Thursday, February 4, 2021

Isaiah 49: The Servant Brings Salvation.

I enjoy seeing how various translations title chapters. I have the HCSB above; the ESV calls this chapter "The Servant of the Lord" and the KJV has it "Christ, being sent to the Jews, complains of them." We certainly read of Jesus rebuking the Jewish leaders during His earthly ministry. You decide if this chapter has Him complaining about them.

I haven't been leaning on commentaries much during this walk through Isaiah, but I see what John Gill said every once in a while. He agrees with me that this chapter is a prophecy about the Lord Christ; it begins the section in this book about the suffering Servant.

Isaiah 49:1-3 (HCSB) Coastlands, listen to me; distant peoples, pay attention. The LORD called me before I was born. He named me while I was in my mother’s womb. He made my words like a sharp sword; He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me like a sharpened arrow; He hid me in His quiver. He said to me, “You are My Servant, Israel; I will be glorified in him.”

The first three verses identify who is being called (distant people- Gentiles); that this Servant was called by God before He was born (Jesus - eternally with the Father); and was named while in the womb (see Matt 1:21). The Servant was like an arrow crafted by the Father, hidden until the fullness of time when He would come as a man to fulfill the Father's will and glorify Him in all He did.

Some will say that these terms are applied to mortals in Scripture - true enough! But recall that this book is a vision given to Isaiah (first verse) and types that were true in the time of the author find their fulfillment in the spiritual reality that was to come - in the person of Christ or in the consummation of the ages when He returns the second time.

Isaiah 49:4-5 (HCSB) But I myself said: I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and futility; yet my vindication is with the LORD, and my reward is with my God. And now, says the LORD, who formed me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him so that Israel might be gathered to Him; for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God is my strength.

Jesus, speaking of the reception He would have among His own people. This aligns with His lament about the leaders of that people - "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing!" (Matt 23:37). He worked signs and wonders among them and yet, they demanded He be crucified and the murderer released. And for the glory of His Father's approval, Christ went to the cross on behalf of His sheep, bringing the elect from near (Israel) and far (Gentiles) back to the sheepfold of God. His strength was to do the Father's will and in Him God the Father was delighted. It was the Holy Spirit that conceived Christ in the womb of Mary for this very purpose!

Isaiah 49:6-7 (HCSB) He says, “It is not enough for you to be My Servant raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the protected ones of Israel. I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” This is what the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, says to one who is despised, to one abhorred by people, to a servant of rulers: “Kings will see and stand up, and princes will bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel—and He has chosen you.”

We read here the Father telling the Son something they both already knew, but ethnic Israel would have a long time failing to understand this. The Son would redeem people from all of ethnic Israel, He would also be a light unto the nations, redeeming people from the far corners of the planet in every generation. The emphasis here is to remind the Jewish people that "their" God would save people from every nation. Jesus came to His own, the Jewish people, but they did not receive Him - He was mocked, ridiculed, and put to death by them. He came to serve those He would save and would be renowned throughout the world as the chosen One, the promised One, the only Son of the one true God.

Isaiah 49:8-12 (HCSB) This is what the LORD says: I will answer you in a time of favor, and I will help you in the day of salvation. I will keep you, and I will appoint you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land, to make them possess the desolate inheritances, saying to the prisoners: Come out, and to those who are in darkness: Show yourselves. They will feed along the pathways, and their pastures will be on all the barren heights. They will not hunger or thirst, the scorching heat or sun will not strike them; for their compassionate One will guide them, and lead them to springs of water. I will make all My mountains into a road, and My highways will be raised up. See, these will come from far away, from the north and from the west, and from the land of Sinim.

This segment highlights YHWH's declaration that He will be help to His Son in the day of salvation, when the Messiah would suffer for us. He would appoint the Son to be a covenant for us which would provide homes in the heavenly land, where prisoners were free, and the people would have neither hunger nor thirst. The Lamb of God will guide them to His sheepfold, providing springs of water and smooth ways for all the elect to come from all four corners of the world.

Isaiah 49:13 (HCSB) Shout for joy, you heavens! Earth, rejoice! Mountains break into joyful shouts! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.

