Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Overview of Biblical Covenants

 A Baptist view of the covenants found that deal or are claimed to deal with the redemption of man.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Isaiah 66 - Judgment and Redemption.

As we come to the end of Isaiah's vision of judgment and redemption as it's been laid out in virtually every chapter, it's fitting that it ends with the same contrast and a focus on the One who makes a difference.

 

Isaiah 66:1-2 (HCSB) This is what the LORD says: Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house could you possibly build for Me? And what place could be My home? My hand made all these things, and so they all came into being. This is the LORD’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word.

 

Make no mistake, YHWH is speaking; the One who created all things and will judge all flesh. He inhabits the entirety of His creation, using known celestial bodies to represent His kingdom. "Throne" and "footstool" represent royalty and power. Considering Who He is and what He is, He asks His people two rhetorical questions, revealing that nothing man can do is fit for Him to dwell in. This is what Paul alluded to when he told the Oprah Winfry crowd of his day, "The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24-25). Nothing came into existent apart from His will and word. The only think He will look favorably upon is what He has made - humble, submissive people who revere His Word.

 

Look back 2 Samuel 7 and other place and see if God ever asked David or Solomon to build Him the temple that was built. What God had promised David, and what David misunderstood because of his fleshly outlook, was that YHWH Himself would make a house for David! In 2 Sam 7:4-7, God reminds David of His faithfulness and reminds him (verse 7) that He never asked for a house of cedar. The verse 11b through 16 is what David got wrong, thinking Solomon would do this. The beginning of this passage is clear: God would build the house through a Son, descended (according to the flesh) from David. This Son would be charged with the wrong-doing of others and take their punishment from God on their account - but He would rule and that house will endure forever! Read Peter talk about the spiritual stones being built up into a house; read John's description of Jerusalem from heaven; and read Paul's allegory of the two Jerusalems, with the note about our mother being the heavenly Jerusalem. Spiritual Jerusalem is the city for spiritual Israel!

 

Isaiah 66:3-4 (HCSB) One slaughters an ox, one kills a man; one sacrifices a lamb, one breaks a dog’s neck; one offers a grain offering, one offers pig’s blood; one offers incense, one praises an idol— all these have chosen their ways and delight in their detestable practices. So I will choose their punishment, and I will bring on them what they dread because I called and no one answered; I spoke and they didn’t hear; they did what was evil in My sight and chose what I didn’t delight in.

 

In verse 2 we read about those God approves; in these verses we see composites of those who are evil. These wicked people see no difference between killing a beast and killing a man. In our day, it's wore to kill a beast than a man, according to the voices that dominate our society! But evil people will deal cruelly with one for no reason; he will offer up pig's blood! A beast forbidden and the blood - which was forbidden; a vivid picture for the Hebrew nation of the extreme wickedness of these enemies of His - some of whom were their own kinsmen of the flesh. These idol worshipers delight in their detestable practices - just as people in our day parade for "gay rights" and celebrate the murder of babies.

 

These people, who have suppressed their knowledge of the truth by their unrighteousness, will be punished by God, according to the evil they have done. Dread beyond their ability to comprehend will come on them - this is what John wrote about with the plagues where people asked for death but it would not come; where they cried out for mountains to fall on them, but they could not hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. The terrors of being naked before God on that Day are beyond words; we ought to be filled with sorrow for those who are perishing, witnessing to them and praying God would give them a new heart.

 

Isaiah 66:5-6 (HCSB) You who tremble at His word, hear the word of the LORD: “Your brothers who hate and exclude you because of Me have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified so that we can see your joy!’ But they will be put to shame.” A sound of uproar from the city! A voice from the temple— the voice of the LORD, paying back His enemies what they deserve!

 

This contrast continues as those who are His people are to hear Him, just as His people were told, "This is my beloved Son, LISTEN to HIM!" (Luke 9:35). Jesus is the living Word of God - HEAR HIM! Those who are His people have brothers in the flesh who hate them, as Peter taught: 1 Peter 4:1-5 (HCSB) "Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin—in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you. They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead."

