Monday, November 23, 2020

The Remnant Gathered

Part two of Isaiah 11 reveals the ingathering if Gentiles and the remnant of Israel into the kingdom of God. There are those who claim this is merely the return of ethnic Israel to the land they inhabited. We shall see.

Isaiah 11:11-12 (HCSB) On that day the Lord will extend His hand a second time to recover—from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west—the remnant of His people who survive. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; He will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

We see this phrase, "On that day," which repeatedly brings very good or very bad news. We see His hand raised - again! But this time, not in judgment, but to recover, to bring back, the remnant of His people. Earlier in this book (chap 5 and verse 26) we saw YHWH lift up a banner which called the Gentiles to Himself. Here we see it again, calling people from the nation, the scattered people of Israel and those scattered from Judah - from the four corners of the earth. Herein is a clue: ethnic Israel was taken into exile in a very concentrated area. In Isaiah's time, they had not been scattered all over the globe. If we look to the apostolic teaching on who is Israel, we'll see Isaiah' reference must be speaking of the elect and redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and people.

Isaiah 11:13-14 (HCSB) Ephraim’s envy will cease; Judah’s harassment will end. Ephraim will no longer be envious of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim. But they will swoop down on the Philistine flank to the west. Together they will plunder the people of the east. They will extend their power over Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be their subjects.

On that day, the striving amongst the tribes of Israel will cease. In the first part of this chapter, we read about, on that day, the wolf and the lamb, the lion and the calf, the bear and the cow will all be at peace with each other. So it will be with the tribes of man who are united together in Christ as one new man. God-haters will not be able to divide them nor stand before them, for the great day of the Lord is at hand!

Isaiah 11:15-16 (HCSB) The LORD will divide the Gulf of Suez. He will wave His hand over the Euphrates with His mighty wind and will split it into seven streams, letting people walk through on foot. There will be a highway for the remnant of His people who will survive from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

YHWH will go before His people, making the way to His kingdom clear. As Moses held up his hands to part the Red Sea, YHWH will lift His hand over the great river Euphrates and split it into seven streams, small rivulets that men can walk through. And God will make a highway for His remnant - not all ethnic Israel. Those people He gathered from the four corners of the earth will travel on His highway to be welcomed into the eternal kingdom.

This is the Lord's doing - and it is marvelous in our eyes! 

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Shoot of Jesse

Isaiah 11 is in two parts; part 1 is a revelation of the Son of David, part 2 is a revelation of the kingdom of God, typified by the two kingdoms of ethnic Israel.

Isaiah 11:1 (HCSB) Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

This reference to the stump of Jesse establishes David in history by referring to his father and shows that new life will come from David's loins. The branch will bear fruit. Having the complete Scriptures in our hands and minds, we ought to be drawn to Matthew 21:43, wherein Jesus told the leaders of ethnic Israel, "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit." Good fruit is a characteristic of those who are united with Christ.

Isaiah 11:2 (HCSB) The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him— a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

When Jesus was baptized by John, the heavens opened, the Father announced His approval of His Son, and the Spirit descended upon Him. This was just before His temptation, where He rebuked Satan with Scripture - displaying the right fear of Himself and what He had spoken. All wisdom and knowledge is summed up in Christ, the ultimate example of everything truly good.

Isaiah 11:3-5 (HCSB) His delight will be in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, He will not execute justice by what He hears with His ears, but He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips. Righteousness will be a belt around His loins; faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.

Recall the scene in 1 Sam 16 where the next king of Israel is being selected. YHWH tells His prophet not to look on the outward appearance - tall men make good kings and nearly always win US presidential elections - because that's how men measure one another. God looks on the inner man, his soul. Jesus doesn't judge using human senses, sight and hearing; He judges using righteousness that He has by His divine nature. While the ancient preacher said (Ecclesiastes 8:11) "Because the sentence against a criminal act is not carried out quickly, the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit crime"; Christ Jesus executes justice on time, perfectly. Striking the land with discipline from His mouth ought to remind us of Rev 19:16 "A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty."  The wicked, self-righteous, carnal people will not escape the justice of YHWH. His belt of righteousness signifies His royal standing, hinting at the New Covenant that will come from this shoot of Jesse.

