Friday, February 26, 2021

Isaiah 59 - Sin is SO hideous it takes an act of God to pay for it.

This chapter begins with a short reminder that the problem is not with God; He is not limited in His ability to hear His people and save them. The bulk of this chapter is a rather thorough description of sin with closure provided by getting back to salvation being of the Lord.

Isaiah 59:1 (HCSB) Indeed, the LORD’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear.

National Israel continued in the walk of Moses, complaining in trials and accusing God of not caring. On several occasions He reminded them of Whose strong arm delivered them from Egypt, the same made all things and rules all things - dried up the sea for Moses and company to walk on. YHWH always hears His people, though we may not be aware - as Daniel wasn't for the 21 days Michael was delayed in getting word to him. The system of Sabbaths was to teach Israel to trust God - He would provide. The message to the women at the tomb, when they didn't see Jesus therein, was to "remember His words." This is our counsel today for the saints as well: trust God, remember His words. Pray to Him and trust nothing else.

Isaiah 59:2-3 (HCSB) But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers, with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, and your tongues mutter injustice.

The sins of unregenerate people build impassible barriers between them and God, causing Him to turn from and not hear them. He lists their most egregious sins, which characterize people world-wide in every generation: they shed innocent blood, speak lies, and embrace injustice. In our day, those who "shout their abortions," who demand punishment for speaking truth, who declare falsehoods to be truth - all are storing up wrath for that great day of judgment. God is not wooing these reprobates to repent. There may some elect therein that have yet to be called out, but as a group they have built barriers between them and Him and He does not hear them.

Verses 4 - 6 rehearse more of what characterizes these people, being those who speaks worthless words, gives birth to evil, set traps for any and all, yet they cannot hide behind their deeds, worthless and sinful deeds, and their hands are full of violence.

I am amazed whenever I hear someone claim man is basically good and just needs education and good role models. Our technology and other tools have merely given us as a people more ways to speak worthless words and fill our hands with violence, all the while thinking we are unseen - or that it's OK unless we get caught. Man in his natural state is depraved, totally wrecked in every function of his being and unable to do or even want anything good. This part of the chapter is the story of that person.

Isaiah 59:7-8 (HCSB) Their feet run after evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are sinful thoughts; ruin and wretchedness are in their paths. They have not known the path of peace, and there is no justice in their ways. They have made their roads crooked; no one who walks on them will know peace.

People who run after evil, not those who fall into it because they're sleep walking. People whose thoughts are only evil continually leaving ruin in their wakes. Here's the end: these have not known the path of peace, they know not justice. Like the river following the path of least resistance, the man who does so will have a crooked path and none who follow them find peace. This is the reason the promised Messiah came - to bring rest and peace to wretched sinners. None can know peace unless they are given new life and are brought near to Him.

Isaiah 59:9-11 (HCSB) Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We hope for light, but there is darkness; for brightness, but we live in the night. We grope along a wall like the blind; we grope like those without eyes. We stumble at noon as though it were twilight; we are like the dead among those who are healthy. We all growl like bears and moan like doves. We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.

Isaiah speaks for Israel - justice and righteousness they know not. They live in the dark and grope like those in Rev 8 when the fourth trumpet sounds and a third of them wandered in the dark as if they were blind. They stumble in broad daylight, seeing not - as dead among the living. This ought to put Eph 2 in your mind, where the saints are described as those who WERE dead in sins but NOW made alive in Christ; we also should think of Romans 14:99ff and be careful to not cause a brother to stumble by our exercise of Christian liberty. These who rage against their Creator are like beasts who hope for what think justice is (overlooking their sins) but they cannot find it. Nor can salvation be found by them - as far as God has turned His face, further still is salvation for those who cannot hear His voice.

Isaiah 59:12-15a (HCSB) For our transgressions have multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us. For our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgression and deception against the LORD, turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering lying words from the heart. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far off. For truth has stumbled in the public square, and honesty cannot enter. Truth is missing, and whoever turns from evil is plundered.