At the good news in verses 8-12, the people and heavenly hosts have every good reason to shout for joy and rejoice with gladness! YHWH has comforted His people with the Lamb - has compassion on His afflicted ones, those who are poor in spirit.

Isaiah 49:14-21 (HCSB) Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. Your builders hurry; those who destroy and devastate you will leave you. Look up, and look around. They all gather together; they come to you. As I live”— this is the LORDs declaration you will wear all your children as jewelry, and put them on as a bride does. For your waste and desolate places and your land marked by ruins— will now be indeed too small for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. Yet as you listen, the children that you have been deprived of will say, ‘This place is too small for me; make room for me so that I may settle.’ Then you will say within yourself, ‘Who fathered these for me? I was deprived of my children and unable to conceive, exiled and wandering— but who brought them up? See, I was left by myself— but these, where did they come from?’”

The ones chosen by God whine that He has abandoned them, forgotten them.  He answers, using striking metaphors to drive the point home. God further declares that they - the redeemed - will have countless children. Recall the promise to Abram - he would be the father of many nations. We are children of Abraham if we have faith in Christ! Many children has father Abraham! In the agrarian life of the ancient near east, having many children insured wealth - this is the reason the people were whining and it's the reason God uses the metaphors He does to assure them they have not been abandoned.

Isaiah 49:22-23 (HCSB) This is what the Lord GOD says: Look, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground, and lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am Yahweh; those who put their hope in Me will not be put to shame.

When a prophet declares "this is what the Lord God says" - pay close attention! That is the point. Nothing new being presented here - God will call to the nations and bring children of Abraham to Zion. The people listed - sons, daughters, kings, queens, foster fathers, and nursing mothers - all serve one another in the New Covenant. Once proud people would humble themselves before other saints - and all would then know the Savior, being found in Him would be a refuge on the day when people seek a hiding place apart from Christ.

Isaiah 49:24-26 (HCSB) Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of the righteous be delivered? For this is what the LORD says: “Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken, and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered; I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your children. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they will be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. Then all flesh will know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

YHWH brings up these questions because, like people today, people then had worries that they might not be secure, safe in His care. Again, reminiscent of the promise to Abraham - "I will bless those that bless you, I will curse those that curse you." The battle against our enemies belongs to the Lord. They will be soundly defeated so that all flesh will that YHWH is the savior of His people, their Redeemer, the Mighty One that none can withstand.

Child of God - do not doubt the saving and keeping power of God regarding His chosen ones. Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless. Faith in Him works itself out by daily trusting in Him. This day - do you trust in Christ? He is surety for all who trust in Him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Isaiah 48 - Israel Refined for God's Glory

This time, the ESV gives us the best view of the text with its title. The HCSB has "Israel Must Leave Babylon" and the KJV has too many words to be repeated here. God will refine Israel for His glory - that is what we will see.

Isaiah 48:1-2 (HCSB) “Listen to this, house of Jacob— those who are called by the name Israel and have descended from Judah, who swear by the name of Yahweh and declare the God of Israel, but not in truth or righteousness. For they are named after the Holy City, and lean on the God of Israel; His name is Yahweh of Hosts."

Ethnic Israel had a long-standing problem of putting confidence in the flesh - they were children of Abraham, thought themselves the true worshipers of YHWH even though they broke His covenant and lusted after the things the pagan nations had that were forbidden to them. Repeatedly God tells them He finds their religion tedious and putrid. Having a name from God ethnic Israel thought they could pay lip service to Him.

Isaiah 48:3-5 (HCSB) I declared the past events long ago; they came out of My mouth; I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they occurred. Because I know that you are stubborn, and your neck is iron and your forehead bronze, therefore I declared to you long ago. I announced it to you before it occurred, so you could not claim, ‘My idol caused them; my carved image and cast idol control them.’

The "past events" were the previous judgments YHWH caused to rain down on Israel. These didn't happen out of national envy - this was God's plan, acting without notice to man so it seemed sudden. Why did He do this? National Israel was stubborn and stiff-necked and hard-headed - they were told this multiple times by numerous prophets. To make sure they wouldn't think too little of their misfortune, God declared His judgment to them a long time prior so they would not blame it on things they made with their hands. They had not offended mute, dumb gods; they had rebelled against Creator God who had formed them into a nation for His own redemptive purposes.