Isaiah 11:6-9 (HCSB) The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. None will harm or destroy another on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water.

This scene is the new earth, not a half-baked temporal millennium. As it was before the Fall, there will no killing. But it will be better - there will be no Fall. Now we are taught to keep on growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus; that will not end but we will grow deeper then and it will be like seas as deep as the mountains. Nobody brings this kind of peace, this depth of knowledge except the One Who came from the Father to redeem those He created.

Do you have this peace? Do you desire this knowledge? Cry out to God for the mercy to believe on Him. He really did come to save sinners.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Another Warning of Jugdment

We come now to the end of chapter 10 of Isaiah. This is another judgment on Assyria - but with a difference.

Isaiah 10:27 (HCSB) On that day his burden will fall from your shoulders, and his yoke from your neck. The yoke will be broken because of fatness.

"On that day" - should draw our attention to the end of days, when the final judgment comes on the nations. The previous section speaks of the paradise we'll have in Jesus; this section builds on that. The burden will from the shoulders of God's covenant people, the heavy yoke will be removed, broken "because of fatness." There is a lack of consensus as to what the Hebrew word behind "fatness" means; it shows up as prosperity, anointing, and fat. Is the yoke broken because God's people are "fat" - rich? Is this wealth temporal or spiritual? Yet those who inherit the kingdom are poor in spirit.

We DO know, the heavy yoke is removed and broken.  Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden light (Matt 11:30) - both of these, burden and yoke, are mentioned in Isaiah 10:7. The apostles said the Mosaic Law was a heavy yoke that no man could bear (Acts 15:5 & 10). In Christ, the heavy yoke is broken and the burden thereof removed; we take His yoke which is light, as is His burden. This is the change between the Old and New Covenants.

Isaiah 10:28-32 (HCSB) Assyria has come to Aiath and has gone through Migron, storing his equipment at Michmash. They crossed over at the ford, saying, “We will spend the night at Geba.” The people of Ramah are trembling; those at Gibeah of Saul have fled. Cry aloud, daughter of Gallim! Listen, Laishah! Anathoth is miserable. Madmenah has fled. The inhabitants of Gebim have sought refuge. Today he will stand at Nob, shaking his fist at the mountain of Daughter Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.

Historians tell us Assyria never took this route in battle; that it actually represents the route "as the crow flies." It seems this describes the spiritual battle waged against the people of God, typified by ethnic Israel's arch enemy. The list of small villages along this route include Jeremiah's home town of Anathoth and Nob is northeast of Jerusalem, where Saul took out revenge on the priests (1 Sam 22:11-23) for aiding David (1 Sam 21:1-9). This is where, Isaiah said, Assyria will stand, shaking his fist at Jerusalem. This typifies the enemy of the saints, who shakes his fist at the temple of God - His saints. For we are the New Jerusalem that will come down to the new earth on that day.

Isaiah 10:33-34 (HCSB) Look, the Lord GOD of Hosts will chop off the branches with terrifying power, and the tall trees will be cut down, the high trees felled. He is clearing the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majesty will fall.

I will give you a scene from the gospel. Matthew 3:1-2 & 7-10 (HCSB) In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” ... When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

In Isaiah we see the Lord ready to cut down tall trees and clear the thickets with His ax. John picks up on this and tells the self-righteous Jews that they have no basis for boasting, for God has the ax in His raised up hand, ready to cut down the tall trees at the root. And every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and burned.

So it will be on that day, when the Lord Jesus returns with shout and the sound of the trumpet. Are you built on the Rock or do you yet stand on the sand of your own righteousness? There remains only one sure refuge on that day. Christ Jesus - it is He!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Peace with God

The next part of Isaiah 10 shifts gears - again. In our previous study we read how YHWH had judged Assyria such that there was so little left a child could count the trees. I was reminded of an old Peanuts comic strip, Lucy and Linus were outside on a dark night looking at the sky. Lucy wondered aloud how many stars there were. Linus, looking up, said, "more than ten." That's about the limit of a small child counting. Assyria fell from a powerhouse kingdom that ruled a good bit of the world. This is nothing in the hands of Creator God.