 

Our joy at being in Christ is not dependent on the approval of people who do not know Him! The Creator of all things will resound from His temple - His people - as He pays His enemies their wages.

 

Isaiah 66:7-11 (HCSB) Before Zion was in labor, she gave birth; before she was in pain, she delivered a boy. Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day or a nation be delivered in an instant? Yet as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her sons. “Will I bring a baby to the point of birth and not deliver it? says the LORD; or will I who deliver, close the womb? says your God. Be glad for Jerusalem and rejoice over her, all who love her. Rejoice greatly with her, all who mourn over her—so that you may nurse and be satisfied from her comforting breast and drink deeply and delight yourselves from her glorious breasts.

 

Zion gave birth before labor, delivered before pain. Who has heard of or seen such things? The next question shows us the line of thought - this is a nation He is speaking of; alluded to in Gal 4:26; Acts 2:41; 21:20; and Rom 15:18-21. From the beginning, God's plan for His people to come from every nation - Gen 15:4-5. Nothing can stop His people from being given new life - this ought to be cause for us to rejoice as we are part of New Jerusalem! As new born babes desire their mother's milk, we ought to be content with being found in Christ as His people. Rom 15:9-12: "and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy. As it is written: Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles, and I will sing psalms to Your name. Again it says: Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people! And again: Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; all the peoples should praise Him! And again, Isaiah says: The root of Jesse will appear, the One who rises to rule the Gentiles; the Gentiles will hope in Him." As there is no Jew or Gentile IN Christ, we who were such rejoice TOGETHER as ONE!

 

Isaiah 66:12-13 (HCSB) For this is what the LORD says: I will make peace flow to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flood; you will nurse and be carried on her hip and bounced on her lap. As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you, and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.

 

YHWH gives peace like a river to our souls - hear the old hymn? As when Egypt gave up her riches to the Hebrew people when God rescued them by His strong arm, He will provide all we need in this life - though we be buffeted by trails. He will carry us as a mother carries her infants, He will comfort us as a mother comforts her infants; we will be comforted in New Jerusalem - the dwelling place of the Lamb.

 

Isaiah 66:14-17 (HCSB) You will see, you will rejoice, and you will flourish like grass; then the LORD’s power will be revealed to His servants, but He will show His wrath against His enemies. Look, the LORD will come with fire— His chariots are like the whirlwind— to execute His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment on all flesh with His fiery sword, and many will be slain by the LORD. “Those who dedicate and purify themselves to enter the groves following their leader, eating meat from pigs, vermin, and rats, will perish together.” This is the LORDs declaration.

 

This contrast between worlds continues, as YHWH declares He will reveal His power to His people, as the means to cause them to flourish; this will be reason for them to rejoice. TO His enemies, His power will be revealed as wrath, fire that cannot be withstood; to bring His fury and rebuke upon them with flames that will never die out. Again, YHWH declares He will execute judgment on all flesh - those not born of the Spirit - and they will suffer the second death, which does not end. And yet, YHWH declares that there will be false brothers who go through religious rituals yet continue to show their disdain for His instructions and covenant. All who do these things, following those wicked men who lead the way, will all perish. This is YHWH's declaration, built upon what He said in Isaiah 65:3 & 4.

 

Isaiah 66:18-21 (HCSB) “Knowing their works and their thoughts, I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory. I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations—to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away—who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations. They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the LORD on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. I will also take some of them as priests and Levites,” says the LORD.

