Thursday, December 31, 2020

Isaiah 32 - The Kingdom revealed

Chapter 32 is mostly good news, as the prophet hails the kingdom that will never end. But there is the warning against drifting away, with the wrath that awaits those who do not trust in YHWH.

Isaiah 32:1-2 (HCSB) Indeed, a king will reign righteously, and rulers will rule justly. Each will be like a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the rain, like streams of water in a dry land and the shade of a massive rock in an arid land.

These two verses announce the structure of God's kingdom: a righteous king and just rulers. Saints rule with Christ now (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 20:4 - 6) and Jesus is the righteous King (1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:20-22). Such rule is not a terror to men, but serve as a shelter and refuge from wickedness, providing refreshment and shade in dessert climes.

Isaiah 32:3-5 (HCSB) Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The reckless mind will gain knowledge, and the stammering tongue will speak clearly and fluently. A fool will no longer be called a noble, nor a scoundrel said to be important.

When the kingdom of God is consummated, all will see clearly, understand what they hear, and speak truth and they grow in grace and knowledge. No longer will the culture elevate fools and scoundrels. Compare verse 3 with the commissioning of the prophet in chapter 6: "Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed." Quite the contrast! All His chosen ones will see and perceive, will hear and understand; and be healed.

Verses 6 & 7 describe the fools, which are exalted by worldly cultures. They speak foolishness, plot wickedness: godless people who abuse the poor and seek to destroy everything. Isaiah 32:8 (HCSB) "But a noble person plans noble things; he stands up for noble causes." Israel's history is pock-marked by her abuse of widows and orphans, cheating people with false scales, and seeking the fleeting glory of a temporal kingdom. The noble person seeks to honor God by taking care of the poor and weak, dealing honestly with people, and trusting God to deal with wickedness.

Verses 9 - 14 are the warnings of what will happen to those who mindlessly (those without understanding) depend on their bigger barns. The prophet addresses this warning to the women, perhaps as a contrast to the woman described in Proverbs 31. Isaiah 32:9 (HCSB) "Stand up, you complacent women; listen to me. Pay attention to what I say, you overconfident daughters." Complacent and overconfident - characteristics of those who pay no heed to the warnings of the age-to-come. This passage reveals how their land will fail and be full of thorns, the palace deserted and the city forsaken; and this rebuke: Isaiah 32:11 (HCSB) "Shudder, you complacent ones; tremble, you overconfident ones! Strip yourselves bare and put sackcloth around your waists." People ought to tremble at the thought of what is to come, at how fragile their lives are. Time is running out.

The cities will continue to fall, the vineyards become barren, "until the Spirit from heaven is poured out on us. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest. Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in the orchard. The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever. Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place, in safe and secure dwellings. (Isaiah 32:15-18)

On the new earth, the Spirit will rule in every heart, the provision of YHWH will be untarnished by sin, and justice and righteousness (recall the righteous king and just rulers from the opening of this chapter?) will be the rule, providing peaceful, safe dwellings. Again quite the contrast to Israel's condition - and ours! Does your soul ache to have this peace and safety? It will be ours if we are His.

This chapter comes to an end with a short contrast to drive the message home. Contrary to those who trust in YHWH, those who care not for His rule will be in despair. Isaiah 32:19 (HCSB) "But hail will level the forest, and the city will sink into the depths." Hail symbolizes the reign of God over weather, as He knocks the wind out of the prideful.

Isaiah 32:20 (HCSB) "Those who sow seed are happy beside abundant waters; they let ox and donkey range freely." But those who are content with food and shelter, not seeking the vainglory of earthly wealth, will be satisfied with land that provides produce and provision for the animals. I hear the Lord's counsel as He taught on the mount:

Matthew 6:25-34 (HCSB) “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  

Israel's history provided the backdrop to Jesus' words, as He had provided food and clothing during their 40 years of wandering. His counsel stands in our day, as we see the wealth of this world taken away from the workers and stored up by the "landowners." This is YHWH's reminder that with food and clothing, we are to be content, for our God has gone to prepare a place for us and will return to take us to be with Him forever. So while we live here as pilgrims, let us sojourn with our eyes fixed on Him. He is our rock and strong tower. And He gives peace to His own - peace the world cannot comprehend. What cause do we have to worry?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Isaiah 31 - Repent and trust in YHWH

The 31st chapter of Isaiah appears to be a short rehash of chapter 30 - an oracle against Egypt and against ethnic Israel for trusting in Egypt.

Isaiah 31:1 (HCSB) Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the abundance of chariots and in the large number of horsemen. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the LORD’s help.

I've noted several times in this walk through Isaiah that Israel once declared that OTHERS might boast in horses and chariots, but THEY would boast in the name of their God. Oh how often they forgot this! Fearful of the Assyrians, Israel sought help from Egypt - wealthy in horses and chariots; the machinery of war! By doing so, they turned their back on YHWH - the One who brought them out of Egypt with a strong arm. He freed them from Egypt so long ago - now they seek refuge from the Pharaoh of that land.

Isaiah 31:2-3 (HCSB) But He also is wise and brings disaster. He does not go back on what He says; He will rise up against the house of wicked men and against the allies of evildoers. Egyptians are men, not God; their horses are flesh, not spirit. When the LORD raises His hand to strike, the helper will stumble and the one who is helped will fall; both will perish together.

The Holy One of Israel is the only wise god, the only true God; the only One who does not need a "plan B." Evil doers will not last long, though it may seem they do. Egypt's help is merely flesh (which profits nothing, Jesus observed, in John 6) and they will be cast down and perish with YHWH raises His hand to strike them. We have seen this raised hand of God several times as well - He saves with His strong outstretched arm and He destroys His enemies with His strong outstretched arm.

Isaiah 31:4-5 (HCSB) For this is what the LORD said to me: As a lion or young lion growls over its prey when a band of shepherds is called out against it, and is not terrified by their shouting or subdued by their noise, so the LORD of Hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill. Like hovering birds, so the LORD of Hosts will protect Jerusalem— by protecting it, He will rescue it, by sparing it, He will deliver it.

Isaiah pronounces what God has told him, and it's about how almighty and trustworthy He is! Those who reside on Mt Zion will be under His protection, rescued and delivered from their own evil sins. No fear of Assyria or any other army or beast because the battle belongs to YHWH and He will vanquish all His enemies - just as He rescues and preserves all His sheep.

Isaiah 31:6-9 (HCSB) Return to the One the Israelites have greatly rebelled against. For on that day, every one of you will reject the silver and gold idols that your own hands have sinfully made. Then Assyria will fall, but not by human sword; a sword will devour him, but not one made by man. He will flee from the sword; his young men will be put to forced labor. His rock will pass away because of fear, and his officers will be afraid because of the signal flag. This is the LORDs declarationwhose fire is in Zion and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

Those who repent and turn to God will reject the idols once held dear. Recall this from chapter 30: Isaiah 30:21-22 (HCSB) "whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.” Then you will defile your silver-plated idols and your gold-plated images. You will throw them away like menstrual cloths, and call them filth." God grants repentance to His people; but He doesn't repent for us. If repentance is not part of your life, cry out to God for this!

