Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Isaiah 55 - YHWH calls His people to Himself

This chapter opens with what many call "an invitation" to come to salvation. Dear reader, the Sovereign God revealed to us in Scripture does not invite people to come to Him. We will see more of this, Lord willing, as we examine this chapter.

Isaiah 55:1-2 (HCSB) “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods."

Many people who claim the gospel is an offer turn to any of several places where God calls people to come to Him. In the first place, the English word, come, is an imperative - a command. When a mother tells her toddler "come here," she is not inviting him, she's not offering him the option; she's commanding him. When the queen of England bids an entertainer to sing for her, everybody calls it a "command performance" because the queen issued the "invitation." So many who call God sovereign posit Him as someone who offers and invites His creatures to come into His kingdom - as if He were less than the queen of England, less than a mother of small children.

How much more greater and grander and beyond our ability to comprehend is the Creator and Judge of all flesh? When the Lord of glory tells His chosen ones, "Come!" it is, as everyone who embraces the doctrines of grace knows, an irresistible call.  When you and I preach the gospel, we try to persuade men - the general call we give (not knowing who the elect are) can be resisted or accepted. Yet our words, our persuasive speech is not what saves anyone. The Spirit of God moves as does the wind - no man controls nor is able to know for sure where He goes. And He gives life to that which was dead, and those called by God to come are no more able to say no than Lazarus was, being 4 days dead in the tomb. Jesus did not invite Lazarus to come forth, didn't offer him another few years in the flesh. He commanded Lazarus to come forth; and Lazarus did so.

Preach the gospel to every creature, we are told. Nothing about offering the kingdom to anyone. Nothing about inviting them - compel them to come, the master of the wedding feast said. How do we compel people to come to Christ? By being faithful with our proclamation of His gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation for those who are being saved. He compels His chosen ones to come to the wedding feast.

When YHWH calls people who are thirsty to come to the waters, He is calling His people to Himself; this is not analogous to the general call we as men - for we do not know who are His people until we see the fruit of repentance and faith. Those who answer the gospel call of men are being drawn by the irresistible call from God to come! This is the command, not invitation, that brings life eternal.

All of His people will come to Him, in due time. And they will all drink from the fount of living water, buy wine and milk (representing spiritual and physical nourishment) without money. Just as national Israel was redeemed from Babylon without cost, spiritual Israel redeemed from sin and death can buy without cost - for the redeemer has paid it all.

Yet national Israel (always not far from view in Isiah) is rebuked by the questions - "Why do you spend money on what is not food?" and "Why do you work hard to buy that which does not satisfy?" We should ask ourselves these questions. How much of what God has given us do we waste on that which is not good for our bodies and souls? God says to the Jewish nation and to us: Listen to me! I will provide that which is GOOD, the CHOICEST of foods! He gives to His people His Son, whose blood was shed and body broken to give us life eternal.

Isaiah 55:3-5 (HCSB) "Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David. Since I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples, so you will summon a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you will run to you. For the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel, has glorified you.”

Again, YHWH tells His people to listen closely and come close so they will have life eternal. The everlasting covenant with His people, based on the promises made to David; he was told he would always have a Son to sit on his throne (2 Sam 7:11b-12). David was prone to think in terms of his own fleshly lineage - this was the way of the culture he was in - but Nathan's prophecy was clear that this Son would be different. This Son would be a witness to and ruler of all people. The Jews would summon nations that did not "know" Israel nor her God. The apostles were such, those who went out to the nations with the gospel proclamation - for salvation is of the Jews, to the Jew first then the Gentile! And all who have been called of God will run to Him and His people, for the glory of God is displayed as He raises up those who were spiritually dead to new life in Christ!

Note this saints - all that is done in the redemption of sinners is primarily for the glory of God. The grand and glorious benefits we derive from being reconciled to God are secondary; what we called in the military "collateral benefits" - those which are caused by the primary mission or goal. That primary goal is that God would be glorified in all of His creation.

Isaiah 55:6-11 (HCSB) Seek the LORD while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the LORDs declaration. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

The prophet calls to his kinsmen, come to YHWH today! Perhaps echoing the warning of Psalm 95 to not harden their hearts as in the days of the wilderness, Isaiah calls the wicked and sinful people to abandon their thoughts and action and seek YHWH Who will have compassion on all of His people - granting FORGIVENESS.

Who is this that forgives sin, punishing another for them? How foolish this reasoning is from a human perspective! Man is naturally hard-wired for self-justification, proving he is better than others. But the Creator and Judge of all flesh says His way of thinking is different than ours, His way of doing things is different than ours. One of the problems man has is to think too lowly of God, too highly of self. Psalm 50:21 is a good reminder that goes along with Isaiah's passage.