 

This passage is devoted to the good news for those who are His people. The deeds and thoughts of those indwelt by His Spirit are pleasing to God. He will call to Himself people from every nation and tongue - they will come to Him, as none called YHWH can refuse. They will be given eyes to behold His glory and be amazed and rejoicing. He will give them a sign, as He gave the Sabbath to national Israel - the sign of this New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover and by it His death and victorious return will proclaimed to all, near and far, as a means to bring them to the Great Shepherd; they will, in return, proclaim His glory to the world. All the redeemed will be presented as gifts, from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father. All the trappings of worldly wealth can only hint at the glory of God's presence with His people in New Jerusalem. In what I believe to be a preview of the apostles and prophets of the inaugurated kingdom of the first century, YHWH declares He will call some of His elect to serve as priests and Levites - offices of import in Isaiah's day. Signs and shadows portrayed in familiar terms to partially reveal the spiritual reality that would be made clear in the fullness of time.

 

Isaiah 66:22-24 (HCSB) “For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will endure before Me”— this is the LORDs declaration so your offspring and your name will endure. All mankind will come to worship Me from one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another,” says the LORD. “As they leave, they will see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against Me; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind.”

 

The final 3 verses in Isaiah's vision bring us back to the contrast between those who are His people and those who are not. When Jesus returns, He will judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new. That's what we see here, but not in that order.

 

YHWH declares that the new heavens and the new earth that He will make shall endure and so will His people. All who are His will worship Him with faithful devotion national Israel was unable to perform, even with a clear order to follow. Those New Moons (monthly events) and weekly Sabbaths were a type and shadow of the spiritual things (Col 2:16 & 17; Heb 8:1-6). We saw in Isaiah 1:13 & 14 that national Israel's religious performance was a stench in God's nose. That covenant community was not given the Spirit to guide them in truth, to give them spiritual understanding. They grew comfortable living in religion that demanded outward compliance and gave false assurance to those who thought their birth connection and appearance of godliness was sufficient. Those in the spiritual covenant each have the Spirit and know the Lord, growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus. They will grow in confidence in Him and His work, seeing all their false goodness as rubbish. This is preparation for the saints to worship God rightly - in spirit and in truth. The spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish religion.

 

As these people run to Christ, leaving this world and its system behind, they will see the bodies of those who did not find peace. These people will not be annihilated - their worm (inner man) never dies, the fire that burns them will never go out; they will be a horror to everyone. This is seen in Rev 19:17-21 and 14:10-11. These passages teach us that our joy at being secure in Christ is not held hostage to being ignorant of His judgment on the wicked. If you cannot love the Lord Jesus because you have loved ones who belong to the devil, you have a seriously wrong view of justice and mercy. None of us deserve anything less than the endless, unrelenting, terrifying wrath of God. Isaiah's gospel has pointed out in many ways that natural man is an enemy of God; that God has chosen a remnant that He will save for and to Himself. And that ALL who find peace in Him will be filled with joy.

 

True faith in Christ brings peace and joy that no amount of world news or sorrow over departed family who died in their sins can take from us. Having an accurate picture of Jesus, as the suffering Servant and the victorious Savior, are essential for His people to having the joy He promises. This is the gospel Isaiah proclaimed, this is the gospel Jesus gave to us to proclaim. You and I may not get a vision from God as Isaiah and John did, but we have a more sure word and faithful men who have gone before us. Let us encourage one another while it is today and may none of us harden our hearts as they did in the wilderness. All things were written for us, that we won't sin like they did. He has given Himself to us and given us to one another - this is His plan, His work, to build His people until He come the second time.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Isaiah 65 - Two Categories of People

This is a relatively long chapter, with much of it describing the differences between the wicked and the godly. One main point the first part brings to us is that God has wrath for the wicked which cannot be escaped; many who are wicked are, as then, people who claim to be His people. Let those who have ears, hear what the Spirit says.

 

Isaiah 65:1-4 (HCSB) “I was sought by those who did not ask; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said: Here I am, here I am, to a nation that was not called by My name. I spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the wrong path, following their own thoughts. These people continually provoke Me to My face, sacrificing in gardens, burning incense on bricks, sitting among the graves, spending nights in secret places, eating the meat of pigs, and putting polluted broth in their bowls."