Isaiah 48:6-11 (HCSB) You have heard it. Observe it all. Will you not acknowledge it? From now on I will announce new things to you, hidden things that you have not known. They have been created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today, so you could not claim, ‘I already knew them!’ You have never heard; you have never known; For a long time your ears have not been open. For I knew that you were very treacherous, and were known as a rebel from birth. I will delay My anger for the honor of My name, and I will restrain Myself for your benefit and for My praise, so that you will not be destroyed. Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. I will act for My own sake, indeed, My own, for how can I be defiled? I will not give My glory to another.

Their God and King changes tone and bids His people to listen to Him. Something new will take place, things they have not seen, things created NOW. This was done so national Israel would not think to themselves, "Oh yeah - I remember these things that Moses mentioned!" As Isaiah was told in his commissioning, in chapter 6, this people would have ears that would not listen; hardened because they were deceitful (see Amos 8 wherein they anticipated the end of the Sabbath so they could cheat people in the marketplace) and rebellious (as were we - see Romans 5). Yet YHWH was patient with national Israel, exercising restraint for their benefit and His praise. Their long exile in Babylon would end, having served to refine and purify and test them. God sent them to exile and He would redeem from exile for His sake - see Numbers 14:13-14 where Moses pleads with God to not destroy the people for the sake of His name. We are to seek God's favor merely for our benefit, but that He would be honored in whatever He does for us. YHWH will not be defiled by His actions - His motives are pure and His jealously for His glory is righteous. He will not share that with ANYONE.

Isaiah 48:12-15 (HCSB) “Listen to Me, Jacob, and Israel, the one called by Me: I am He; I am the first, I am also the last. My own hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summoned them, they stood up together. All of you, assemble and listen! Who among the idols has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he will accomplish His will against Babylon, and His arm will be against the Chaldeans. II have spoken; yes, I have called him; I have brought him, and he will succeed in his mission."

My tendency is to say, "This reference to Jacob and Israel refers to the elect, the remnant and not to the nation." But the context here does not allow that. God continues to call to His ethnic people, the community He formed. Note how He refers to Himself here, as the first and last and recall how Jesus described Himself - Rev 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty." Jesus alludes to this passage to make clear He is God, "alpha" and "omega" being the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is the One who made all things, caused them to bow to His will (see Col 1:16-17); the people that He made and called together and gave His law to are commanded to gather themselves up and pay attention. No gods of Baal or Dagon can do this!

One that YHWH loves will do His will and overthrow Babylon and Chaldea. The word rendered love in English is a Hebrew word (ahab) which means kind affection. Every commentary I was able to consult agree that the one described here is Cyrus. It was the Medes and Persians that overthrew Babylon after Belshazzar was weighed in the balance and found wanting. It was during the first year of Cyrus' reign that Daniel was released from Babylon (Dan 1:21). Cyrus was king of Persia and Daniel prospered under the rule of Darius and Cyrus (Dan 6:28). Cyrus would triumph over Babylon and Chaldea because it was the mighty arm of the Lord that was holding Cyrus up to do His good pleasure.

Matthew Poole had the best summary of why we see Cyrus as the one God loved: "Now God loved Cyrus, not with a special, and everlasting, and complacential love, for he was a heathen, and had some great vices as well as virtues; but with that general love and kindness which God hath for all his creatures, as is observed, Psalm 145:9; and moreover with that particular kind of love which God hath for such men as excel others in any virtues, as Cyrus did; in which sense Christ loved the young man, Mark 10:21; and with a love of good-will and beneficence. God had such a kindness for him, as to make him a most glorious and victorious general and king, and the great instrument for the deliverance of his own people."

Isaiah 48:16 (HCSB) "Approach Me and listen to this. From the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time anything existed, I was there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me and His Spirit.

This verse stands as a reminder that it is God who commands His people come near and listen, He is the only One who was before time. And He works through means, which includes His called out ones - prophets and preachers who proclaim His Truth, by His Spirit.

Isaiah 48:17-19 (HCSB) This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to My commands. Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been as countless as the sand, and the offspring of your body like its grains; their name would not be cut off or eliminated from My presence.

