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!

No comments:

Post a Comment