Now we see a focus on "that day" - which was seen as near term by most in Israel but is mostly eschatological. Isaiah 10:20 (HCSB)  On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.

Jews saw the two kingdoms becoming self-sufficient again. Isaiah is telling us all who are in YHWH's true kingdom (the REMNANT) will no longer fear man but will rightly fear God and trust Him.

We know from the biblical record that ethnic Israel never turned back to YHWH as described here.

Isaiah 10:21-23 (HCSB) The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows. For throughout the land the Lord GOD of Hosts is carrying out a destruction that was decreed.

Note again - only a remnant will return, only a remnant will be saved (see Romans 11:5-7). When Jesus comes the second time, He will judge the nations, eternal destruction will consume them.  This is what He has decreed.

Isaiah 10:24-26 (HCSB) Therefore, the Lord GOD of Hosts says this: “My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear Assyria, though he strikes you with a rod and raises his staff over you as the Egyptians did. In just a little while My wrath will be spent and My anger will turn to their destruction.” And the LORD of Hosts will brandish a whip against him as He did when He struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; and He will raise His staff over the sea as He did in Egypt.

YHWH's people who dwell in Zion - the mountain of peace with God, not to be confused with Sinai, the place of unbearable law-giving - will not fear man. Man can only kill the body - we who are on Zion are secure. God tells Israel that even if Assyria decimates them as did Egypt God will ultimately turn His wrath to them and bring sure destruction to Assyria - just as He did at Oreb (see Judges 725) and Egypt when He destroyed them in the see.

Brothers - Christ is our sure rock of refuge. Our world is certainly growing more crazy each week - showing us AGAIN not to put our trust therein. We who are in Christ sit with Him in the heavenlies (Eph 2:4-7), dwelling on the Mount of peace, Zion. This world is not our home, so we ought to weep when it is ravaged by those who belong to it. We must be on guard that we don't see our wealth as barns (Luke 12:13-21). Be not anxious for what you will eat or wear, for your Father in heaven knows you need these things. Seek His kingdom - proclaim the gospel to every creature - and He will provide all your needs. For most of us, he provides work. So work and provide for your own and the household of God.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Light of Israel

In chapter 10, attention shifts back to Assyria. Israel had a tendency to think too highly of themselves and lamented like a teenager when YHWH used a pagan nation to recompense Israel for their sin. Unregenerate folk are inclined to sin and when used by God as He did Assyria - and Judas - He is not the author of their sin, but He uses it and them to work out history as He has determined it.

Right off the bat we see it's going to be bad news for Assyria: Isaiah 10:1-2 (HCSB) Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the afflicted among my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless.

You may recall that Israel was often rebuked for unbalanced scales and taking advantage of widows and orphans - same things Assyria is accused of. Same things that happen in our time, as the US government enacts crooked laws that enrich the powerful and insulation from justice. Nothing escapes the notice of the Creator Who will judge the nations when He comes the second time. Let us who claim Christ live with this knowledge and walk humbly with one another in the light.

Isaiah 10:3-4 (HCSB) What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth? There will be nothing to do except crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised to strike.

And the next point is just that - the day of punishment is coming, where there will no refuge in the mountains or caves; the ONLY refuge is found in the Judge! For those who do not repent, do not cry out for mercy; all who trust in their wealth - EVERYONE not in Christ will be exposed. And His hand is still raised up to strike.

Isaiah 10:5-6 (HCSB) Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger— the staff in their hands is My wrath. I will send him against a godless nation; I will command him to go against a people destined for My rage, to take spoils, to plunder, and to trample them down like clay in the streets.

Woe to Assyria! They were a godless nation. Assyria was the rod of God's anger used to work out His wrath on another godless nation - apostate Israel! While there was a remnant in ethnic Israel that were truly His people, the nation as a whole was godless and destined for YHWH's rage. He will plunder them and trample them like rubbish on the street. None of us should presume we are "OK with God" for self-deception is the easiest to fall victim to. This is just one of the reasons genuine fellowship with other saints is necessary!