Assyria will not be put down by men - Egyptian or any other. A sword not from a human will devour them one by one. The sword of Truth, wielded by the victorious Christ will do this. Those who flee will be imprisoned, their source of pride - their rock - will pass away, and no one will look to the battle flag of Assyria any longer. YHWH has decreed this - His fire in on Mt Zion, burning from the furnace in Jerusalem. Righteousness from God wherein He sits as He rules, Jerusalem will be that city on Mt Zion!

Again and again we see the same cycle - trust in men and strongholds of this world are attractive to us, we are but frail men and women. But the only refuge the provide safety from the storm of God's wrath is to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Isaiah 30 - This is the Way, Walk in it.

Isaiah 30 is a lengthy rebuke of Israel's reliance on the strength of man, the doom of those who present themselves as worthy of such trust, and a reminder of the bliss that awaits those reconciled to God.

Isaiah 30:1-2 (HCSB) "Woe to the rebellious children! This is the LORDs declaration. They carry out a plan, but not Mine; they make an alliance, but against My will, piling sin on top of sin. They set out to go down to Egypt without asking My advice, in order to seek shelter under Pharaoh’s protection and take refuge in Egypt’s shadow."

Note the judgment of God: His people, ethnic Israel, proved themselves to be rebels by pursuing a plan of their own. Not being merely ignorant of YHWH's ways but being deliberately against what they know of His ways. They pile up sin upon sin by seeking refuge in the strength of man! These are the same people who declared that some may trust in chariots but THEY would trust in the name of their God. And here they are. Saints - how is it with your soul? Are you THIS DAY trusting in Him or have you slouched into a false security of seeking refuge in wealth, comfort, political success, or those who preach "peace, peace!" where there is none?

Note how it will end for ethnic Israel: Isaiah 30:3 (HCSB) "But Pharaoh’s protection will become your shame, and refuge in Egypt’s shadow your disgrace." This was written for our benefit - we can expect no better result if we have misplaced trust.

Verses 4 - 8 bring us more details of the consequences of this misplaced trust, describing the land as "in distress" and Egypt's help as "completely worthless." Our prophet is given instructions:

Isaiah 30:8-9 (HCSB) "Go now, write it on a tablet in their presence and inscribe it on a scroll; it will be for the future, forever and ever. They are a rebellious people, deceptive children, children who do not want to obey the LORD’s instruction."

We will read later of another message that is to be written on a tablet so all can read it - bringing the good news of the gospel. This message, written on a tablet, is bad news - God's judgment comes upon those who rebel against God and do not obey YHWH's instructions.

Isaiah 30:10-11 (HCSB) "They say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things. Prophesy illusions. Get out of the way! Leave the pathway. Rid us of the Holy One of Israel.”"

This reminded me of the encounter between the kings of the two kingdoms in 1 Kings 22. Ahab, king of Israel (northern kingdom) wanted a military alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (southern kingdom). Jehoshaphat is agreeable, but wants Ahab to get confirmation from God (verse 7). 1 Kings 22:8 (HCSB)  "The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man who can ask Yahweh, but I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”" All the other "prophets" had told Ahab he would succeed in this campaign. And this was the result: 1 Kings 22:16-18 (HCSB) But the king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear not to tell me anything but the truth in the name of Yahweh?” So Micaiah said: I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, “They have no master; let everyone return home in peace.” So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster?”

The Jews had developed their own brand of the prosperity gospel - thinking God only wanted them to prosper as a nation, conquering all the pagan nations; thinking poverty and illness was a sure sign of sin. We see this highly developed as early as Job's day. It didn't line up with God's plan then and it doesn't now.

Isaiah 30:12-14 (HCSB) Therefore the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message and have trusted in oppression and deceit, and have depended on them, this iniquity of yours will be like a spreading breach, a bulge in a high wall whose collapse will come in an instant—suddenly! Its collapse will be like the shattering of a potter’s jar, crushed to pieces, so that not even a fragment of pottery will be found among its shattered remains— no fragment large enough to take fire from a hearth or scoop water from a cistern.”

We man trusts in man, he has trusted in oppression and deceit; and this will ALWAYS bring judgment and dismay. The description of this judgment is in detail that would imprint itself in the minds of the Hebrews - wall breached and collapsing, reduced to small pieces like a shattered ceramic pot that are good for nothing. If we trust in man for satisfaction in this life or protection from His wrath, we will be dismayed.

Isaiah 30:15-17 (HCSB) For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: “You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. But you are not willing.” You say, “No! We will escape on horses”— therefore you will escape!— and, “We will ride on fast horses”— but those who pursue you will be faster. One thousand will flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you will flee, until you alone remain like a solitary pole on a mountaintop or a banner on a hill.

Here God lays out His plan - return to Him and rest! But they were not willing - natural man is ALWAYS unwilling, trusting in horses and barns. Any excuse to run away from God will do - but all excuses will end badly. But YHWH is unchanging and patient with His chosen ones, no matter how circumstances look to us.

Isaiah 30:18-22 (HCSB) Therefore the LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy. For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.” Then you will defile your silver-plated idols and your gold-plated images. You will throw them away like menstrual cloths, and call them filth.

YHWH is just and He will satisfy those who hunger for Him; they will live with Him on Mt. Zion where there will be no more tears - sound familiar? He will ensure we have enough to live on while we are our earthly pilgrimage, and He will be with us - gave His Spirit to comfort and guide us - during this time. He will instruct us in His way: “This is the way. Walk in it.” A better way than man (even Mandalorian!) can show us. And there will be evidence of this change in heart: we will be cast away false idols - consider them filthy rags (another familiar phrase). Saints: do you cling to idols? Think they yet have value? Consider your ways and make sure you are not mistaken about whose way you follow.

Verses  23 - 26 continue with the description of the care YHWH has for His people, Isaiah 30:26 (HCSB)  "The moonlight will be as bright as the sunlight, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter—like the light of seven days—on the day that the LORD bandages His people’s injuries and heals the wounds He inflicted." This ought to draw our minds to John's Apocalypse: Revelation 22:5 (HCSB) "Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever." Oh the glory and the true AWE of being in Christ and knowing Him as He knows us! No more tears, no more sin, no darkness!

The balance of this chapter is an oracle against Assyria, the main pain for national Israel. God's judgment on His enemies ought to comfort us just as it did national Israel - for it demonstrates His justice. Our sins weren't "winked at" - Jesus suffered the Father's wrath for our sin. This is part of the covenant God made with Noah and all creation: Genesis 9:6 (HCSB) "Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image." This is why the Son of God put on man-flesh. To know we are reconciled to God, our sin-debt PAID, ought to cause us to rejoice with unspeakable joy.

So He tells Israel to, "Look, Yahweh comes from far away, His anger burning and heavy with smoke. His lips are full of fury, and His tongue is like a consuming fire." (Isaiah 30:27) This wrath is against Assyria for their vengeance against ethnic Israel. Isaiah 30:28 (HCSB) "His breath is like an overflowing torrent that rises to the neck. He comes to sift the nations in a sieve of destruction and to put a bridle on the jaws of the peoples to lead them astray." Note that God not only sifts the nations to destroy them, He leads His enemies astray - into that destruction.

