the kind of results that God intended it to produce. This nurturing would involve the spiritual leaders guiding the people of Israel in obedience to God’s Word as that Word would be proclaimed by God’s prophet spokesmen.
But, when God sent His prophet spokesmen to Israel with His message in Old Testament times, the spiritual leaders led the Jews to reject God’s message and prophet spokesmen. In many instances, the spiritual leaders instigated the beating and killing of God’s prophets.
Since Israel killed God’s Old Testament prophets and rejected His message delivered by those prophets, God finally sent His ultimate prophet spokesman, His own Son, Jesus Christ, to the nation with His message. Since Jesus was God’s Son, His ultimate prophet spokesman, the spiritual leaders of Israel should respect Him more than God’s Old Testament prophets. However, the spiritual leaders would lead the Jews to give God’s Son the same treatment as His Old Testament prophets were given – they would kill Him and reject God’s message delivered by Him.
Because Israel would kill God’s Son and reject God’s message through Him, God would severely judge that nation and its spiritual leaders. He would remove the spiritual leaders of Israel as the caretakers of His program of operation in the world and would entrust the care of that program to other people. In addition, instead of continuing to center His program in the nation of Israel as His base of operation, He would center it elsewhere (v. 43). In other words, God would begin to work with another group of people as His base of operation.
These concepts which were communicated by Jesus through this parable were presented in non-parabolic form on other occasions by Jesus and other persons. Moses warned that those Jews who would not listen to God’s message spoken by the significant prophet whom God would send would be judged by God (Dt. 18:19). When Peter applied Moses’ prophecy concerning that prophet to Jesus, he repeated Moses’ warning (Acts 3:20-23). Stephen severely accused the spiritual elders of Israel in his day of killing Jesus, God’s just One, just as their ancestors killed God’s Old Testament prophets (Acts 7:51-52).
Jesus warned that those who would reject Him and His message would be judged (Jn. 12:48). He declared that He must suffer many things and be rejected by the generation of Jews which saw and heard Him (Lk.17:25). He stated that that generation of Jews would be judged because it did not listen to Him in spite of the fact that He was greater than the Prophet Jonah and Solomon (Mt.12:41-42). Several times He called that generation “wicked” and “perverse” (Mt. 12:45; 17:17). Jesus’ most ominous warning was to the effect that the judgment for the killing of all God’s Old Testament prophets (from Abel to Zechariah) would come upon that generation of Jews which saw and heard Him, because that generation would do the same thing that their ancestors did – kill God’s prophet spokesmen (Mt. 23:29-38; Lk. 11:47-51; 13:33-35).
Jesus indicated that a major part of the judgment upon that generation would consist of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and its inhabitants (Lk.19:41-44).
In light of these concepts concerning the relationship of God’s judgment to Israel’s treatment of God’s Old Testament prophets and His ultimate prophet spokesman, His own Son, several parallels can be seen. First, just as generations of Jews of Old Testament times rejected God’s message and killed His prophet spokesmen who delivered that message, so the generation of Jews of Jesus’ day rejected God’s message and killed His ultimate prophet spokesman, His Son Jesus.
Second, just as God judged the Old Testament generations of Jews for rejecting His message and killing His prophet spokesmen, so God judged the generation of Jews of Jesus’ day for rejecting His message and killing His ultimate prophet spokesman, His Son Jesus. This latter judgment will be described later.
A third parallel is implied by the concepts examined earlier. Just as God used the element of foreign language which the Jews could not understand as a sign for the Old Testament generations of Jews who rejected His message and killed His prophet spokesmen, so God used the element of foreign language which the Jews could not understand as a sign for the generation of Jews of Jesus’ day who rejected His message and killed His ultimate prophet spokesman, His Son Jesus. In both instances, God used the element of foreign language as a sign that those Jews were subject to the judgment of God and that God was working with those who spoke the foreign language.
The validity of this third parallel is substantiated by Deuteronomy 28:46, 49 where, as noted earlier, God indicated that the curse of foreign language which the Jews cannot understand would be a sign of His judgment to every generation of Jews which rejects God’s message and His prophet spokesmen sent to it.
These three parallels explain the connection which Paul made in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 between God’s Isaiah 28:11 statement and the gift of tongues in the New Testament Church. Paul was indicating that the gift of tongues in the New Testament Church had the same God-intended purpose or function toward the generation of Jews of Jesus’ time as did the foreign language of Isaiah 28:11 toward the generation of Jews of Isaiah’s time. In other words, Paul concluded that the gift of tongues in the New Testament Church had the God-intended purpose of functioning as a sign to that wicked, unbelieving generation of Jews which had heard and seen Jesus Christ, but then killed Him. God purposed the gift of tongues to be a sign to the effect that that generation of Jews was subject to the severe judgment of God and that God was now working in a unique sense with those (the Church) who exercised the gift of tongues. The latter aspect of this purpose was designed to communicate the following message to the unbelieving Jews: because this generation of Jews has rejected God’s message and has killed His ultimate prophet spokesman, Jesus Christ, who delivered that message, God is now moving His base of operation for His program in the world from the nation of Israel to the Church (Mt. 21:43).
This God-intended purpose for the gift of tongues has a significant implication concerning the issue of the duration of that gift. That implication will be examined in the next article.