By Samuel Whitefield
Isaiah 24 contains a stunning prediction: God is going to use singers to sustain His people and proclaim his glory in the most difficult hour of history. Furthermore, this prophecy gives significant insight into what God is doing in Southeast Asia.
There are three main themes in Isaiah 24 we need to be familiar with:
The prediction of end-time songs
The subject of end-time songs
The mission of end-time songs
The Prediction of End-Time Songs
Isaiah predicted the earth would pass through an incredibly difficult period of time before the return of Jesus:
"The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish… The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it." (Isaiah 24:4, 8–9 ESV)
Isaiah’s prediction of this period of time was poetic but solemn. He said the earth would “languish.” The trouble will be so severe singing and celebration will stop. Even the “highest people”—the most powerful people—will be unable to escape this trouble. This period of time will feel like the crushing of olives during the olive harvest:
"For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done." (Isaiah 24:13 ESV)
The first thirteen verses of Isaiah’s prophecy are filled with trouble and despair. However, the prophecy makes a sudden and surprising shift in verse 14:
"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…" (Isaiah 24:14-16 ESV)
Isaiah revealed there will be a company of singers releasing songs when all other songs have failed. This is not just a single worship ministry—this is the end-time church singing of the beauty of God in a time when all other songs have failed.
There will be a number of ways the end-time church gives a witness to the gospel but Isaiah specifically predicted songs.
The Subject of End-Time Songs
Isaiah also described the subject of these songs:
"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy…" (Isaiah 24:14 ESV)
The church is going to lift up their voices—which means sing loudly—because of joy. When the earth passes through the darkest hour of history there will be a people who will sing for joy in anticipation of God’s glorious deliverance.
They will be unable to restrain their songs about the majesty of the Lord:
"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west." (Isaiah 24:14 ESV)
This is a profound promise. The end-time church is going to experience the majesty of the Lord to such a degree it cannot be silent even though circumstances will seem dark. This is also a profound instruction. It reveals the content of end-time songs which gives direction to our song writing. End-time songs will be about the majesty of the Lord.
The Mission of End-Time Songs
When we think of missions we tend to think of many things, but Isaiah included songs as part of the mission of the church. When we compare verse 14, which we just looked at, to verse 15 we see a profound shift:
"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel." (Isaiah 24:14–15 ESV)
Isaiah shifted his language from a prediction to a command. Isaiah not only predicted there would be end-time songs (verse 14) he commanded us to begin to sing those songs (verse 15). We are used to reading prophecy in a passive way as a record of predictions, but we should seek to obey Isaiah’s command just as we obey the Great Commission or any other biblical command.
Isaiah’s command means singers are a missional objective for the church.
Because these songs are so important, Isaiah specifically commanded the east to sing which raises a question: where in the east was he speaking to?
"Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD…" (Isaiah 24:15 ESV)
The answer is found in verse 16: “From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…" (Isaiah 24:15-16 ESV)
Isaiah heard the songs of the east coming from the “ends of the earth.” That phrase means as far away as you can imagine. Isaiah was a prophet of Israel which means east Asia was as far to the east as Isaiah could imagine. Not only did Isaiah predict these songs, he said he heard songs coming from the very ends of the earth. These end-time songs are so precious to the Lord He allowed Isaiah to hear them nearly 3,000 years ago.
Imagine how Isaiah heard the songs of Singapore in Chinese, Malay, English, Tamil, and other languages.
Isaiah’s stunning prophecy helps us better grasp the significance of the assignment the Lord has given to us. We live in the most musical generation in history and for the first time in history singers are taking their place across Asia to release these songs.
The Lord is preparing the way for the prophecy to be fulfilled because it is time for the singers in the east to “lift up their voices” and “sing for joy.”