 

This chapter opens up with YHWH declaring that someone other than His covenant people had been called to Himself and found Him - though they were not looking for Him, did not ask for Him. In contrast, His covenant people, to whom He was known, rebel and follow the wrong path, their own wisdom. This provokes the Lord, as does their pagan religious practice. Their law said don't speak with the dead, don't eat pork - and they did these things and much more. Law against sin provokes sin. This is why those who say the Decalogue is the rule for the saints or for society miss the mark. Laws against things give the state the authority to punish evil doers, but they do not give the members of society the ability to obey them. These laws can only provoke sin - which is what Paul wrote in Romans 5:20, the law came in to INCREASE the transgressions! This to refute the Jews who had grown to believe they could obey the law and merit God's favor.

 

Isaiah 65:5-7 (HCSB) "They say, ‘Keep to yourself, don’t come near me, for I am too holy for you!’ These practices are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. It is written before Me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will repay them fully for your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together, says the LORD. Because they burned incense on the mountains and reproached Me on the hills, I will reward them fully for their former deeds.”

 

Self-righteous people of all stripes believe they are good and do not want anyone to confront them. This is a stench in the nose of the One Who created them and gives them breath. These people think that because judgment is delayed that either God is asleep or that they have escaped His notice or that He doesn't judge anyone. But there is coming a day - Isaiah has revealed this time and time again in this gospel vision. On that day, all who are not in Christ will suffer His wrath - each will be rewarded FULLY for their sinful deeds.

 

Isaiah 65:8-12 (HCSB) The LORD says this: As the new wine is found in a bunch of grapes, and one says, ‘Don’t destroy it, for there’s some good in it,’ so I will act because of My servants and not destroy them all. I will produce descendants from Jacob, and heirs to My mountains from Judah; My chosen ones will possess it, and My servants will dwell there. Sharon will be a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for cattle to lie down, for My people who have sought Me. But you who abandon the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who prepare a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will kneel down to be slaughtered, because I called and you did not answer, I spoke and you did not hear; you did what was evil in My sight and chose what I did not delight in.

 

Using something familiar to the agrarian community, YHWH tells them that there are a few of His people in that community, servants of His - such as Isaiah. Perhaps Peter was thinking of this when he said, "The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). In both places, the elect are the object of His mercy - God does not wait for those how hate Him to change their minds and come to Him. It's abundantly clear throughout the Scriptures what Jesus said "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him."  From Jacob - called Israel - God will deliver children that are His; and it's these chosen ones who will dwell with Him in places Isaiah describes in terms that would delight those who made their living off the land but have deeper meaning for those who know Him spiritually.

Those who abandon YHWH and live for their best life now are heaping up wrath for the day of judgment, destined for the sword because they did not have ears to hear. They are evil in His sight - the only visage that matters - and they will be slaughtered eternally.

Isaiah 65:13-16 (HCSB) Therefore, this is what the Lord GOD says: My servants will eat, but you will be hungry; My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty; My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will shout for joy from a glad heart, but you will cry out from an anguished heart, and you will lament out of a broken spirit. You will leave your name behind as a curse for My chosen ones, and the Lord GOD will kill you; but He will give His servants another name. Whoever is blessed in the land will be blessed by the God of truth, and whoever swears in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the former troubles will be forgotten and hidden from My sight.

The Word of God is that His people will be well cared for but the wicked will be ever hungry and ever thirsty. These terms brought up memories in their ranks of the promised land - the land of milk and honey God promised His people; they thought that was the end-game; but this description means something heavenly to those with eyes to see it.

 

Note this back and forth contrast between those who are called His people and those who are not His people. It carries through the Scriptures and Isaiah's gospel. The wrath poured out on the wicked is dire - they will cry out from a broken spirit and be put to death by God for their concern is for self. Let those who think God is nothing BUT love read that passage over again, slowly. God loves His people, His spiritual people; He has NO LOVE for those not in Christ. Yet for all who trust in Jesus, believe on Him and His finished work - God will put their deeds out of His sight and mind. This is blessedness by the God of truth! Every other message is from the god of lies.