Isaiah 30:29 (HCSB) "Your singing will be like that on the night of a holy festival, and your heart will rejoice like one who walks to the music of a flute, going up to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel." In the midst of the doom falling on Assyria, we see this snippet of grace poured out His people. Does your heart rejoice in the knowledge that you are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, destined to be with Him on the New Earth (Mt Zion!) for eternity? Pray for the Spirit of God to stir you - and me! - up to  be honestly excited and joyful at being His possession.

Verse 30 shows God's arm raised to strike, and He will make known the splendor of His voice. Isaiah 30:31 (HCSB) "Assyria will be shattered by the voice of the LORD. He will strike with a rod." Isaiah 30:33b (HCSB) "The breath of the LORD, like a torrent of brimstone, kindles it." No matter how strong man considers himself, the breath of YHWH will shatter him. There is NO refuge from this judgment apart from union with Christ. If you are His, rejoice!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Isaiah 29 - Who is Ariel?

Chapter 29 is titled "Woe to Jerusalem" in the HCSB. The ESV, ASB, and KJV each have similar titles. And yet, Jerusalem is not mentioned in this chapter.

Isaiah 29:1a (HCSB) "Woe to Ariel, Ariel, the city where David camped!"

Woe to Ariel, not Jerusalem, Ariel - the city where David camped. Ariel shows up in several places (2 Sam 23 & 1 Chron 11) as a man from Moab and in Ezra 8 as an Israelite. Three times in this chapter it refers to a city - which every serious commentator believes is Jerusalem; the context reveals this. The Hebrew word is obscure, but thought to mean the hearth place of an altar - alluding to judgment manifested as fire.

Isaiah 29:1b-4 (HCSB) "Continue year after year; let the festivals recur. I will oppress Ariel, and there will be mourning and crying, and she will be to Me like an Ariel. I will camp in a circle around you; I will besiege you with earth ramps, and I will set up my siege towers against you. You will be brought down; you will speak from the ground, and your words will come from low in the dust. Your voice will be like that of a spirit from the ground; your speech will whisper from the dust."

God taunts Jerusalem, which was the pride of Israel. While they continue their normal routine, He is preparing to punish them. As in the days of Noah, when people were eating and drinking and married when the rains came down, so here will the people of Israel will be taken as they ignore the warnings - just as in the days of Noah. Read the military language of God's attack on Jerusalem; He will destroy their walls and the city, people will mourn and cry as they are brought low and grovel in the dust.

Isaiah 29:5-8 (HCSB) "Your many foes will be like fine dust, and many of the ruthless, like blowing chaff. Then suddenly, in an instant, you will be visited by the LORD of Hosts with thunder, earthquake, and loud noise, storm, tempest, and a flame of consuming fire. All the many nations going out to battle against Ariel— all the attackers, the siege works against her, and those who oppress her— will then be like a dream, a vision in the night. It will be like a hungry one who dreams he is eating, then wakes and is still hungry; and like a thirsty one who dreams he is drinking, then wakes and is still thirsty, longing for water. So it will be for all the many nations who go to battle against Mount Zion."

In the midst of Israel's doom, God turns His wrath on their enemies as YHWH meets with Israel in full strength to consume all who wage war against Ariel. These enemies will seem like a dream that cannot satisfy - a vapor with no substance. So it will be for all who wage war against Mt. Zion - the scene changes from earthly Jerusalem to the true kingdom of Mt Zion as a reminder of who God defends.

Isaiah 29:9-12 (HCSB) "Stop and be astonished; blind yourselves and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with beer. For the LORD has poured out on you an overwhelming urge to sleep; He has shut your eyes—the prophets, and covered your heads—the seers. For you the entire vision will be like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to one who can read and he is asked to read it, he will say, “I can’t read it, because it is sealed.” And if the document is given to one who cannot read and he is asked to read it, he will say, “I can’t read.”"

This scene ought to seem familiar, for we've read similar things in Isaiah. Recall the commissioning of Isaiah as a prophet in chapter 6, as he was sent to a people who would hear but not understand, would see but not perceive. Their eyes would be heavy with sleep - so they would not see and hear and be saved. And anther prophet was told to keep the book sealed: Daniel 12:4 (HCSB) “But you, Daniel, keep these words secret and seal the book until the time of the end. Many will roam about, and knowledge will increase.” Until THAT day arrives, the mystery of the gospel will be hidden from those not chosen. Many will claim to be wise but have not the wisdom that reveals Jesus as the Christ.

This is what God reveals next: Isaiah 29:13-14 (HCSB) "The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service— yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote therefore I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden."

Rote religion cannot please God nor save sinners. Traditions of man neither please God not benefit sinners. Such self-righteous nonsense characterizes those who build large barns on foundation of sand. And the One who created all and will judge all confounds these people, as in the days of the Tower of Babel. Even as late as when the promised Messiah walked the earth, the Jewish people were self-satisfied in their "law-keeping" and their fleshly lineage. The wonders that would confound them were the same as in Isaiah's time: Gentiles would be brought into the kingdom! Their wise men were found to be fools - with a few notable exceptions such as Simeon and Caiaphas.

Isaiah 29:15-16 (HCSB) "Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the LORD. They do their works in darkness, and say, Who sees us? Who knows us? You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, He didnt make me? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand what hes doing?"

Harken unto the warning from God: nothing is done in darkness that He does not see! To think that the creature can keep secrets from the Creator is akin to thinking the clay has power over the potter! Paul alluded to this in his rebuke to self-righteous Jews of his day. Romans 9:20-21 (HCSB) "But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?" The mystery is not why are some people doomed to wrath; the mystery is why are any not?

Isaiah 29:18-21 (HCSB) "On that day the deaf will hear the words of a document, and out of a deep darkness the eyes of the blind will see. The humble will have joy after joy in the LORD, and the poor people will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the ruthless one will vanish, the scorner will disappear, and all those who lie in wait with evil intent will be killed—those who, with their speech, accuse a person of wrongdoing, who set a trap at the gate for the mediator, and without cause deprive the righteous of justice."

Note the contrast: blind will see, humble (poor in spirit) will have unending joy, the wicked will be gone, justice will prevail - all in the presence of the Holy One of Israel! What a contrast to what we've just read where He kept some in darkness, without understanding, in fear of the doom that awaits them.

Isaiah 29:22-24 (HCSB) "Therefore, the LORD who redeemed Abraham says this about the house of Jacob: Jacob will no longer be ashamed and his face will no longer be pale. For when he sees his children, the work of My hands within his nation, they will honor My name, they will honor the Holy One of Jacob and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are confused will gain understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction."

On THAT day, the promise to Abraham will be fulfilled as the New Covenant is completed, when the people of Israel (House of Jacob) are not ashamed - none of this remnant will think himself righteous, knowing he is not; all will fully trust in YHWH. When Jacob sees his children - his redeemed kinsmen of the flesh - all the ransomed sons of Israel will honor Him, knowing it was the Christ who redeemed them; as they stand in awe (true reverence and adoration) of the God of Israel. This is the Israel of God, the redeemed from every nation, tribe, and tongue - all children of Abraham according to the promise. Both Jew and Gentile will no longer be confused about Who the Messiah is nor about the nature of His kingdom. The confused and grumbling will be no more confused and no more grumbling, for their eyes see and their ears hear and their minds understand the glories of the grace of God in the person of Christ!

