5. The Canopy

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is from Isaiah 4:2-6, and our subject: ‘the Canopy.’

In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious,

And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely

For them that are escaped of Israel.

And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion,

And he that remaineth in Jerusalem,

Shall be called holy,

Even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion,

And shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof

By the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.

And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion,

And upon her assemblies,

A cloud and smoke by day,

And the shining of a flaming fire by night:

For upon all the glory shall be a defence.

And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat,

And for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. 1

Isaiah 4:2-6 is a Messianic prophecy. Our concern with it is its relevance to the doctrine of the person of Christ. Now, verse two speaks of ‘the branch of the Lord,’ this is very clearly a common Messianic term. We encounter it in Isaiah 11:1, in Jeremiah 23:5-6, Jeremiah 33:15, in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.

Thus very clearly, this passage does speak about the Messiah. But it also has a reference to the moment, and to the immediate future of the time when Isaiah wrote. Isaiah speaks of the Babylonian captivity again and again, and he here speaks of the restoration of those Jews who returned from the captivity. How then are we to understand this passage? It plainly refers to the returning people from captivity, but it also has what is clearly a Messianic element.

First of all, all history comes from the hand of God. To be a believer in the Lord means to believe that everything that happens comes because God ordained it, that He knows the beginning from the end, and everything in between. History, thus, is not a series of isolated events; all events have both their uniqueness, and are a part of a pattern. We are to learn when we are in the event, it is unique indeed; but it is also a part of a pattern, and the unique event is going to be meaningless in our life, unless we learn from the Lord, and see the pattern, and grow in terms of what He ordains.

Of course, this is the meaning of typology. In Scripture every judgment that God brings is a type of the last judgment and the meaning of the last judgment is developed and it unfolds in all the various judgments which the Bible sets forth.

Then, second, as Isaiah speaks of the branch of the Lord, he says:

In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious,

Or we can translate this as: “for beauty and glory.” Moreover,

…the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely

For them that are escaped of Israel. 2

The branch of the Lord will be fruitful in an unprecedented way. We are reminded here, very plainly, of the Garden of Eden. The world will have an unexpected fertility in time to come because of the branch of the Lord. Just as history is to have a new beginning and a new humanity in the new Adam, Jesus Christ, so too will the redeemed of the Lord represent a new day, a new beginning, a new humanity; and all the promises of God are to be fulfilled in and through them, and in their ultimate triumph. The survivors who returned from Babylon were types of the Christians, saved from captivity, and we are forerunners of that which is to come; the restored earth.

Then third, this text speaks of the fact that the survivors of the judgment are the Redeemed. The Bible is emphatic; if there is no judgment there is no salvation. Our own life is a series of judgments. If we are of the Lord we grow in terms of those grief’s, those disasters, which bring a judgment on a certain aspect of our life. And we are to see them not only as problems and as griefs, but as opportunities for growth, as a means of understanding what God intends for us to become in Him.

These are spoken of as all who are “...written among the living,” or all who are ‘written for life.’ Thus, when judgment comes it has a different meaning depending on the person. Every problem, every trial, every trouble, can be for us death or for life; depending on us and our relationship to the Lord. To those who are written for life, these judgments come in terms of God’s purpose; and we are told that those who go through those judgments were written for life, shall be called holy, separated and dedicated to the Lord.

Moreover, we are told that by this process the filth of the daughters of Zion shall be washed away, and they shall be purged of the blood of Jerusalem by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.

The filth of Jerusalem is bloodguiltiness, bloodguiltiness before God. We are told a little bit in Isaiah and Ezekiel and the Psalms what the bloodguiltiness of the nation was about. It included judicial murders, Isaiah 1:15-21 indicate. Men who were destroyed by the law, which instead should be a terror to evildoers. It emphatically included Moloch worship, or state worship, as is indicated by Isaiah 57:5 and Ezekiel 22:2-3, and Psalm 106:38, and God ordains a purgation that all these things may be removed from His people.

But then, fourth, this text goes on to speak in verses five and six of the ‘tabernacling presence of God.’ It evokes very openly and plainly memories of the Exodus, when God surrounded His people before and behind and hovered over them as a pillar of fire and a cloud. So that this of which the Exodus journey speaks in Exodus 13:21, in Numbers 9:15-16, 10:34, 14:14, is very definitely set forth here. Thus we are told that the branch of the Lord will bring a renewal of fertility like that of Eden. It will also care for us as in the wilderness journey of Exodus.