The prophet leads them to see how their rebellion has multiplied before God, testifying against them. They have lived and worked AGAINST God, turned from following Him; they sought to oppress others, revolting against YHWH's covenant and lying to all. Just like the politicians who hold the high offices in the US of A these days. Justice is not to be found, not our Congress nor in our "Supreme Court." Truth is missing and honesty is barred from entry. Only those who try to keep themselves from evil are plundered. Our nation looks just like national Israel in this passage. God have mercy on us.

Isaiah 59:15b-20 (HCSB) The LORD saw that there was no justice, and He was offended. He saw that there was no man— He was amazed that there was no one interceding; so His own arm brought salvation, and His own righteousness supported Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and He wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak. So He will repay according to their deeds: fury to His enemies, retribution to His foes, and He will repay the coastlands. They will fear the name of Yahweh in the west and His glory in the east; for He will come like a rushing stream driven by the wind of the LORD. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those in Jacob who turn from transgression.” This is the LORDs declaration.

When YHWH looks down on carnal man, He sees no justice, for natural man perverts every good thing God gives him. No man looking out for his neighbor, pleading for justice in place of the corruption that was normal. This is a stench in His nose.

Note the response to all this wickedness: God decides to intervene, using His own arm to bring salvation, His own righteousness as a breastplate with a helmet of salvation on His head. Did you ever see the connection between Eph 6 and Isaiah 59 before? He wore garments of vengeance, reminding me of the scene in Rev 19 with Jesus on a white horse, His eyes like a fiery flame, and He wore a robe stained with blood; and He will trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. Isaiah says He will repay according to their deeds, fury to His enemies - from the islands and coastlands all will fear His name. His glory will spread from east and He will come like a rushing steam driven by YHWH. In the midst of all this judgment and fury against His enemies, God declares "The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob (Israel) who turn from their sin." He will gather every one of His chosen ones to Himself, safe on Zion, where His righteousness protects them.

Isaiah 59:21 (HCSB) “As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit who is on you, and My words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouth of your children, or from the mouth of your children’s children, from now on and forever,” says the LORD.

This last verse confirms that the talk of bringing people to Zion speaks of eternal redemption and not merely a return to earthly Jerusalem. YHWH's language here is very reminiscent of what He spoke through Jeremiah: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (HCSB) “Look, the days are coming”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypta covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the LORD’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the LORD’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the LORDs declaration. For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

Isaiah's account covers similar territory: His words would in the mouths of His people and would not depart - which means they would not drift away. This is not like the covenant made with Moses and those people, they wandered off more than they sought reconciliation. Isaiah's account says this constant presence would be with Jacob and his children on to countless generations. Rather than think this describes fleshly relationships as the Jews of Jesus' day rested on, it's far safer and more accurate to think this describes what Paul mentioned, calling Timothy his son in the faith (1 Tim 1:2) and told everyone that those who believe are children of Abraham according to the promise (Gal 3:29; Romans 4:16).

Dear reader, please carefully consider what God spoke here. Sin - yours, mine, everyone's - is hideous and is worthy of God's fiery wrath. Man cannot resolve this problem, it's his nature to continue in this grotesque rebellion against the Creator. God Himself has provided the only answer to this horrible situation - Christ the Son has come to give Himself as a redeemer, to pay the price for the wayward sheep called to come the great Shepherd of their souls. Believe on Him, repent of your sins - recognize they are wicked and you are responsible. Cry out to Jesus, the Redeemer has come to Zion and He calls all His people to come to Him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Isaiah 58 - Hypocrisy Exposed and Rebuked

Having revealed the ways and the doom of the wicked in chapter 57, the prophet was inspired to reveal and rebuke the hypocrisy that was rampant in national Israel in this chapter.

Isaiah 58:1 (HCSB) “Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins."

Isaiah is told by God to trumpet national Israel's sins to them - make it know widely to all. This is similar in intensity to the prior command to proclaim the good news, make it known to all (chapter 52). The balance of this short chapter is just that.