Here is the sum of the matter: Natural man, Jew and Gentile, is blind to truth, confounded about the gospel, unable to reconcile himself to God. According to His plan, Jesus (the Good Shepherd) is seeking out all those the Father has given Him, to bring them into His sheepfold. He gives grace to these, gives understanding, and loves them to the uttermost. If you are His, stand in awe of Who He is and what He has done!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Isaiah 28 - Woe and Bliss.

Isaiah 28 is another contrast between the woe that comes to people of the world and the true bliss of knowing God.

Isaiah 28:1 (HCSB) Woe to the majestic crown of Ephraim’s drunkards, and to the fading flower of its beautiful splendor, which is on the summit above the rich valley. Woe to those overcome with wine.

Another oracle begins, this time against Samaria. We see repeated references to obsession with intoxicating drink - described here as symbols of wealth and positions of influence (the crown may refer to the capital city, which sat on a hill overlooking the region); all of which will fade.

Isaiah 28:2-4 (HCSB) Look, the Lord has a strong and mighty one— like a devastating hail storm, like a storm with strong flooding waters. He will bring it across the land with His hand. The majestic crown of Ephraim’s drunkards will be trampled underfoot. The fading flower of his beautiful splendor, which is on the summit above the rich valley, will be like a ripe fig before the summer harvest. Whoever sees it will swallow it while it is still in his hand.

We see that God has a strong and mighty one to fulfill His will - one like a hail storm, a strong storm with floods; think Gen chapter 7. The symbols of wealth and power will be trampled down and shown as a sign of shame for those who trusted in uncertain things of this world. Unlike the fig tree in Matt 21:18-22, the fig tree in this passage had ripe fruit, ready for the picking - but not by those who found their security in their large barns.

Isaiah 28:5-6 (HCSB) On that day the LORD of Hosts will become a crown of beauty and a diadem of splendor to the remnant of His people, a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

On THAT day, YHWH of Hosts will become the crown of beauty and splendor to His people, a remnant of the world. This passage recalls the devastation in verses 2-4, using similar terms to describe the glory of being united with YHWH. He bring justice and strength to His people.

Verses 7-12 reveal the futility of trusting one's wisdom and abusing drink meant for reasonable pleasure. When people partake of too much beer and wine (or pizza and donuts) there are consequences. Drunkards have a very hard time dealing with life, they stumble confused as to what's going on. Their vision is muddled, their judgment is muddled, their tables are covered in vomit! Nobody will listen to them.

Isaiah 28:13 (HCSB) Then the word of the LORD came to them: “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there,” so they go stumbling backward, to be broken, trapped, and captured.

YHWH speaks and throws their own words into their teeth, quoting the drunkard from verse 10.  These aimless people stumble backward, to be broken, trapped, and captured. Woe to these who tempt God by abusing gifts given to man. Woe to those who trust in wealth rather than the Creator and Lord of all.

Isaiah 28:14-15 (HCSB) Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you mockers who rule this people in Jerusalem. For you said, “We have cut a deal with Death, and we have made an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.”

Here YHWH addresses the leaders in Judah, rulers over the people in Jerusalem, who had made a deal with a nation identified as Death to provide protection from Assyria from overwhelming them. They bragged that lies were their refuge and treachery their strong wall. This will not end well for them.

Isaiah 28:16-17a (HCSB) Therefore the Lord GOD said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level. Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place."

Here we find architectural references to Christ, which are repeated in the gospels and epistles. Contrary to the papists who believe Peter is the cornerstone of "the church" God almighty has established His Son as the cornerstone, the sure foundation. As Jesus would later say, the one who builds on the Rock will withstand the fiercest storm, but the one who builds on sand will be devastated when the flood comes. YHWH's justice, not man's perverted "justice" will be the plumb line and His righteousness, not man's filthy rags, will the level.

Isaiah 28:17b-18 (HCSB) "And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place.  Your deal with Death will be dissolved, and your agreement with Sheol will not last. When the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be trampled.

Those who continue to trust in man will swept away in the judgment, as in the day of Noah. Juda's treacherous deal with Death and Sheol will not protect them; for when the Lord Jesus returns on that great and terrible day, the time of patience and place for repentance will have ended; and not a mortal soul will be able to find any refuge from the storm if they had not already found it in Christ. As we read in the previous chapter, Isaiah 27:11b "Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them, and their Creator will not be gracious to them." This will be the end of time, and all who continued in their rebellion will face the Judge who has no compassion or grace for them. Indeed, in verse 19 we see that "only terror will cause you to understand the message." He will have compassion and grace only for those clothed in His righteousness, and we all will be in awe as we consider how little we understood and how much He has done for us.

Isaiah 28:21-22 (HCSB) For the LORD will rise up as He did at Mount Perazim. He will rise in wrath, as at the Valley of Gibeon, to do His work, His strange work, and to perform His task, His disturbing task. So now, do not mock, or your shackles will become stronger. Indeed, I have heard from the Lord GOD of Hosts a decree of destruction for the whole land.

These references to well-known places in Israel bring home the message to those who dwell in the land, seeking comfort in large barns. Yet almighty God has spoken: what He will do will seem strange and disturbing to those who rest on Moses and Abraham. He will burden them with unbreakable shackles and destroy the whole land. He will take the kingdom from them and give it to a nation of kings and priests that will bear fruit (Matt 21:43 & 1 Peter 2:4-6).

The last part of this chapter breaks into a new line of thought. Isaiah 28:23 (HCSB) "Listen and hear my voice. Pay attention and hear what I say." With this call to listen up, God begins giving instruction on farming!

Isaiah 28:24-26 (HCSB) Does the plowman plow every day to plant seed? Does he continuously break up and cultivate the soil? When he has leveled its surface, does he not then scatter black cumin and sow cumin? He plants wheat in rows and barley in plots, with spelt as their border. His God teaches him order; He instructs him.

As He teaches the animals where to forage for food, as He tells the clouds where to go pour out their rain, so He teaches brute man how to tend the land so he can feed his family.

Isaiah 28:28-29 (HCSB) Bread grain is crushed, but is not threshed endlessly. Though the wheel of the farmer’s cart rumbles, his horses do not crush it. This also comes from the LORD of Hosts. He gives wonderful advice; He gives great wisdom.

Simple truth about temporal things, properly used, is wisdom from God - wonderful news! Proper use of good things He has given us is wise; thanksgiving for His mercies in giving us bread and meat is the proper response. What a contrast to the attitude of Israel in Isaiah's day; for they had forgotten YHWH and had slid into the thankless, conceited position of thinking they were entitled to comfortable living, safe from the terrors of Assyria and the other pagans.

In the USA at this hour, we have our own pagans at the gate - claiming they own the nation and want to trample justice and exalt all sorts of sin and horror. Let us who know God - or rather are known by Him - stand for His Truth but never lose sight of which kingdom we belong to. As the ancient preacher taught, Ecclesiastes 9 (HCSB) Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, ... Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, ... Whatever your hands find to do, do with all your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

Trust God, meditate on His Word. If you are His, He will be your wisdom and give you light to take the next step. If you are not His, cry out for mercy while you yet have breath. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Isaiah 27 - The Vineyard of YHWH

Some Bibles title Isaiah 27 as "Leviathan Slain," as this is what the opening verse declares: Isaiah 27:1 (HCSB) "On that day the LORD with His harsh, great, and strong sword, will bring judgment on Leviathan, the fleeing serpent—Leviathan, the twisting serpent. He will slay the monster that is in the sea."