 

The final section in this chapter is rightly titled in HCSB as A New Creation! Smart theologians say chapters 65and 66 form a chiasm, with verse 65:20 in the middle - helpful for proper understanding of the message. Look up chiasm if you are not familiar with the term. Knowing this is not critical but is helpful. I frankly don't see a chiasm as large as two chapters. I can see another literary feature we see in this next section, however: the basic building block of Hebrew poetry - the couplet.

 

Isaiah 65:17-20 (HCSB) “For I will create a new heaven and a new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind. Then be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I will create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people. The sound of weeping and crying will no longer be heard in her. In her, a nursing infant will no longer live only a few days, or an old man not live out his days. Indeed, the youth will die at a hundred years, and the one who misses a hundred years will be cursed."

These four verses are said to be two poems, with the first part being YHWH describing and rejoicing over His new creation and the second part Him describing what life thereon will be like for those who are His people. When we consider what the rest of relevant Scripture says about the New Jerusalem, streets of clear gold, pearls as big as large door, walls 200 feet think and 1,400 miles long! This is John's description from Rev 21, alluding to Ezekiel's vision of this city in Ezek 40-41. It is beyond description in human language. The life in that city as described by John is pure bliss - no more sorrow, sin, pain, or death! Isaiah described this in words he and his kinsmen could comprehend. The present cursed age is full of sorrow, sin, pain, and death. Isaiah said life in the New Jerusalem would be empty of weeping and full of long life. The one who dies young is cursed - yet this is life in the New Jerusalem and death is not known, so no one CAN BE cursed. This colorful, poetic language is not meant to taken literally; but are meant to paint a picture of what God has in store for His people.

 

Another thing to think on: In verse 17 God declares He will create a new heaven and new earth and a new Jerusalem. When He redeems His people He gives them a new name (Rev 2:17) as He makes ALL THINGS NEW! (Rev 21:5)

 

Isaiah 65:21-22 (HCSB) People will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and others live in them; they will not plant and others eat. For My peoples lives will be like the lifetime of a tree. My chosen ones will fully enjoy the work of their hands.

Note the first two sentences above - a couplet that repeats the idea that their work will be rewarded and not taken from them. People will build houses and live in them; they will not build and have others live in them. They will plant and eat; they will not plant for other to eat. And the reason for this goodness is that they are God's people and He insures their needs are taken care and their good works are rewarded. Another reference to long life (the man in Psalm 1 - like a tree planted next to a river) and enjoyment in the work YHWH provides. Work now isn't always enjoyable, even though every honest job is a gift from God. In the age to come, all work will be honorable and enjoyable.

 

Isaiah 65:23-25 (HCSB) "They will not labor without success or bear children destined for disaster, for they will be a people blessed by the LORD along with their descendants. Even before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the serpent’s food will be dust! They will not do what is evil or destroy on My entire holy mountain,” says the LORD.

 

Another aspect of life in New Jerusalem - all labor will be successful. Though we have no giving in marriage and, therefore, no child-bearing there, this is simply another metaphor for life without the sorrow and pain of this life. This will be on account of YHWH blessing all His people and being attentive to them - before we call, He hears. Unlike in this age, wherein it took 21 days for Michael to get back to Daniel. The wild animals will be at peace as well - but no rest or peace for the serpent! Nothing and no one that does evil with be allowed on the holy mountain of God, where His New Jerusalem resides.