Isaiah 58:2-3a (HCSB) "They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.” “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”

YHWH taunts Israel, acknowledging they APPEAR to seek Him, like a nation that does right in the eyes of God. They ask for righteous judgment and delight (this word is used several times in this chapter) in being close to Him. And yet - their actions speak louder than their words, as we shall see. Israel pointed to their pious actions and complain that God has not noticed. When Moses pleaded with God to NOT destroy the Hebrew nation, He did not tout their pious acts - He pleaded for God to remember His promise and act to keep His name from being profaned among the pagans. When people brag on their deeds of piety they are waving a flag of self-righteousness. Our desires to be close to God MUST be based on His righteousness for His glory and NEVER on our acts of piety.

Isaiah 58:3b-7 (HCSB) “Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high. Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the LORD? Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?"

Here is YHWH's response. He exposes their hypocrisy, as they treat the fast as a trifle while dealing wickedly with their workers and others. The fast respected by YHWH is one where a person denies himself in true humility and thanksgiving; when he breaks the chains of oppression rather than forges them, when he frees workers from the heavy yoke and shares bread with the hungry and his home and clothing with the poor. We see here a preview into the kingdom that Christ would bring to His people - where bearing one another's burden fulfills the law of Christ (Gal 6:2; James 2:1, 8-9; Matt 25:31-46)

Isaiah 58:8-12 (HCSB) Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard. At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer; when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. The LORD will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry. Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

IF the people of Israel would truly humble themselves they would see a great light dawning and be healed. They would be clothed with His righteousness and the glory of YHWH would guard them. At that time, if they called upon Him, YHWH would answer - He would be near.

IF they got rid of the heavy yokes of oppression, the blaming, sharp tongues; IF they bore one another's burdens, poured themselves out as a drink offering their light would shine (Matt 5:14-16). YHWH would lead them, heal them, satisfy them - they would be like tree near the water (Psalms 1:3). The ruins and walls would be rebuilt upon the ancient foundation and the city would habitable again. When blessings depend on man's faithfulness, they are hard to come by.

Isaiah 58:13-14 (HCSB) “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; then you will delight yourself in the LORD, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Israel profaned their Sabbath as they had their fasts. Rather than resting in the providential care of God, they did what they pleased. Upon their return from exile, while rebuilding the wall and town of Jerusalem, the Hebrews demonstrated their disdain for the Sabbath - the very sign and testimony of the covenant YHWH had made with Israel (Exodus 34:27 & 28; Deuteronomy 4:13;Nehemiah 13:15-22). They went their own way, seeking their own pleasure, talking endlessly. But IF they kept it, IF they honored it - THEN they would delight in seeing how wonderfully God had been providing for them. THEN God would cause them be victorious over the land, enjoying what was promised to Jacob (this was the land promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). This is what YHWH has spoken - it is sure.

The sum of the matter is simple: no man has pure devotion, true piety, true humility that he can parade before God in a demand or plea for His favor. Not to us, not to us, but to thee be the glory! The only plea we have - for we can never be in position to demand ANYTHING from God - is to cry out for mercy. The work of Christ on our behalf is the only work that is pure, the only work acceptable to God. His righteousness is the only cover that can shield is from His wrath.

Venture on Him, venture wholly

Let no other trust intrude

None but Jesus, none but Jesus

Can do helpless sinners good

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Isaiah - 57: No Peace for the Wicked

As in much of Isaiah's writings - and, indeed, the whole of Scripture - this chapter presents a contrast between evil and righteous people. While we mainly see a focus on the promised Messiah as our hope, here the main focus is a warning to the wicked. The title for this chapter comes from the last verse thereof.

Isaiah 57:1-2 (HCSB) The righteous one perishes, and no one takes it to heart; faithful men are swept away, with no one realizing that the righteous one is swept away from the presence of evil. He will enter into peace— they will rest on their beds— everyone who lives uprightly.