We have seen that the phrase "On that day" often means Judgment Day, but not exclusively. Leviathan is mentioned by Job and God (Job 3:8; 41:1) and in Psalms 74:14 and 104:26; where it is portrayed as a terrifyingly strong sea monster that God alone can handle; and that will be destroyed and fed to creatures of the desert when He restores His people (Ps 74). Leviathan was known in Canaanite mythology, representing evil. It is thought that Leviathan is mentioned in Scripture to convey the idea that when YHWH comes the second time He will destroy not only the historical and temporal forms of evil but the cosmic or spiritual forms as well. Just as Satan is portrayed as a serpent, evil is portrayed as Leviathan.

The balance of this chapter is about YHWH's vineyard - a wealth of metaphorical wisdom! Isaiah 27:2-3 (HCSB) "On that day sing about a desirable vineyard: I, Yahweh, watch over it; I water it regularly. I guard it night and day so that no one disturbs it."

It's implied that YHWH planted this vineyard, He is the One Who tends it. It is a most desirable vineyard that is guarded so no one who unbid may come in and disturb it. Verses 4 & 5 describe how wild vines are trampled down and burned and good ones rely on God and have peace with Him. Anyone else think of John 15?

Isaiah 27:6 (HCSB) "In days to come, Jacob will take root. Israel will blossom and bloom and fill the whole world with fruit." Similar to "On that day" we see that Jacob will take root and Israel will bloom and the whole world will be filled with their fruit. We know that YHWH has always had people from every nation, tongue, and tribe marked out to be included in His kingdom - to yield fruit keeping with repentance. We know from the parable of the soils (Mark 4) that only in good soil will seed grow healthy roots and only healthy roots produce fruit and all that do not yield good fruit are trampled down and burned.

Verses 7 & 8 describe how God disciplines His people, they will not be annihilated as will His enemies. His people will be scattered like the seed freely cast along the way, so that people in every nation, tongue, and tribe will hear the gospel and be brought into His sheepfold (mixed metaphors!).

Isaiah 27:9 (HCSB) "Therefore Jacob’s iniquity will be purged in this way, and the result of the removal of his sin will be this: when he makes all the altar stones like crushed bits of chalk, no Asherah poles or incense altars will remain standing." This is the result of God's people being purified, purged of sin: false gods will be removed and their altars torn down. As when Jacob flew Laban and Rachel secretly brought pagan idols with them, so it is with many of God's people - we unknowingly carry the baggage of false gods and false worship with us - and have need to examine ourselves and our walk, asking for eyes to as God does and repent of all false ways. Asherah was a Canaanite goddess of fertility, mother of Baal; the wooden pole was like an altar or shrine to her. If we fail to rid ourselves of false ways, and we are His sheep, He will purge us and, while it will not seem pleasant, it is for our good and His glory.

Verses 10 & 11 describe the desolation of temporal wealth and power: the fortified city will be deserted, the trees will dry up (not yielding good fruit) and be burned as firewood. They are people without understanding and Creator God will not be compassionate or gracious to them.

Isaiah 27:12-13 (HCSB) "On that day the LORD will thresh grain from the Euphrates River as far as the Wadi of Egypt, and you Israelites will be gathered one by one. On that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those lost in the land of Assyria will come, as well as those dispersed in the land of Egypt; and they will worship the LORD at Jerusalem on the holy mountain."

On THAT day, YHWH will thresh His grain, from the north boundary to the southern boundary. John the Baptizer gave a preview of THAT day, telling the self-righteous Jews that Jesus was the Christ and had His winnowing fork in His hand, ready to clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat; leaving the chaff to be burned with fire that never goes out (Matt 3:12). Jesus told a parable of wheat and chaff confirming this:

Matthew 13:37-43 (HCSB) He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

God's judgment is true and none of His wheat will be burned up, but there will be fiery wrath poured out on many who claim they know Him and do not. On THAT day, a great trumpet will be blown - just as on the 7th day, the walls of Jericho fell as the last trumpet sounded (Joshua 6:15-20), so it will be on THAT day, when the all lost from all the lands will come and worship YHWH on the Mount Zion. Here's a little homework: Search out every instance of the word "lost" in the New Testament and see if anyone described as such (except Judas) is not found and brought home. Jesus came to seek and save that which was LOST. Those who are not found were not lost; they are not His sheep, but are goats of the world. But all the lost sheep of Israel, the Israel of God, on that day that the last trumpet sounds, will be found and brought into the sheepfold of God but that great shepherd and savior of His people, Jesus - Who is the Christ!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Isaiah 26 - God's People Sing His Praise!

Chapter 25 of Isaiah revealed the salvation of the remnant, with the redeemed unable to keep quiet as they boasted in the salvation of YHWH. Chapter 26 continues with that theme, as Judah is lifted in rejoicing.

Isaiah 26:1-4 (HCSB) On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city. Salvation is established as walls and ramparts. Open the gates so a righteous nation can come in— one that remains faithful. You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. Trust in the LORD forever, because in Yah, the LORD, is an everlasting rock!

On THAT day, when Christ returns to judge the nations, He also gathers His people. And on THAT day, the saints will sing and boast about the salvation and security they have in Christ; they will rejoice with all His people who are gathered in. YHWH will keep in perfect peace the soul that trusts in Him; He is trustworthy because Jesus is the everlasting Rock which gushes out refreshing water, provides a sure foundation in any storm, and will not be moved when all hell breaks loose.

Isaiah 26:5-6 (HCSB) For He has humbled those who live in lofty places— an inaccessible city. He brings it down; He brings it down to the ground; He throws it to the dust. Feet trample it, the feet of the humble, the steps of the poor.

We see, again, what happens to those filled with the pride of life - God humbles them, no matter how secure they think themselves. He knocks down all the idols of man and leaves the debris to be trampled on by the very people that were despised and mistreated by the proud, boastful men of the world. The meek SHALL inherit the earth - the new earth!

Isaiah 26:7 (HCSB) The path of the righteous is level; You clear a straight path for the righteous.

The praise of His people continues, as they declare He makes a straight, level path for His people. A sermon I heard many years contained this pearl, which stuck with me: "The path of least resistance makes both MEN and rivers crooked. The Lord God makes man's path straight." People who "let go and let God" are drifting in the sea of humanity. Once raised we must be deliberate and determined, by the grace of God, to walk as children of the light.

Verses 8 - 10 continue with the praise of God and the vindication of His judgment, as some people learn righteousness while the wicked do not - they do not see the majesty of the Lord.

Isaiah 26:11 (HCSB) LORD, Your hand is lifted up to take action, but they do not see it. They will see Your zeal for Your people, and they will be put to shame. The fire for Your adversaries will consume them!

If you recall from the early chapters, YHWH's hand being raised is a symbol of impending judgment. Wicked people will not see His zeal to defend His name and His people until it is too late and His fire consumes them.

Isaiah 26:12-13 (HCSB) LORD, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our work for us. Yahweh our God, lords other than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone.

Read that again, slowly. YHWH establishes peace for His people, He has done ALL the work. They were ruled by lesser gods that were not gods and He put His name in their minds. Where, oh man, have ye room to boats of ANYTHING other the grace of God? If you have been feeling satisfied in anything you've done, repent.