 

Saints - here this: We have peace with God through faith in Christ Jesus. No other way. His way, His name, His grace - is the only way. This is the gospel and it's all we have for those who are perishing. Be faithful with His gospel and trust Him to redeem every lost sheep.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Isaiah 64 - the Lament continues

In chapter 63, the Spirit revealed the glory of Christ in the day of judgment. This scene prompted national Israel to cry out to God for mercy; this lament goes on to occupy all of chapter 64. If we fail to join in seek mercy from God, even though our circumstances are different, we are in danger.

 

Isaiah 64:1-4 (HCSB) If only You would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil to make Your name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains quaked at Your presence. From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.

 

Chapter 63 ended with God's covenant people asking Him to remember them as such, despite their rebellion. This chapter opens with Israel asking YHWH to reveal Himself to the nations in a similar way He revealed Himself to them on My Sinai - with blazing fire, darkness, gloom, and storm (Heb 12:18) - so they would tremble before Him. As they had done - Hebrews 12:20-21 "for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.)"

 

Israel might well have had this passage in mind: Judges 5:3-5 "Listen, kings! Pay attention, princes! I will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel. LORD, when You came from Seir, when You marched from the fields of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured rain, and the clouds poured water. The mountains melted before the LORD, even Sinai before the LORD, the God of Israel." There is no god made by man that can hear, see, speak, or think; much less such a god that has or can make all things from nothing; can cause men to fear greatly and wish for death. And yet, men stop up their ears and minds to what creation tells them of this Creator-Judge God. The Son, alone, can look upon Him and not be consumed.

 

And this God is the one Paul testified of in front of the Oprah Winfry crowd of his day: Acts 17:24-26 "The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live." This is the only God and He demands worship and is, alone, worthy of worship.

 

Isaiah 64:5-7 (HCSB) You welcome the one who joyfully does what is right; they remember You in Your ways. But we have sinned, and You were angry. How can we be saved if we remain in our sins? All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind. No one calls on Your name, striving to take hold of You. For You have hidden Your face from us and made us melt because of our iniquity.

 

God's character never changes: He welcomes those joyfully do what is right and remember His way and obey Him. But natural man can do nothing except sin and redeemed man is not capable of perfect obedience; while sin is no longer our master, we are still weak. Isaiah, on behalf of his people, asks the question that rings through history: "How can we be saved if we remain in our sins?" The wrong answer is to rely on self - because all are unclean and even the "good deeds" of the unregenerate man are polluted by his sinful nature. The sins of natural man are his master and they carry him about like a leaf on the ocean. Isaiah leaned on the ancient preacher: Ecclesiastes 7:20 "There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins." God does not reveal Himself to sinners, his wrath against those who are not in the Son is unquenchable, hot, fierce anger against sin.

Isaiah 64:8-12 (HCSB) Yet LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands. LORD, do not be terribly angry or remember our iniquity forever. Please lookall of us are Your people! Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, has been burned with fire, and all that was dear to us lies in ruins. LORD, after all this, will You restrain Yourself? Will You keep silent and afflict severely?

This passage is also filled with statements about YHWH, 8 times You and Your are used to denote YHWH must act if sinners are to be reconciled to Him. The imagery of the clay and potter have been used before by Isaiah and was picked by Paul - there is no way to brush this aside because it is offensive to our flesh. While some are made for honorable use and other made for dishonorable use, the point is man is in no way qualified to participate in his redemption. The only hope man has is to be remade into something honorable, so the potter will look kindly upon him, to call "His people" those who were not His people. If He doesn't, their iniquity will be remembered forever. Contrast this with the redeemed, whose iniquity God promises never to remember! Without His hand of redemption, all things valued by man - cities, gardens, temples - become useless, burned down, ruined by fire. The people will be consumed if He does not relent and pour out mercy.