In the world at large, when a righteous one dies, people don't mourn. As for the public record of what's happenin' now, they are swept into Orwell's "Memory Hole." What the wicked of the world cannot see is that being swept away from them into the first death brings rest and peace for the righteous. We know that all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will face persecution. We know that the evil men rejoice when saints are killed. We also know we have a refuge in the risen Lord Jesus that protects us from the second death, bringing us peace and rest that the world cannot know.

Isaiah 57:3-5 (HCSB) But come here, you sons of a sorceress, offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute! Who is it you are mocking? Who is it you are opening your mouth and sticking out your tongue at? Isn’t it you, you rebellious children, you race of liars, who burn with lust among the oaks, under every green tree, who slaughter children in the wadis below the clefts of the rocks?

Here's the first contrast of the destiny of the righteous with that of the wicked. The righteous enter into peaceful rest; the wicked are weighed and measured and found to be wanting. Look at all the descriptive words used here to describe the wicked and see how much of this evil is accepted as righteous in our culture right now. It's small talk when the Super Bowl's winning quarterback has a wife who's a witch; it's hushed up when a congressman has a mistress who's a communist Chinese spy. God is not mocked - nothing is hidden, nothing escapes. He asks these wicked people to examine themselves, to question what they are doing as He calls them rebellious liars and murderers of children. It's important to see that our nation is no different in its moral fiber than was national Israel - unregenerate people do wicked things!

Isaiah 57:6-10 (HCSB) Your portion is among the smooth stones of the wadi; indeed, they are your lot. You have even poured out a drink offering to them; you have offered a grain offering; should I be satisfied with these? You have placed your bed on a high and lofty mountain; you also went up there to offer sacrifice. You have set up your memorial behind the door and doorpost. For away from Me, you stripped, went up, and made your bed wide, and you have made a bargain for yourself with them. You have loved their bed; you have gazed on their genitals. You went to the king with oil and multiplied your perfumes; you sent your couriers far away and sent them down even to Sheol. You became weary on your many journeys, but you did not say, I give up! You found a renewal of your strength; therefore you did not grow weak.

YHWH posits 5 accusations against the wicked, as each of these verses start with an accusatorial "YOU" or "YOUR". Now the wages of sin are revealed. Those who murdered children in the wadi will face death there, as their blood will be poured out as they poured out offerings to their demons. They have sacrificed and made their homes at the high places - recall how many times Israel was told to take down the high places. The presence of the high places became an indication of Israel's morality; showing the lack of fear of God and the embrace of demons (see 2 Kings 17:7-23).

The wicked think they are far removed from God as they pursue their demon gods - sex is in view in verse 8. The wide bed refers to the pagan prostitutes' practice, Israel made a deal with them as they lusted after these strange women. The wicked lust after wealth and power as well, seeking to cushion their lives with luxury, no matter the cost. They renewed their strength in the pursuit of their lusts - so powerful are the desires of the wicked heart of the natural man.

Isaiah 57:11-13 (HCSB) Who was it you dreaded and feared, so that you lied and didn’t remember Me or take it to heart? Have I not kept silent for such a long time and you do not fear Me? I will expose your righteousness, and your works—they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry all of them off, a breath will take them away. But whoever takes refuge in Me will inherit the land and possess My holy mountain.

We know from the Scriptures that the carnal man never tires of hearing something new, always seeks after a sign that what he pursues is right for him. When carnal man does not see God (he suppresses his knowledge by his unrighteousness - Rom 1:18) he tells himself God is not real, he forgets what he knows about YHWH and hardens his heart against truth - fearing poverty in any form more than fearing God.

God IS NOT mocked; He will expose all the deeds and thoughts of the wicked - their righteousness is no more than menstrual rags, their deeds will not profit them. They devote themselves to dumb gods with no speech or sight or hearing; worthless idols that will be blown away and destroyed. BUT those who take refuge in YHWH will be taken care of. Note this: do not worry yourselves about what you eat or drink or wear, for your Father in heaven knows you have need of these things. But seek first His kingdom and all these lesser things will be given to you! Trust in God and He will provide bounty and peace and rest on His holy mountain - Zion.