Verse 14 reveals the doom of the wicked - they die and have no peace nor place with God. But -

Isaiah 26:15-16 (HCSB) You have added to the nation, LORD. You have added to the nation; You are honored. You have expanded all the borders of the land. LORD, they went to You in their distress; they poured out whispered prayers because Your discipline fell on them.

YHWH has added to the nation - bringing Gentiles to Mt. Zion where His righteousness reigns. The poor in spirit, people in distress, cried out to God in prayer and His chastisement fell on them, the chastisement that brings peace - Isaiah 53:5 (KJV) "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." If His chastisement does not bring you peace, you will never have peace with God.

The next two verse describe how the chastisement of peace is akin to the travails of a pregnant woman giving birth. And the birth was without life, but a breeze - as someone passing gas (as one commentary put it); no victory or lineage in which to boast. But there is cause for boasting -

Isaiah 26:19 (HCSB) Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust! For you will be covered with the morning dew, and the earth will bring out the departed spirits.

Contrary to the death of the wicked, those who die in Christ will live - their bodies will be raised on the last day! Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust - if Christ be your king, for on THAT day all who have died in YHWH will come up out of the earth to meet Him!

Isaiah 26:20-21 (HCSB) Go, my people, enter your rooms and close your doors behind you. Hide for a little while until the wrath has passed. For look, the LORD is coming from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. The earth will reveal the blood shed on it and will no longer conceal her slain.

While judgment is meted out on the nations in Israel's day, she was told to hide - the battle belongs to the Lord. As in the day of the angel of death, when the children of Moses hid in their homes with the blood of the lamb on their doorframe, so all His redeemed will hide in Him, covered by the blood of the victorious Lamb Who exposes the sin of the world and renders eternal judgment. As the nations are judged, we have refuge in Christ, who will then gather us to Himself as He makes a new heaven (the universe) and new earth.

Is Christ your peace? The chastisement, the punishment, laid upon Him - did He bring you peace? Trust not a man who says, "Peace, peace!" where there is no peace. Trust in the Man who brings peace and gives is to His people. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Isaiah 25 - Salvation and Judgment

Chapter 25 of Isaiah is a proclamation of God's people about His victory and their redemption; His victory over the world. 

Isaiah 25:1 (HCSB) "Yahweh, You are my God; I will exalt You. I will praise Your name, for You have accomplished wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness." Here the remnant exalt YHWH, calling them "my God" whose name they will praise for the wonders of the plans He set out long ago. Who other than God can make a plan with absolute assurance it will be accomplished?

Isaiah 25:2 (HCSB) "For You have turned the city into a pile of rocks, a fortified city, into ruins; the fortress of barbarians is no longer a city; it will never be rebuilt." This fortified city is symbolic of the world, as with the city of chaos in 24:10. It's defeat is YHWH's victory over the world - when He returns a new earth will be raised up and the city of this world will never be rebuilt.

Isaiah 25:3 (HCSB) "Therefore, a strong people will honor You. The cities of violent nations will fear You." Those who honor God have His strength; those who depend on their own strength are violent men who will greatly fear Him when they discover they have no refuge.

Isaiah 25:4-5 (HCSB) "For You have been a stronghold for the poor, a stronghold for the needy person in his distress, a refuge from the rain, a shade from the heat. When the breath of the violent is like rain against a wall, like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of barbarians. As the shade of a cloud cools the heat of the day, so He silences the song of the violent. "

His people testify of His provision for the poor and needy (blessed are the poor in spirit!), His refuge from the rain and a shade from the heat. Do you recall Jonah, the reluctant prophet? Disappointed in God's mercy on repentant Ninevites, Jonah pouted and sat down to see what would happen. Jonah 4:6 (HCSB) "Then the LORD God appointed a plant, and it grew up to provide shade over Jonah’s head to ease his discomfort. Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant." YHWH provided shade for Jonah just as He had for the remnant in Isaiah's vision. He subdued the barbarians and shuts the mouths of the violent.

Isaiah 25:6-8 (HCSB) "The LORD of Hosts will prepare a feast for all the peoples on this mountain— a feast of aged wine, choice meat, finely aged wine. On this mountain He will destroy the burial shroud, the shroud over all the peoples, the sheet covering all the nations; He will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His peoples disgrace from the whole earth, for the LORD has spoken."

Does this not bring to your mind the wedding feast of the Lamb? The peace with God found on Mt Zion? The promise of the new earth where He will wipe every tear and clothe us with His righteousness completely? So much of John's Apocalypse is taken from Old Testament passages, we should not be surprised to find his source material here.

Isaiah 25:9-10a (HCSB) "On that day it will be said, “Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” For the LORD’s power will rest on this mountain." Verse 10 is another place where ya got to wonder what where thinking, including the second sentence here rather than in verse 11. On THAT day, when Christ Jesus comes to judge the nations He will also bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him (Heb 9:28).  This salvation is not justification, but the final salvation that free us from the presence of sin.

Isaiah 25:10b-12 (HCSB) "For the LORD’s power will rest on this mountain. But Moab will be trampled in his place as straw is trampled in a dung pile. He will spread out his arms in the middle of it, as a swimmer spreads out his arms to swim. His pride will be brought low, along with the trickery of his hands. The high-walled fortress will be brought down, thrown to the ground, to the dust."

Then end of this chapter is the sad record of the judgment on Moab - symbolic of the pride of life that dominates the city of this age. Swimming in dung - how's that for a word picture? No pride left, no tricks, no wealth - all undone when the Creator and Judge of all things returns.

Are you the joyful remnant praising God for His victory? Or are you still full of pride and self-sufficiency? Time is running out and none of us knows when He will return. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Isaiah 24 - The Day of Judgment

Isaiah's 24th chapter is accurately titled "The Earth Judged" in the HCSB. ESV has "Judgment on the Whole Earth" while the KJV has "The doleful judgments of God upon the land." I would say that seeing this chapter as "judgments upon the land" conveys too small a picture. This judgment is described in terms that force us to consider what the Bible says elsewhere of the end of this age.

The structure is poetic, with repeats of certain phrase and pairing of others. Isaiah 24:1a (HCSB) "Look, the LORD is stripping the earth bare and making it desolate." Verses 1b & 2 describe the effects of stripping the earth and making it desolate - the earth's surface will be twisted, its inhabitants scattered, without regard to status or condition of the people. Verse 3 repeats part of verse 1: "The earth will be stripped completely bare and will be totally plundered for the LORD has spoken this message."

How do we know these things will happen? YHWH has spoken it! I read a book once wherein the author asserted some of the good stuff from age - even that done by unbelievers - would be deemed by God to be so good that they would survive judgment and be extant on the new earth. There are so many passages that flatly deny that idea, including verse 3 of this passage: "The earth will be stripped completely bare and will be totally plundered." Not partially or mostly stripped bare; completely. Nothing man can do is truly good: "If you make a stone altar for Me, you must not build it out of cut stones. If you use your chisel on it, you will defile it." (Ex 20:25)

Verses 4-12 describe the effects of the judgment of God mentioned in verses 1 & 3. Isaiah used couplets to emphasize the totality of the devastation. Isaiah 24:4 (HCSB) "The earth mourns and withers; the world wastes away and withers; the exalted people of the earth waste away." Note how the earth mourns and withers, wastes and withers and the rulers of earth waste away. The repetition of terms conveys the idea of completion.