E.J. Plumtree, an English scholar of a few generations ago, in analyzing these two verses said it speaks very clearly of a canopy, the Lord, as a canopy over His people, protecting them. 3 The canopy has a place in biblical faith and history. As a matter of fact, to this day Orthodox Jewish weddings are under a canopy, to indicate that when a man and wife come together in the Lord they are under the canopy of the tabernacling presence, under His mercy, grace, and protection. David in the Psalms speaks of the tabernacling presence of God. Thus in Psalm 27:5

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion:

In the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me;

He shall set me up upon a rock.4

Again in Psalm 31:20 David declares:

Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man:

Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.5

Thus, this Messianic prophecy says that all the glory of Eden and Exodus will be manifested for the redeemed of the Lord. That the same power of God is of old, is there for us when we as a people move in terms of His Word and will, and trust in Him.

This tells us, therefore, certain things about the doctrine of Christ, about Jesus Christ. It tells us first of all that Salvation is set in the context of history. Israel and Judah were called to be God’s kingdom, they had fallen, they had to be purged to be restored, and so too Jerusalem. The work of the Lord and of Christ is not merely man’s salvation, it is the kingdom of God, it is the restoration of His kingdom. Man is not saved for man’s sake, but for the sake of the kingdom of God and its purposes. There must be a God-centered context in our lives, and a God-centered context in our doctrine of salvation and of the work of Christ.

If we see our lives only in terms of ourselves, we then sin. And the problem today is that people are so totally wrapped up in themselves they develop an enormous sensitivity where they are concerned and an insensitivity where the world and Christ are concerned. In fact, we can say that sensitive people, in the overwhelming majority of cases, are sinners of a particularly intense sort. They have made themselves so greatly the center of all things that anything that touches them they respond to with intensity, because they are the center of life, the center of the universe. But they are insensitive to God and His requirements, and life is God-centered. And so, God through His Lord works to break the centrality and the sensitivity we give to ourselves, that we might be sensitive instead to His Word and His requirements.

Then, second, the canopy of the tabernacling presence which Israel saw in the Exodus and which Isaiah speaks of in our text, is spoken of by our Lord in the Great Commission, in Matthew 28:18-20. And here again the canopy, the pavilion, the tabernacling presence, is set forth in a God-centered context.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” 6

Then we have the canopy, then we have the tabernacling presence. We are not under our Lord’s canopy to have our ease. The purpose of the canopy is to protect us in our appointed calling, our pilgrimage, our journey.

And then third, this Scripture plainly shows Christ as the branch, and our Lord speaks of Himself as such. In John 15:1-6, as well as in verse sixteen, He says: “I am the vine, (the main branch) and ye are branches of me. Every branch that beareth not fruit is purged, is cast off for burning.” And so, we have from Him the requirement that we be fruitful unto Him, that we live unto Him. There is no place in this Scripture for a man-centered Christ. The branch does not fulfill the hopes of fallen man, or man in any estate; but the purpose of our calling and the purpose of Christ’s work is to restore us into a God-centered life, a God-centered faith. Our Lord is the one who says to God supremely and perfectly: “Thy will be done.” And again:

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” 7

He summons us to a like calling.

We are forbidden, therefore, and barred, from seeing Christ in terms of ourselves and our needs. We are not the center, we are required to see ourselves in terms of Christ and as His branches. If we are not in Him, we are for burning. To be in that canopy is to undergo the judgment of the Cross and the penalty of death in Him. It is to be alive in Him and for Him, and in terms of His word. A God-centered Christ requires a God-centered humanity.

Thus, Isaiah in speaking of our Lord as the branch and as the canopy gives us an omnipresent Christ who summons us to live in Him, and tells us how great and marvelous life is in Him. But it means putting on the reproach of Christ, and separating ourselves from the world and the ways of the world to His service and to His glory. And then indeed though in the world we have much tribulation, we are in the canopy, in Christ.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our heavenly Father, we thank thee that thou art the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and as thou wert in the Exodus, in Judea, in the Resurrection, thou art today. Thy Word has not grown old nor thy power faded, thou art the same. Give us grace, our Father, therefore, to meet the problems, the burdens of our day, knowing that when we walk with thee and in faithfulness to thy Word we are in the canopy of Jesus Christ. In His name we pray, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson?


[Audience Member] In verse two it says that the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel; in a sense are we as the New Israel the escaped of Israel, what is the connection?

[Rushdoony] Yes, judgment was coming upon the false kingdom, the kingdom that claimed to be of God, but was of God in name only. But those who are the escaped or the remnant are those whom God had set apart for His own purposes, who are truly believers, and they are going to be the ones for whom the Lord is beauty and glory, and who shall be fertile in Him.


[Audience Member] When the Bible commands that we are to walk by faith, and not by sight, how does the Christian entrepreneur look at that statement?

[Rushdoony] A very good question, because you see, we do need to think of our faith not only in terms of the church, but in terms of the world and the situation in the world.