Isaiah 57:14-16 (HCSB) He said, “Build it up, build it up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle from My peoples way. For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed. For I will not accuse you forever, and I will not always be angry; for then the spirit would grow weak before Me, even the breath of man, which I have made.

God tells His people to prepare the way - foretelling the mission of John the Baptizer. Rather than put stumbling blocks of man's traditions in the way of people, we are to remove obstacles and proclaim the peace that comes with faith in Christ! There is peace with God, rest for weary souls who find their way to Mount Zion, the high and holy place where God's Spirit is. Those who are oppressed by the world, who hunger after righteousness will be revived, for God will not accuse and be angry with His people forever - for fragile man would grow too weary to continue on.

Isaiah 57:17-19 (HCSB) Because of his sinful greed I was angry, so I struck him; I was angry and hid; but he went on turning back to the desires of his heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating words of praise.” The LORD says, “Peace, peace to the one who is far or near, and I will heal him.

Before being raised up in Christ, we were children of wrath like the rest. Because of our sin and selfishness God was angry and punished His people, his Himself in our times of rebellion. With His restrain removed, we turned back to the sinful desires of our hearts. But because He had set us apart from before the foundation of the world, there was never any possibility that He would abandon us to ourselves - God will heal, God will lead His people and restore us, comfort us and put words of praise into our mouths. For the promised Messiah proclaims peace, peace to those who are near (ethnic Israel, who had the oracles of God) and those who are far off (Gentiles, who were excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world). To these, the wounds of Christ bring healing.

Isaiah 57:20-21 (HCSB) But the wicked are like the storm-tossed sea, for it cannot be still, and its waters churn up mire and muck. There is no peace for the wicked,” says my God.

The wicked are in constant state of excitement as they accuse every one of the very things they do. They churn up the vile underbelly of the culture and declare it be virtue. They cannot live in peace with those who not agree with them, because own consciences accuse them of their sin. When you see the vile behavior and hear the vile speech of the popular and powerful in our world right now, it ought to cause you and me to vomit. But we need to take note of this: these wicked people have no peace with God and their souls are tormented by what they know about Him from the world He created. The wicked have no peace, says their Creator.

If you are raised up in Christ, you are an ambassador of peace; a messenger of reconciliation with God. All the more now we need to understand that the message the wicked consider foolishness is the only message that can bring life that is at peace with God.

Preach Christ to the wicked - whether they be at your place of work, school, home, of fellowship. There is no road to peace except the road of repentance and faith in Christ. Preach grace found in Christ as the only salve for what causes the souls of the wicked to wear themselves as they try to drown out their knowledge of Him. They will have no peace unless He gives it. His message of reconciliation is the only gospel we've been given - it is was brought us peace; it will bring peace to all of His people.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Isaiah 56 - Redemption for Foreigners and Eunuchs

In this chapter, God speaks to those called "His people" and He speaks to those who are not "His people." In this first part we see salvation decreed for those who were His covenant people and those who were not His people; in the second part we see a rebuke of those who remain not His people.

Isaiah 56:1-2 (HCSB) This is what the LORD says: Preserve justice and do what is right, for My salvation is coming soon, and My righteousness will be revealed. Happy is the man who does this, anyone who maintains this, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.

Notice the first thing YHWH speaks: preserve justice and do what is right. National Israel had practiced long and hard to disobey God, as we have seen previously in this study. The salvation decreed for national Israel here is not eternal life, but salvation from slavery in Babylon - as they had been redeemed from slavery to Egypt. The righteousness of God would be displayed as Cyrus funded the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of that city and its temple. Those Jews who had kept the Sabbath and refrained from evil would be rewarded. The weekly Sabbath was highlighted here because it was signaled by God as THE sign His covenant with the Hebrew nation: Exodus 31:12-14 (HCSB) The LORD said to Moses: “Tell the Israelites: You must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am Yahweh who sets you apart. Observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Whoever profanes it must be put to death. If anyone does work on it, that person must be cut off from his people."