Verse 5 tells us those who dwell on the earth have polluted it, they have transgressed His teaching and decrees, and violated "the everlasting covenant." The language here likely refers to Genesis 6, where man is wicked in every thought, full of violence, having corrupted their way on the earth; and Genesis 9, where God gave law to Noah and all the earth and set His bow in the sky as a sign of "the everlasting covenant."

As an aside, read Gen 9:1-7 and then read Acts 15:23-29 and think of other passages in the New Covenant Scriptures that touch on what YHWH told Noah. The continuity of God's law does not depend on His covenant with national Israel.

In Isaiah 24:6-12 we see "only a few survive" the judgement of God upon the earth, after a curse consumed it and burned up most of the inhabitants. The vineyards have withered, the tambourines are quiet, earth's rejoicing has gone into exile - only desolation remains as the city's gate has collapsed in ruin.

Verse 13 brings a change in perspective, "For this is how it will be on earth among the nations: like a harvested olive tree, like a gleaning after a grape harvest." When an olive tree or vineyard is harvested, only a few olives or grapes remain. This remnant sings and praises the majesty of God (vs 14), "From the ends of the earth we hear songs: The Splendor of the Righteous One" (vs 16a).  What a contrast from those who pollute and corrupt the earth - despising their Creator.

Verse 16b brings Isaiah's voice to our attention: "But I said, “I waste away! I waste away! Woe is me.” The treacherous act treacherously; the treacherous deal very treacherously." This ought to draw our attention to something written much later, as an angel spoke: Revelation 22:10-11 (HCSB) He also said to me, “Don’t seal the prophetic words of this book, because the time is near. Let the unrighteous go on in unrighteousness; let the filthy go on being made filthy; let the righteous go on in righteousness; and let the holy go on being made holy.” At the end, there is no room for repentance, no second opportunity for salvation. Only judgment for those who are not in Christ while those in Christ can only sing His praises.

Verses 17 & 18 bring poetic terms of trouble that await those who deal treacherously - "Panic, trip, and trap" await them; windows in heaven are opened up and the foundations of the earth are shaken - just as noted in Hebrews 12:25-27 (HCSB) Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. This expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain.

Scripture cannot be broken. When the foundations of the earth are shaken, the end is nigh. The security for the saints is found in Christ and the kingdom that CANNOT be shaken, which shall remain forever.

Verses 19 & 20 continue to describe God's judgment on earth: Isaiah 24:19-20 (HCSB) "The earth is completely devastated; the earth is split open; the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunkard and sways like a hut. Earth’s rebellion weighs it down, and it falls, never to rise again." The totality of God's judgment, the completeness of man's depravity are on display.

Isaiah 24:21-23a (HCSB) On that day the LORD will punish the host of heaven above and kings of the earth below. They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit. They will be confined to a dungeon; after many days they will be punished. The moon will be put to shame and the sun disgraced."

Peter had this to say: 2 Peter 3:10-13 (HCSB) "But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell."

The angels that rebelled and all the people of the world will be thrown into hell and all the saints eagerly await the NEW heaven and the NEW earth, where RIGHTEOUSNESS dwells. Do you yearn for that?

Isaiah 24:23b - "the LORD of Hosts will reign as king on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and He will display His glory in the presence of His elders." This is displayed in another book based on a vision from God:

Revelation 5:8-14 (HCSB) "When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth. Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped."

When the end us upon us, YHWH reigns as King of kings, displaying His glory in the presence of His elders. And all will sing praises to the One who is worthy to open the seals; the One who ransomed His people from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. Countless redeemed people will never tire of praising the Lamb Who is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

If you cannot say "Amen!" to that, perhaps you are of those who corrupt the earth. While it is yet today, before He returns ON THAT DAY, cry out for mercy and harden not your heart. For time is running out and there is a day appointed wherein Christ will judge the works of man. He stands as a refuge for all who trust in Him.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Chapter 23 - Oracle Against Tyre

Chapter 23 of Isaiah is an oracle against Tyre, a trade center on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea through which much of the trade from Europe found entry into what we now call the mid-east.  As this chapter opens, we see how people of the world treasure the things of this world.

Isaiah 23:1-3 (HCSB) An oracle against Tyre: Wail, ships of Tarshish, for your haven has been destroyed. Word has reached them from the land of Cyprus. Mourn, inhabitants of the coastland, you merchants of Sidon; your agents have crossed the sea on many waters.

I want you to note how the verse numbers were assigned here. Look at where "3" is - smack in the middle of a phrase. These numbers make it easy for us to be at the same place, but they often distract us from reading as intended.

More importantly, take note of how the people wail and mourn because mechanisms of transferring wealth have been destroyed. Ships from Tarshish - a trade center in Spain - unable to dock in Tyre. Side note - Jonah was trying to run from God by booking a trip on ship from Joppa (south of Tyre) to Tarshish - a long route. Jonah didn't get to Tarshish and, in our passage - ships from Tarshish cannot get to Tyre. This bad news reached Cyprus - an island 75 miles off Tyre's coast and the last port before Tyre, described as "the merchant among the nations" (verse 3). When Tyre's harbors were destroyed, people of the world mourned and wept.

Isaiah 23:4 (HCSB) "Be ashamed Sidon, the stronghold of the sea ..." Sidon - another port (north of Tyre) who is brought to shame when her trade is decimated. Verses 5 - 8 describe the anguish in Egypt when they hear the news of Tyre's demise, the wailing of Tarshish - asking with sarcasm, Is this your jubilant city, which has been around since ancient times? And this: Isaiah 23:8 (HCSB) Who planned this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose traders are princes, whose merchants are the honored ones of the earth?

 Verse 8 reveals carnal man's view of disaster - Who did this? regarding the unthinkable. Who destroyed Tyre? She was the one who gave crowns, is higher than others, bestowing prestige on traders and merchants. When man denies God, shaking his fist at the One he refuses to submit to, he cannot fathom why bad things happen.

Isaiah 23:9 & 11 (HCSB) The LORD of Hosts planned it, to desecrate all its glorious beauty, to disgrace all the honored ones of the earth. ... He stretched out His hand over the sea; He made kingdoms tremble. The LORD has commanded that the Canaanite fortresses be destroyed.

I remember when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and thousands of people fled to Houston. I heard several well-known Baptist preachers assert that God had nothing to do with that, betraying their own temporal view of good and a cotton-candy view of God. In addition to our current passage, there are myriad passages that refute this view. Psalm 135:7, for example: "He causes the clouds to rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain and brings the wind from His storehouses." If your view of God is that He only does what carnal man thinks is good, you have a false view of God. Like the people in our text.

Isaiah 23:12 (HCSB) He said, “You will not rejoice anymore, ravished young woman, daughter of Sidon. Get up and cross over to Cyprus— even there you will have no rest!”

Creator God - the God of the Bible - is not worried that man might think He is unloving. If God didn't judge sin, He would not be God. He loves truth so He must hate sin. He taunts the people who are suffering - and goes on (vs 13) to chide the Chaldeans and Assyrians and people of Tarshish for trusting in their "horses and chariots."