IIsaiah 10:7-11 (HCSB) But this is not what he intends; this is not what he plans. It is his intent to destroy and to cut off many nations. For he says, “Aren’t all my commanders kings? Isn’t Calno like Carchemish? Isn’t Hamath like Arpad? Isn’t Samaria like Damascus? As my hand seized the idolatrous kingdoms, whose idols exceeded those of Jerusalem and Samaria, and as I did to Samaria and its idols will I not also do to Jerusalem and its idols?”

The king of Assyria doesn't think He is the rod of God's anger; he has his own agenda that he thinks he is working out. The puny king of Assyria wants to conquer many peoples and has great confidence in his commanders and their realms. He has a high opinion of the strength of his hand, bragging on his conquests, condescending towards those who have different gods than he. And he has it in his heart to seizes and destroy Jerusalem and her idols. But God sits in the heavens and laughs! The nations are like dust in YHWH's scales!

Isaiah 10:12 (HCSB) But when the Lord finishes all His work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, He will say, I will punish the king of Assyria for his arrogant acts and the proud look in his eyes.”

When God finishes using Assyria as His rod of anger against Israel He will punish the king of Assyria for his arrogance and pride. Verses 13 - 15 are what the king of Assyria said: I am proud and clever, having done all this with my own strength! As a man reaching into a nest for eggs, I gathered the WHOLE EARTH to myself! The ax does not boast - he who uses it gets to brag!

Isaiah 10:16 (HCSB) Therefore the Lord GOD of Hosts will inflict an emaciating disease on the well-fed of Assyria, and He will kindle a burning fire under its glory.

This type of pride brings judgment from God. Assyria will be brought low.

Isaiah 10:17-19 (HCSB) Israel’s Light will become a fire, and its Holy One, a flame. In one day it will burn up Assyria’s thorns and thistles. He will completely destroy the glory of its forests and orchards as a sickness consumes a person. The remaining trees of its forest will be so few in number that a child could count them.

Israel's light, a holy flame, will burn off Assyria's might. John's gospel tells Who this light is - the One Who is judge will destroy Assyria completely. And not just Assyria - every nation and person who is not in Christ will be destroyed with eternal fire.

Revelation 6:15-17 (ESV) Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

No refuge apart from Christ. No boasting except in Him. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (HCSB) Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test.

Friday, November 13, 2020

New Covenant, New Law

We're all familiar with the New Covenant reference in Jeremiah 31:31-33 (HCSB) “Look, the days are coming”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the LORD’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the LORD’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

Many WCF Reformers deny the newness of the New Covenant, but that error is not my point right now.

Notice what the Spirit said through the prophet: The New Covenant will NOT BE LIKE the Old Covenant; that covenant made with the forefathers when He brought them out of Egypt. The New Covenant, established with the death of Christ, is a better covenant than the Old one (Hebrews 7:22).

Here's the question: SINCE the New Covenant is NOT LIKE the Old Covenant, WHY would His teaching (KJV says "law" - the Hebrew word can mean law, instruction, precept) be the same as that of the Old Covenant?  

In the epistle to the Hebrews, we read of differences between the Old and New Covenants. In chapter 7 the Spirit contrasts the priesthoods of the two covenants. In verse 11 we see that the Mosaic Law was received under the Levitical priesthood. Verses 13 - 17 tells us the priesthood of the New Covenant is different and indescribably superior to the priesthood of the Mosaic Covenant. Verse 12 tells us that the change of priesthood from old to new covenants REQUIRES a change of law. And then we read, Hebrews 7:18-19 (HCSB) "So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God." The "previous command" is the Mosaic Law (of which the Decalogue is the testimony) which was annulled. This aligns with Jesus' statement that He came to "fulfill" the law - which is to bring it to its intended end or goal. This aligns with Paul's statement that the law of Moses was a guardian of ethnic Israel until the coming of the promised Messiah.