We had previously read what Amos had said about Israel profaning the Sabbath. Nehemiah also made note of it - read Nehemiah 13:15-18. Not many kept the Sabbath - most of them looked forward to doing evil in the marketplace on the first day of the week, if they were kept from doing so on the Sabbath (as we read in Amos 8). The things God identified as special to Him, His covenant people repeatedly trampled. As we read in the gospel accounts, they aggressively promoted the minors and missed the point repeatedly. May it not be so with us!

Isaiah 56:3-8 (HCSB) No foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD should say, “The LORD will exclude me from His people”; and the eunuch should not say, “Look, I am a dried-up tree.” For the LORD says this: “For the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant, I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD minister to Him, love the name of Yahweh and become His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to My covenant—I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel: I will gather to them still others besides those already gathered.”

Foreigners and eunuchs were generally excluded from worship; but those who joined with ethnic Israel and kept the covenant were included. YHWH reminds Israel of this - these who were not His people became His people when they were circumcised and agreed to keep the Mosaic Covenant. These foreigners were entitled to all the benefits and privileges of that covenant - with security better than the Jews had, IF they kept the covenant. This is how we know this passage is "in the flesh" and refers to the Mosaic Covenant and is not the fulfillment picture of the New Covenant: all the blessings of this covenant are dependent upon the human participants keeping it, holding FIRMLY to it (twice YHWH uses that term here). We see God gathering the exiled Jews and those who were not His people - teaching the Jews that YHW was serious about the Abrahamic promise of gathering countless people from every nation as His children. This beautiful word picture no doubt filled the nation of Israel with joy and awe; but we know from Scripture they continued to see things through eyes of flesh and thought their temporal nation was the end-game YHWH had in mind, never really understanding that Gentiles would be JOINT heirs and not accepted foreigners. Since no one will be justified in the sight of God by keeping any law (Romans 3:20), the exhortations for keeping the law of the Mosaic Covenant cannot be that of finding eternal peace with God. The New Covenant is not dependent on anything man does - the blessings and inheritance is totally dependent on the work of Christ Jesus; the only faithful Son of Israel.

Isaiah 56:9-12 (HCSB) All you animals of the field and forest, come and eat! Israel’s watchmen are blind, all of them, they know nothing; all of them are mute dogs, they cannot bark; they dream, lie down, and love to sleep. These dogs have fierce appetites; they never have enough. And they are shepherds who have no discernment; all of them turn to their own way, every last one for his own gain. “Come, let me get some wine, lets guzzle some beer; and tomorrow will be like today, only far better!”

This last part of the chapter is a rebuke to the faithless leaders of national Israel, echoing terms we read in the gospels - blind guides, dogs, those seeking their own way, whose god is their bellies. Watchmen were supposed to keep a watch, warning the city of danger. Ezekiel, in chapter 34, devotes much effort at describing these responsibilities and Israel's failure to hold firmly and do them. People who are concerned and consumed with self will either be hopeless OR self-confident. These are described as blindly self-confident, with fierce appetites, seeking only their own gain - each one. These present the mindset Paul was warning against in 1 Cor 15:29-34, as some people were convinced the resurrection had already taken place and there was no longer any reason to be subject to the rule of God. "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals. Come to your senses and stop sinning, for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame." (1 Cor 15:32b-34).

Brothers and sisters - let us be careful not to grow lax and drift into thinking we are doing good as we wander a crooked path of our desires. While we who are in Christ are kept by His Spirit and not our own work, none of us indwelt by His Spirit should be marked by a life of careless or deliberate sin. May God have mercy on us to keep us so we walk as children of the light! If you have not a desire to glorify Christ Jesus in your body, cry out for mercy and grace to do so. Do not be deceived, nothing done in the dark will remain hidden.