Again, YHWH declares Who He is so this stiff-necked, hard-headed people will listen. None but God is their redeemer, their Holy One who teaches them and leads them. If they had not been stiff-necked and hard-hearted they would have heard and obeyed Him, and they would have "peace like a river." We are all familiar with that phrase, from a hymn. Such peace only comes to those who have had their ears opened to the gospel of grace and walk as children of the light. It is these true children of God that have an alien righteousness that flows like the sea. If national Israel had not been stiff-necked and hard-hearted they would have countless offspring and not cut off by God. The promise to Abram would be fulfilled in a people not stiff-necked nor hard-hearted; a people given new hearts of flesh and a willing, humble soul that rejoices in the blessedness bestowed upon them by their Redeemer. The kingdom was taken from national Israel and given to spiritual Israel (Matt 21:43).

Isaiah 48:20-22 (HCSB) Leave Babylon, flee from the Chaldeans! Declare with a shout of joy, proclaim this, let it go out to the end of the earth; announce, “The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob!” They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He made water flow for them from the rock; He split the rock, and water gushed out. “There is no peace for the wicked,” says the LORD.

There is irony here. It was God Who sent Israel to Babylon, telling them to prosper there (see Jeremiah 29:7) and now He tells them to flea that nation; and He will make their return from exile possible. That is the whole point of this discourse - God rules history, the means and the metanarrative. All the earth will hear how the Holy One of Israel had redeemed them from Babylon! He reminds that He had taken care of them in the wilderness, referring to that rock that was Christ (1 Cor 10:4). Here we see the anti-type as the type is being prepared for temporal redemption, those who drink living water will experience spiritual, eternal redemption. Another stark contrast that Isaiah is so fond of: Those wicked persons that remain stiff-necked and hard-hearted will have no peace. Only those called out of darkness into the kingdom of His glorious light will experience peace like a river. YHWH says this, man cannot overthrow it.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Isaiah 47 - God's Judgment on Babylon

Once again, I think the KJV editors had a better grasp on the main theme of the chapter. The HCSB and ESV have The Fall or Humiliation of Babylon. God's judgment is the cause of the fall or humiliation and it's better for us to see Him as the reason these things happen.

Isaiah 47:1-4 (HCSB) “Go down and sit in the dust, Virgin Daughter Babylon. Sit on the ground without a throne, Daughter Chaldea! For you will no longer be called pampered and spoiled. Take millstones and grind meal; remove your veil, strip off your skirt, bare your thigh, wade through the streams. Your nakedness will be uncovered, and your shame will be exposed. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one. The Holy One of Israel is our Redeemer; Yahweh of Hosts is His name."

Babylon is often used in Scripture to depict the system of the world; but Babylon was a real nation. This is the pattern of types and anti-types; contrary to metaphors, types are always actual, real historical things or people. In this chapter, it's the type, the nation of Babylon that is being judged by God.

Here, Babylon is mockingly called a virgin daughter who is told to sit on the ground. Mighty Babylon the great will be humiliated, no longer treated like royalty but required to work the mills. No longer mighty and ruling in luxury, Babylon will be unveiled, stripped naked, and exposed for all to see. None will be spared. Chaldea was a tribe in southern Babylon that spoke Aramaic that ruled the nation from 626 -586 BC. All that happens is because the Holy One of Israel - redeemer of sinners, YHWH of Hosts has spoken it. Nothing is "left to chance."

Isaiah 47:5-7 (HCSB) “Daughter Chaldea, sit in silence and go into darkness. For you will no longer be called mistress of kingdoms. I was angry with My people; I profaned My possession, and I placed them under your control. You showed them no mercy; you made your yoke very heavy on the elderly. You said, ‘I will be the mistress forever.’ You did not take these things to heart or think about their outcome."

The powerful tribe of Babylon is told to sit in silence in darkness; no longer mistress of kingdoms she is brought low, taken prisoner. God was angry with His people, ethnic Israel; He ordered the pagan nations to punish them, placing His covenant people under their rule for the chastisement He deemed necessary. Babylon went "above and beyond" the mission, displaying natural man's depravity without restraint. Babylon imposed heavy burdens on the old people in Israel, thinking she would remain the mistress of kingdoms always. Kings were known for having many wives and mistresses and concubines. A good mistress would be well taken care of. But Babylon did not take to heart what YHWH had told her not considered the consequences of her cruelty.