Look up at the stars - can you imagine the distance to them? Think about how difficult that would be without the data our modern instruments have made available to even grad school children. Far beyond our ability to think or imagine, God's ways and thoughts are beyond ours. When the angelic host declares He is thrice holy, this is what they meant; God is NOT LIKE His creation. All our inclinations to think we know better than God need to be nipped in the bud, repented of and burned up. "Mother Earth" does not control the weather; there is One Who does! It is YHWH, Creator, upholder, sustainer, king, and judge of all creation! He gave creation the covenant of Noah (Gen 9:9-17), promising life on earth to even the most reprobate person.

As the farmer learns to depend on the rain and snow to keep his soil fertile, producing much produce, so His people should depend on His Word to do likewise when we are faithful to proclaim to all people. He WILL redeem His people by the foolishness of our preaching and proclaiming His gospel. In this we CANNOT trust our ways or thoughts but must submit to Him.

Isaiah 55:12-13 (HCSB) You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up; it will make a name for Yahweh as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.

Who goes out - regardless of circumstances - with joy and peace? Only those who have peace beyond human understanding, peace that brings comfort and assurance and JOY unbounded; not subject to whether we have electricity in the coldest storm on record. Creation rejoices when people are reconciled to God; the singing of mountains and clapping hands of trees reflects the joy in heaven as the angels rejoice over one lost sheep brought into the great shepherd's sheepfold.

On the new earth, the curse brought on creation by Adam's sin (Gen 3:17-18) is lifted and good trees sprout up in place of thorns and briers. This new creation testifies of YHWH even more than the current creation (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1"19-20), and the new creation - new heavens and earth - will never come to an end. For there will be no more sin or temptation on that new earth where righteousness dwells. Death came through sin and the death of sin will mean the end of death. All this is the work of God in Christ, who put sin and hell and death to death by His death in the flesh. And being raised up to an indestructible life, Christ Jesus gives us an indestructible sure hope of eternal life with Him.

Again - if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Repent and believe on the Christ. If you are His, consider Him as He is - not like us in His nature. He is God the Son who gave Himself as a sacrifice to give His people eternal life. Be in awe of Him and do not allow the mountains and trees to praise Him more than you - or I - do.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Isaiah 54 - YHWH's covenant of peace

One thing we can know for sure, regarding this chapter: it begins with a promise that IS fulfilled spiritually. The first verse is quoted by Paul in Gal 4:27 in his defense of the New Covenant, wherein he describes Jerusalem from above as freedom - freedom from the slavery of sin!

Isaiah 54:1 (HCSB) “Rejoice, childless one, who did not give birth; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the forsaken one will be more than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.

While the redeemed in national Israel were never more than a mere remnant, causing Hagar to be seen as more fruitful and Sarah to be seen as childless, the children from above are delivered without labor by man or woman but are born from above! This is God's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!

Isaiah 54:2-3 (HCSB) “Enlarge the site of your tent, and let your tent curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your ropes, and drive your pegs deep. For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will dispossess nations and inhabit the desolate cities."

This language of enlarge the tent site, moving the pegs, etc. is a word picture built on literal meaning. For as this Bedouin people would need to do these things to accommodate a larger community, God speaks here of that community born of the Spirit. In similar language James quotes from Amos 9 and Isaiah 45, saying that David's tent had been rebuilt and set up again to accept the Gentiles who are called by God (Acts 15:15-18). God's redemptive plan has always included those who were excluded from the covenant with national Israel. The redeemed Jews would enlarge and rebuild their tents to welcome these new brothers and sisters. The cities that were desolate would now be home children of the King!

Isaiah 54:4-8 (HCSB) “Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood. Indeed, your husband is your Maker— His name is Yahweh of Hosts— and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you, like a wife deserted and wounded in spirit, a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God. “I deserted you for a brief moment, but I will take you back with great compassion. In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but I will have compassion on you with everlasting love,” says the LORD your Redeemer.

All who have saving faith in the Son have no reason to live in fear - their sins have been forgiven and He will remember them no longer. Those foolish and shameful things we did in former times, when we walked according to the prince of the power of the air no longer stain our account. In the ancient near-east, widows were vulnerable, as they could not own property. It was risky to be without a husband, just as it is risky to be without YHWH. For the chosen ones, the Creator is our husband - YHWH of hosts - the Holy One of Israel - the God of all the earth! He has stooped low and gather up poor souls from desolate areas to be His prized possessions.

National Israel would feel like a deserted wife, wounded by rejection of her husband - for God deserted national Israel for a time; 70 years in this case. Israel would be in bondage a far shorter time than when in Egypt. But for those taken into bondage by Babylon, it was a far great distress. All their history as God's covenant people was under their belt. They had grown accustomed to being the apple of His eye. The length of their exile was pegged to the yearly Sabbath they had forsaken. Jeremiah prophesied this, as we read in Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10-14 This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation… “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Yet He was yet Israel's redeemer, for her time had not yet come. History was unfolding precisely according to the plan laid out before time was spoken into existence. The time would come for the kingdom to be taken from national Israel and given to another nation bearing fruit - but that time was not during Isaiah's day.