Now, let’s answer that question not abstractly, because I don’t think any answer to a question should be abstract, but concretely in terms of our day today. There is no question that we do face very real economic problems ahead; the Chalcedon Report has on its mailing list a number of very prominent newsletter writers, economic reports, and brokers and the like, and some of the accounts they have given me (I have talked to several in the past two weeks) are really rather hair-raising as they describe what is ahead. Economists see this more clearly and bluntly than anyone else.

Now in this context what is the Christian entrepreneur to do? He is to recognize that it is a time of judgment, that what God is doing is to destroy all false economics, all ungodliness in any and every form, including religious, economic, educational, and political ungodliness.

Now, I believe that the destruction of the false provides tremendous opportunities for the true. So the Christian entrepreneur needs to see the present situation as an opportunity. Now he cannot do this by blinding himself to the present. I know some who believe they are very good Christians who are insistent, in almost fanatical terms, in saying: “There is no problem, everything is alright, we mustn’t be alarmists, if we say there is something wrong with the paper money in our pockets we are not trusting in the Lord,” and so on. Now such people refuse to believe that God judges sin, and He judges sin not only in the form of say, adultery, in marriage, but adultery in economics, and the paper money in our pockets is economic adultery.

So, we have to see judgment coming, but every judgment clears the ground for something healthy to follow. And those who avail themselves of that opportunity are the ones who have a future.

Now it is interesting that after World War II, many Germans felt that Germany was forever finished. Here it was, divided in two, and the richest and most prosperous part to some degree was in the hands of the Marxists, there could be no future. There were many Germans who felt that way, but not all; and we know that divided and crippled as Germany was, the economic recovery was remarkable. The Godfather of that recovery was an economist named Röpke, who was the son of a pastor.

Now, I think we need to see the present situation and say the faith in terms of which the entrepreneur walks is the faith that the word is under God’s law, not Washington’s. And that what God is about to do is to bring judgment upon the law that proceeds from Moscow and Washington, London, Paris, and the other capitals of the world, and therefore he will walk by that faith. I do believe, let me add, that we may be on the verge and are probably on the verge, of the greatest industrial revolution that the world has known. This decade will tell the tale.

Incidentally, the current Nations Business has an editorial article by Kilpatrick who echoes an opinion by another columnist, George F. Will, and I don’t particularly care for either, but the gist of it is that by the end of this decade the public schools will be finished; they will still be around, but they will be a minor factor. I think that is one reason for the intensity of the persecution that is currently underway. But I think we need to look ahead and see that the foundations are being laid for a very different future, to walk by faith that it is God’s law that remains.

Are there any other questions?

[Audience Member] I have a question from a subscriber, he says: “Discuss mingled cloth, does this make permanent press garments unlawful? Also fur lined gloves, what about the gold thread used in the cloth for the tabernacle, Exodus 39:3.”

[Rushdoony] That is a very good question, and a very difficult one. Now, the mingled cloth that is forbidden in Scripture is a subject I think that a great deal of research needs to be done on in our time. It is a text that needs to be taken seriously. So, I don’t pretend to know all the answers concerning it. Very definitely, the mingling, say of linen and of wool, or of cotton and of wool is forbidden.

Now, today, the matter has been tremendously sophisticated in that you have so many synthetics. These basic materials are taken and created into synthetics. The question is, by their creation into synthetics, is it a totally different material which is acceptable made? Now I believe that this is a subject that does need the attention of Christian scientists to be properly answered. We do know, and there have been studies of late that have shown that in certain government buildings where certain types of synthetics have been used totally, that is drapes, carpeting and all, of particular synthetics, the effect on people has been so devastating that people cannot work there long without becoming ill. Now, is this true of every kind of synthetic? I really don’t know. I feel that this is an area where Christian men of science do need to do some research. Some synthetics apparently do have some very ugly effects. Is this true of all, or is it because they have done certain things in the creation of those synthetics?

All I can say is I really am not capable of answering that question, because we have gone beyond the extent to where I am capable of analyzing the implications of some of these synthetics.

Well, one thing is for sure, people have not for a long time taken seriously what they have considered a very trifling statement, the forbidding of mingled garments. Now they are finding it is a subject of importance, and it has been some non-Christians who have pioneered in the work. I believe it was a University of California laboratory that began the studies in what had happened in one or two Federal or State buildings where problems were resulting.

Well, our time is up, let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, Amen.

1 Is 4:2–6.

2 Is 4:2.

3 E.H. Plumptre, "Isaiah” in C.J. Ellicott, editor: Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, IV. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, n.d.). p. 428.

4 Ps 27:5.

5 Ps 31:20.

6 Mt 28:19–20.

7 Jn 4:34.

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