 

Saints - do not, I beg you, grow complacent about your walk. We should plead with God to guard us against drifting into mere rote religion, wherein the living faith of Christianity is traded out for something tame, manageable - traditions developed by men that are acceptable to the flesh. Daily we should ask YHWH to stir our hearts, wake us up to the truth of who we are IN HIM! How can that which has died to sin live therein any longer? Joyful obedience to what Christ calls to is what is pleasing to Him - and this He gives us, as He wills and equips us to do that. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit but submit to Him with joy unspeakable, for He will abide in those the great Shepherd has brought into the sheepfold of God.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Isaiah 63 - The Revelation of Christ

This chapter has very descriptive pictures of Christ Jesus as the judge of creation Who metes out punishment. Once more, we cannot keep from seeing John Apocalypse in our minds as we read Isaiah's words. The first part of this chapter has Isaiah asking questions of Christ, getting answers that reveal it is He.

 

Isaiah 63:1 (HCSB) Who is this coming from Edom in crimson-stained garments from Bozrah— this One who is splendid in His apparel, rising up proudly in His great might? It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save.

In chapter 34 we read of YHWH's judgment on Edom (verses 4 & 5 speak of the sword used therein) as well as in Ezekiel 24:12-14. When this One comes from Edom in crimson-stained garments, this judgment is in view. Amos 1 tells of the judgment that fell on Bozrah (verses 11 &12). In Rev 19:13 we read, "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." None but Christ Jesus is this warrior, in garments that are splendid, representing the righteous judgement of the One Who created all things. No man other than Christ can be proud of His accomplishments and His might, because only His works are free from sin.

So when Isaiah asks, "Who is this?" Jesus answers, "It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save." In the New Covenant passages we read, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:5); "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:4); and "This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” (Acts 4:11-12). He is the answer to the only question that really matters: how can mortal man be reconciled to eternal God?

Isaiah 63:2-4 (HCSB) Why are Your clothes red, and Your garments like one who treads a winepress? I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with Me. I trampled them in My anger and ground them underfoot in My fury; their blood spattered My garments, and all My clothes were stained. For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of My redemption came.

Isaiah can't seem to comprehend why the conquering One has red-stained clothes; white is the color of victory. Jesus' answer echoes again from what was later written (Rev 19:13-15): "He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. 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." His robe is red because He has trampled the winepress of God's fierce anger. Note that His armies wear white. This trampling of the winepress is spoken of in Lamentations 1:15; Malachi 4:3; and Revelation 14, where we read (verse 20), "the press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles." As when the number of goats and bulls that the Levitical religion required to be sacrificed each year was astounding, so is the residue of the wicked on that great and terrible day when the Lord of Glory has His vengeance. This is what the rest of the answer in our passage reveals. The garments of Christ Jesus are stained by the blood of those who would not repent, could not believe. And their doom was sealed long ago as His day of vengeance was planned - as was the time of His redemption of His people. This we read in the jubilee chapter, 61 and verse 2: He came "to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn."

Isaiah 63:5-6 (HCSB) I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me, and My wrath assisted Me. I crushed nations in My anger; I made them drunk with My wrath and poured out their blood on the ground.

The victor, the judge of all flesh laments that no one came to help Him - this was amazing! I think was written for our benefit - as we can be of no help to Christ in our redemption, so we can be of no help to Him as He metes out judgment. What's amazing is that we would think we are worthy to participate in either! All of His help came from Himself, just as the Father and Spirit helped Him in His earthly ministry. He crushed the nations in anger, made them drunk with His wrath, and He poured out their blood on the ground. Recall the astounding volume of blood that flowed from His winepress. There is no hope at this point for anyone who has not found a refuge in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 63:7-9 (HCSB) I will make known the LORD’s faithful love and the LORDs praiseworthy acts, because of all the LORD has done for us— even the many good things He has done for the house of Israel and has done for them based on His compassion and the abundance of His faithful love. He said, They are indeed My people, children who will not be disloyal,” and He became their Savior. In all their suffering, He suffered, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. He redeemed them because of His love and compassion; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of the past.