Isaiah 54:9-10 (HCSB) “For this is like the days of Noah to Me: when I swore that the waters of Noah would never flood the earth again, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you. Though the mountains move and the hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says your compassionate LORD.

This is the promise to all who are called, not a promise to the nation-state of Israel. Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, saves all who have been appointed unto eternal life, from every nation, tribe, and tongue. This redemption is as the waters of Noah to me, says the Lord of Hosts. Author Hal Brunson (The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror, page 60) observed:

this points backwards, not merely to the language and theology of the slaughtered and speechless Lamb, but even to the very moment at which God would impute the transgressions of His people to their Savior and His righteousness to them. “This”, God says, “is as the waters of Noah to me” - “this” - His being “despised and rejected of men”; “this is as the waters of Noah – His identity as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”; His “bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows”; the Savior “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted … wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastised for our peace, and striped for our healing” - “This is as the waters of Noah to me” - His oppression, His affliction, His slaughtering, His substitutionary imprisonment within the iron bars of injustice, His burial with the wicked in the grave of hell's billows: “This”, says the Almighty, “is as the waters of Noah to me.

This is the testimony of God and cannot be erased. National Israel would be ransomed without money, but that would be to serve as a type of the redemption God has planned for His spiritual children. Though mountains be moved and hills shaken (reminds me of the ending of Rev 6) God's love will not be removed from His sheep - because they are in His covenant of peace, that promise to Abraham in Gen 12 which finds fulfillment in the New Covenant. This is the word of the living God Who has compassion on His own.

Isaiah 54:11-15 (HCSB) “Poor Jerusalem, storm-tossed, and not comforted, I will set your stones in black mortar, and lay your foundations in sapphires. I will make your fortifications out of rubies, your gates out of sparkling stones, and all your walls out of precious stones. Then all your children will be taught by the LORD, their prosperity will be great, and you will be established on a foundation of righteousness. You will be far from oppression, you will certainly not be afraid; you will be far from terror, it will certainly not come near you. If anyone attacks you, it is not from Me; whoever attacks you will fall before you."

Poor storm-tossed, pagan assaulted temporal, earthly Jerusalem. Though many a Jew anticipated the return of earthly Jerusalem to earthly glory, such was never realized. Because the purpose all along was for that city to serve as a shadow or type of the heavenly Jerusalem, that city from above, which is and always was the goal of YHWH. The description of the foundation and gates and walls harkens to what we read in Revelation 21. All of the children of promise will be taught by God, they will all know Him and not need to be told, "Know the Lord." (Jer 31:34). All in this kingdom will be prosperous - but not in the way the Jewish men thought; in righteousness that is of God Himself. No poverty, no fear of man, for God will defend His own. Part of the promises made to the patriarchs is almighty God’s promise to protect and defend His people and take retribution out on those who attack them. This becomes all the more sweet to those of us who have been adopted into His family and are called His temple and His body. Let us see how this protection of God is portrayed for Israel – the Israel of God.

Abram. Genesis 12:2 & 3: I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Jacob. Genesis 27:29: Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!

Israel. Numbers 24:8 & 9: God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows. He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.

True Israel. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 

Re-read verse 15 in our chapter: "If anyone attacks you, it is not from Me; whoever attacks you will fall before you." I pray we have more clarity about God's purpose and intent about protecting and caring for those who were not His people but now ARE His people.

Isaiah 54:16-17 (HCSB) Look, I have created the craftsman who blows on the charcoal fire and produces a weapon suitable for its task; and I have created the destroyer to cause havoc. No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the LORD’s servants, and their righteousness is from Me.” This is the LORDs declaration.

These past two verses show us the futility of man thinking he can wage war against God. Like gods who cannot hear, think, or speak; these men are themselves not far different from the gods they serve. All these men who rage against God are His creatures, using material He created. They can kill one another but cannot prevail against the One Who rules all. How could a creature prevail against the Creator? Who can lay a charge against the elect - it is God Who justifies (Romans 8:33). It is Christ Jesus who intercedes as our advocate, our mediator. Further - He Who knew no sin became sin so we could have His righteousness! (2 Cor 5:21). This is the same message YHWH is telling His people in Isaiah's gospel. Same gospel - all is from God for His glory and our good.

Dear reader - are you His people, or are you those that are called NOT His people? There is no benefit to knowing about Him if you do not know Him, or rather be known by Him. Indeed, the more knowledge without salvation the greater the judgment. Jesus is the only way to peace with God. Spurn Him not, harden not your heart. There is a day coming whence there will be no room for repentance.