Isaiah 23:15-16 (HCSB) On that day Tyre will be forgotten for 70 years—the life span of one king. At the end of 70 years, what the song says about the prostitute will happen to Tyre: Pick up your lyre, stroll through the city, prostitute forgotten by men. Play skillfully, sing many a song, and you will be thought of again.

Here's an instance where the phrase "on that day" does NOT refer to the Day of Judgment. In this case, it refers to a limitation of Tyre's demise, after a perfect, complete time of 70 years. The prostitute's song would be a reminder that the core of Tyre is hedonism.

Isaiah 23:17 (HCSB) And at the end of the 70 years, the LORD will restore Tyre and she will go back into business, prostituting herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth.

It was YHWH that humbled Tyre; it was YHWH that restored Tyre. The city would be back in business, serving the traders and merchants in a way normally associating with Babylon.

Isaiah 23:18 (HCSB) But her profits and wages will be dedicated to the LORD. They will not be stored or saved, for her profit will go to those who live in the LORD’s presence, to provide them with ample food and sacred clothing.

Here's the end of it. God restores Tyre, doesn't change her M.O., but He does change who benefits. Rather than saving and storing her profits and wages, Tyre will give to the Levite priests who serve YHWH, providing them food and fine linen for their priestly garments.

Saints - at the end of this age, God will not change the way this world and its corrupt systems work. He will feed us with good food every month and will clothe us with His righteousness. Even while some of us are disappointed with the recent events in the USA, this nation is not our home and her wages are not our wealth. Our God will provide what we need and He tells us not to worry about these things (Matt 5:25-34), and He is our righteousness, having made peace with God for us. Sleep well - Jesus is King! 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Chapter 22 - Oracle Against the Valley of Vision

Isaiah 22 is an oracle against the Valley of Vision (verse 1). There is a Puritan book of prayer titled The Valley of Vision.  The phrase, Valley of Vision, appears only in this passage in all of Scripture; many are convinced it is a reference to Jerusalem, a city in a valley, known to be the city wherein God met with His people.

I found it funny that the next phrase in verse 1 in the HCSB is "What's the matter with you?" as it reminds me of the often cited question from R.C. Sproul: "What's wrong with you people?" The question in our passage is followed by another: "Why have all of you gone up on the rooftops?" What follows in this chapter lends credence to the view that verse 1 relates to people going to the rooftops to get a better view of the Assyrian army's retreat from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 22:2 (HCSB)  The noisy city, the jubilant town, is filled with revelry. Your dead did not die by the sword; they were not killed in battle.

Happy they are that the swords of Assyria have withdrawn, though their kinsmen who died were not killed by those swords - likely hardship and illness from a long seige.

Isaiah 22:3 (HCSB)  All your rulers have fled together, captured without a bow. All your fugitives were captured together; they had fled far away.

This comment is not part of the historical record of the Assyrian siege of 701 B.C., but may be a reference to the capture of some of Hezekiah's people during a battle with Assyria.

Isaiah 22:4-5 (HCSB) Therefore I said, “Look away from me! Let me weep bitterly! Do not try to comfort me about the destruction of my dear people.” For the Lord GOD of Hosts had a day of tumult, trampling, and confusion in the Valley of Vision— people shouting and crying to the mountains.

Isaiah speak in the first person, weeping over the loss of life due to the siege. He recognizes that though Assyria was the agent of wrath, it was YHWH who trampled on the Valley and caused confusion. Note the recurring picture of people crying and calling out to the mountains to hide them. No place in all creation to hide from the wrath of the Lamb!

The next couple of verses note that the best warriors went out to defend the city but God removed the defenses of Judah. When that happened, the leaders of Judah went to the House of the Forrest looking for weapons. This is likely a reference a building Solomon built: 1 Kings 7:1-2 (HCSB) Solomon completed his entire palace complex after 13 years of construction. He built the House of the Forest of Lebanon.

"You" in these verses refers to the leadership of Judah; they looked for weapons, looked at the breaches in the city wall, collected water, calculated how many houses to tear down for materials, and made a reservoir for waters of the ancient pool. This last is a reference to a tunnel built by Hezekiah to bring water into the city. All of these actions taken by the leaders of Judah reveal men who had put their trust in their own wisdom and strength - rather than trusting in the covenant God Who had built them up into a mighty nation; the last bit of verse 11: "you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago." Self-reliance by those who know God is a wretched position - as the next passage demonstrates.

Isaiah 22:12 (HCSB)  On that day the Lord GOD of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth.

Here's that phrase again, denoting the end of the age when judgment comes.

Isaiah 22:13-14 (HCSB) But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine— “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” The LORD of Hosts has directly revealed to me: “This sin of yours will never be wiped out.” The Lord GOD of Hosts has spoken.

Rather than weeping and wearing sackcloth; the people of Judah are joyful and glad, enjoying the high life - just as the people of the world before the first rain came. All in full view of the Creator, who revealed to Isaiah that the sins of Judah mentioned herein will never be wiped out. The Lord GOD of Hosts has spoken! This is one reason it is impossible for there to be a future for Judah as the people of God; their sin will ever be before them.

The last section of this chapter is an oracle against a steward of Jerusalem, a man known as Shebna, identified as a high-ranking official in Hezekiah's court (2 Kings 18:18, 26, 37; Isa 36:3, 11, 22; 37:2). He and another steward, Eliakim, are the focus. Even though Eliakim was praised by Isaiah, the lesson from this oracle is clear and applicable to us, today: Politicians CANNOT solve problems that are God's purview.

Isaiah 22:15-19 (HCSB) The Lord GOD of Hosts said: “Go to Shebna, that steward who is in charge of the palace, and say to him: What are you doing here? Who authorized you to carve out a tomb for yourself here, carving your tomb on the height and cutting a crypt for yourself out of rock? Look, you strong man! The LORD is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, wind you up into a ball, and sling you into a wide land. There you will die, and there your glorious chariots will be—a disgrace to the house of your lord. I will remove you from your office; you will be ousted from your position.

Note the tone YHWH had in giving this oracle to Isaiah: You, Shebna, think yourself a strong man. YHWH will shake you violently, wind you up into a ball and sling you far where you will die and be disgraced.

After that, Eliakim will take Shebna's place; he will have position and prestige. He will be placed in a solid place - like a peg driven into a firm place, for coats to hang.

Isaiah 22:24-25 (HCSB) They will hang on him the whole burden of his father’s house: the descendants and the offshoots—all the small vessels, from bowls to every kind of jar. On that day”—the declaration of the LORD of Hosts—“the peg that was driven into a firm place will give way, be cut off, and fall, and the load on it will be destroyed.” Indeed, the LORD has spoken.

As the people of Judah are willing to put ALL their problems on Eliakim's shoulders (more trusting in man than in God), the peg will give way, be cut off, and all that was hanging on it destroyed. When the people got to the place where they took no responsibility for themselves, expected their government to handle everything, God removed the government He had established - cut him off - and destroyed those who had forgotten Him in favor of the government.

Indeed - YHWH has spoken.

Brothers and sisters - as we seek an honest and truthful outcome to our national elections, let us not put our hope in this party or that one; let us not get emotionally invested in the kingdom of this world. But let be responsible pilgrims with our eyes fixed on the Lord of Glory.