The prophet responds to His Lord. He will declare the faithful love and powerful acts that YHWH has done for them - his kinsmen of the flesh. A detailed review of how the Lord God had been compassionate to national Israel is found in several places, including Psalms 78:11-72 and 105:5-45. It was not due to their status as a nation or their moral character that God had compassion on them. His compassion on them was due entirely to His covenant to keep them as a unique people to Himself - until the appointed time, when the promised seed would come. In our passage here, the language of YHWH as Savior points us to the New Covenant, wherein He saved us according to the covenant He cut, not because of our status as a people apart from Him or any goodness He saw in us. We are redeemed because of His love - read Ephesians 1:3-10 and 2:4-7 to see the eternal nature of the love God has poured out upon His elect people. We are lifted up and carried by the One Who cannot fail!

 

Isaiah 63:10-14 (HCSB) But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He became their enemy and fought against them. Then He remembered the days of the past, the days of Moses and his people. Where is He who brought them out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit among the flock? He sent His glorious arm to be at Moses’ right hand, divided the waters before them to obtain eternal fame for Himself, and led them through the depths like a horse in the wilderness, so that they did not stumble. Like cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. You led Your people this way to make a glorious name for Yourself.

 

We switch back to the covenant people led by Moses. Even in that covenant, rebellion against God grieved the Holy Spirit, for He is always attending to the people of God. Here is one difference between the old and new covenants: Rebellion against God by those in the New Covenant do not become enemies of God; He does not fight against us but for us. Rebellion against God by those in the Mosaic Covenant became enemies of God, against whom He fought. For a time. For then He thought about the covenant He made with them, as we read in Exodus 32:11-13 and Lev 26:40-45.

In our passage, we read of YHWH's glorious triumph over the Egyptians, with several word pictures to show His kindness towards them, giving them rest from their enemies on every side (Josh 21:44). All of this was done by God for the sake of His glorious name. Not for our sake did He sacrifice Himself for us, but for the sake of the Father's name.

 

Isaiah 63:15-19 (HCSB) Look down from heaven and see from Your lofty home—holy and beautiful. Where is Your zeal and Your might? Your yearning and Your compassion are withheld from me. Yet You are our Father, even though Abraham does not know us and Israel doesn’t recognize us. You, Yahweh, are our Father; from ancient times, Your name is our Redeemer. Why, Yahweh, do You make us stray from Your ways? You harden our hearts so we do not fear You. Return, because of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage. Your holy people had a possession for a little while, but our enemies have trampled down Your sanctuary. We have become like those You never ruled over, like those not called by Your name.

 

This passage begins a prayer of lament by ethnic Israel which stretches through chapter 64. It begins with a petition for God to look down from heaven and see them, wanting pity and compassion (see Deut 26:15; Psalms 33:14; and 102:19). They realized His habitation was holy and beautiful; they yearned to see His zeal and might in defending and lifting them up. Their appeal is partially based on Psalms 25:6 - "Remember, LORD, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity." His Word is the surest guide to what pleases Him; our emotions are not, our circumstances are not.

 

Notice in this passage that everything is of and from God - 17 times "You" and "Your" is used, reflecting the basis of the appeal is YHWH: His character, His might, His name. As God hardened Pharaoh's heart when he rebelled, so He has done so with national Israel when they rebelled. They realize this and know He must act if they are to repent and enjoy His compassion again. Without His active, positive engagement with them, Israel knows they will cease being His possession - trampled down and no different from those who were not His people, those not called by His name.

 

Saints - we have much in common with these souls that were in national Israel so long ago. If God pulled back from holding us up, we would fall. If we live in and enjoy our sin, He will harden our hearts. There is a line that cannot be crossed: those who were made His people and reconciled to the Father by the death of Christ CANNOT become "no longer His people." If you are in Christ, do not harden your heart like they did in the wilderness. When you and I grow weak and burdened by sin, the only effective recourse is to cry out God, draw close the Christ, plead for renewed love, repentance, humility, and joy. There is no other course that can restore us. There is nothing else that would please God.