Isaiah 47:8-10 (HCSB) “So now hear this, lover of luxury, who sits securely, who says to herself, ‘I exist, and there is no one else. I will never be a widow or know the loss of children.’ These two things will happen to you suddenly, in one day: loss of children and widowhood. They will happen to you in their entirety, in spite of your many sorceries and the potency of your spells. You were secure in your wickedness; you said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge led you astray. You said to yourself, ‘I exist, and there is no one else.’"

Deeper into the humiliation of Babylon as she sees herself as one who deserves luxury, is alone wise and powerful, and will never suffer loss. God demands to be heard, even of this stiff-necked nation. Two things will take place suddenly - the loss of the two things Babylon thought she would never loose. None of Babylon's magic, no false security in luxury could withstand the judgment and loss delivered by the Holy One of Israel. Babylon thought she could hide her sins, being wise in her own estimation, thinking she was above the fray of the "common folk." We know from Scripture that nothing is hid from God, that none are wise that trust in self. In the ancient near east, being a woman without husband or children was a most vulnerable person. Even as the most powerful nation in the world at one time, Babylon was as a childless widow in contrast to almighty Creator and Judge, YHWH of Hosts!

Isaiah 47:11-15 (HCSB) But disaster will happen to you; you will not know how to avert it. And it will fall on you, but you will be unable to ward it off. Devastation will happen to you suddenly and unexpectedly. So take your stand with your spells and your many sorceries, which you have wearied yourself with from your youth. Perhaps you will be able to succeed; perhaps you will inspire terror! You are worn out with your many consultations. So let them stand and save you— the astrologers, who observe the stars, who predict monthly what will happen to you. Look, they are like stubble; fire burns them up. They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. This is not a coal for warming themselves, or a fire to sit beside! This is what they are to you— those who have wearied you and have traded with you from your youth— each wanders on his own way; no one can save you.

When God moves against a people, nothing they can do will avert it - judgment is coming and it will go according to God's predetermined plan. It will come quickly and when the people think all is well - when preachers preach "peace, peace!" where there is no peace.

God taunts Babylon, telling her to gather all her magic (that were wearisome to keep up) and try to stand and succeed. Gather the astrologers and watch their charts and prophecies burn. No demonic magic, no pagan religion, no self-important people can deliver themselves from God's judgment fire! God's judgment is not something man can handle, like a campfire. When judgment comes, each of these powerful men who could provide no aid will abandon Babylon, each seeing to his own interests - unable and disinterested in saving Babylon.

Now let's see how this type is fulfilled at the end of the age.

Revelation 18:9-11 (HCSB) The kings of the earth who have committed sexual immorality and lived luxuriously with her will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off in fear of her torment, saying: Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgment has come. The merchants of the earth will also weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their merchandise any longer—Revelation 18:15-20 (HCSB) The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand far off in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying: Woe, woe, the great city, dressed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls, for in a single hour such fabulous wealth was destroyed! And every shipmaster, seafarer, the sailors, and all who do business by sea, stood far off as they watched the smoke from her burning and kept crying out: “Who is like the great city?” They threw dust on their heads and kept crying out, weeping, and mourning: Woe, woe, the great city, where all those who have ships on the sea became rich from her wealth, for in a single hour she was destroyed. Rejoice over her, heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets, because God has executed your judgment on her!

Verse 21 tells us a mighty angel threw a large millstone into the sea (which represents the people of the world). Recall how Babylon was told to pick up a millstone in verse 2?

Everything we've read in Isaiah 47 regarding the actual nation of Babylon took place in history, and foreshadowed God's judgment on the system of the world.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot afford to deceive ourselves, thinking we can hide things from God, thinking we will always sit in the lap of luxury, that we'll know when bad times are coming. Whether it's the stock market, disease, or death - we do not know what tomorrow holds. If we know who holds tomorrow in His hands, we will be fine. This world is not our home - let's not act like it is. That's how Babylon behaved.

1 Peter 2:16-17 (HCSB) As God’s slaves, live as free people, but dont use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.

Trust the King - not your ability to follow Him.