We recognize that Jeremiah 29:11 is not directly applicable to us, though we learn much about man and about God in that entire passage. Why do so many not recognize this same reality with the law of Moses? The Decalogue was written on stone tablets, given to people with stone hearts who worshiped God in a stone temple. All of these stony things are gone, are not the substance of the New Covenant. The law of Christ is not a codified list of commands. Paul said of the fruit of the Spirit that against these things there is no law. Rather than a list of prohibitions and attending promises of punishment, the law of Christ is the law of love; written on fleshy hearts which are in spiritual people who are the temple of God.  Yes, the New Covenant Scriptures have many imperatives - written with pen on paper. These help us understand the law of Christ as we are still in these sinful bodies of flesh.

The narrow path is the path of love - since we are first loved by Christ, we love Him and one another. His written Word guides us, His spirit wills and equips us to do what is pleasing to Him. There is a ditch on either side of the narrow path: one side is the heavy yoke of the Mosaic Law, which no man can bear (Acts 15:10); the other side is antinomianism, the sin of thinking and living as is there is no law (1 John 3:4 - often wrongly translated as saying "sin is the breaking of the law". It says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” There is no reference to ‘transgressing’ in that verse – it was added by the Geneva Bible translators, and other translations (KJV, Jubilee 2000, American KJV) simply followed suit. On the other hand, the NIV, New KJV, ESV, Berean Literal, NASB, CSB, NET, NAS1977, ASV, ERV, Young's Literal all agree: sin is lawlessness.)

The narrow path is Christ focused as He leads; we walk with Moses, not led by him.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

His Hand is Raised to Strike!

Chapter 9 of Isaiah ends with more gloom and doom. It's no wonder why the prophets of God were hated by ethnic Israel. Much as in our day when the faithful preachers of the Word are despised and those who declare "peace! peace!" where there is no peace are heralded and beloved by the world.

Isaiah 9:18 (HCSB) For wickedness burns like a fire that consumes thorns and briers and kindles the forest thickets so that they go up in a column of smoke.

Verse 17 reminded the Hebrews that YHWH's hand was raised to strike. Verse 18 continues the thought - His hand is ready for judgment because the wickedness of His covenant people is out of control, like a Kaliphornia wild fire. And it does not consume only those - it had spread to other nations. When God's covenant people disregard His will for them, everyone is affected and everyone suffers. Does not the last 50 years of our history in the USA resemble this?

Isaiah 9:19 (HCSB) The land is scorched by the wrath of the LORD of Hosts, and the people are like fuel for the fire. No one has compassion on his brother.

One would think the rampaging fires described would scorch the land, but we see here that these fires are symbolic of spiritual rebellion as the scorching is by the hand of God - that hand that was raised up to strike has landed a blow. The wickedness of the people is like fuel for the judgment - it is was has brought His hand down heavy on them. That same strong hand and arm that led them from slavery in Egypt. And those being punished do not have compassion for each other - for they are self-interested; this is the condition of natural man.

Isaiah 9:20 (HCSB) They carve meat on the right, but they are still hungry; they have eaten on the left, but they are still not satisfied. Each one eats the flesh of his own arm.

They have plenty but are not satisfied. The ancient preacher said the eye never tires of seeing something new, the ear never tires of hearing something new. He might have also said that the tongue never tires of tasting something new - for these who had plenty as the world sees it, were not satisfied. And so they ate their own flesh.

This is the same depravity of which Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-24 (HCSB) For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

Isaiah 9:21 (HCSB) Manasseh is with Ephraim, and Ephraim with Manasseh; together, both are against Judah. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised to strike.

A few of the tribes rallied to strengthen each other; they came together to conquer the southern kingdom, Judah. This is not pleasing to YHWH and His is still raised to strike. Unity apart from the authority and compliance with the will of God is continued rebellion against Him. So in our day, when some religious leaders tell us we must develop a social conscience, see the gospel in a new light that the social rebels approve of. This is false unity, opposed to God and is not pleasing - for what has light to do with darkness?

Let each of us examine himself, to test everything in light of Scripture. Let us love one another in the truth of the Word in the power of the Spirit. For this is pleasing to God.