Monday, January 22, 2018

The Commandments To Hearken (Part III)

"Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation." (Isaiah 51:7-8)

The Lord's words are purposefully pointed at those who love Him and want to follow Him. Undoubtedly, the God-fearing in Isaiah's day were mocked for their trust in God in the middle of international turmoil and instability. They were derided for their rejection of idolatry and likely persecuted for their love of God's Law (Isaiah 59:15). Yet, to the humble soul who sees the value of faith toward God and a life that demonstrates that faith, the Lord promises security and victory. To the regenerate, God's Law is not merely a compilation of letters. His Law has a heart behind the letters, and the letters are born out of God's Spirit. In the soul of God's redeemed is found the desire to keep God's Law because the saved man has changed authority. The words reflect the same heart behind the admonitions of John the Apostle. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (I John 5:3)." David also spoke of God's Law being in the heart of the man who has accessed the righteousness of God through faith. "The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide (Psalm 37:30-31)."

The redeemed man is encouraged not to fear the temporary persecutions and rejections of the lost. Clothing and wool may be beautiful initially, but both are subject to decay. Both are extremely fragile when exposed to the right conditions; and both are temporal. Neither one can be preserved indefinitely. In contrast, the righteousness and salvation imparted by God are eternal. The righteousness and salvation mentioned are not found in man's keeping of the Law; but rather, they are found through faith in God's Messiah Who has flawlessly kept both the heart and letter of God's Law.   

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Commandments To Hearken (Part II)

"Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished." (Isaiah 51:4-6)

For the second time, the reader is commanded to stop and to pay attention. Dangers from without and cares from within can easily pull one's eyes off of God, so the Lord commands an intentional fixing of one's eyes and ears upon the sovereignty of God. The future reign of the Messiah promises blessings and restoration for both Israel and the Gentile nations. The black and white judgments of the Creator which men strongly hate will be the very things by which God personally rules the earth. The result will not be confusion and oppression but rather peace and security, for such is always the case when God's Law is honored and applied.

Through the Messiah, the righteousness and salvation of God has been brought near to all men. It is not the righteous deeds of either the Jews or the Gentiles which will be honored in the last days but rather the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through faith in His blood, this righteousness is imparted to the repentant sinner and salvation is found. This truth will be recognized and honored throughout the world during the physical reign of the Lord.

God commands a gaze both upward and downward in order that one might consider the temporary nature of all that is seen. Creation has been permanently touched by man's sin and all is hopelessly doomed to a future destruction, but the salvation offered by God the Son is forever. The righteousness imparted by Christ cannot be abolished. Translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's Son (Colossians 1:13), the one who trusts in the Lord is not threatened by the hopeless end of mankind's domain. The wording is very similar to that found in Revelation. There, the unregenerate are referred to as "the inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 12:12)." The one who has not made God his trust is limited to this perishing kingdom found on earth. He is confined to the finite deliverance offered by the world, the flesh and the devil. In beautiful contrast, the child of God, regardless of national descent, is secure in the arms of Him Whose righteousness cannot be terminated or challenged.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Commandment To Hearken

"Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." (Isaiah 51:1-3)

Three times in the next eight verses God's encouragement is seen in His commandments to hearken. On the heels of presenting the Messiah, God forecasts promises of redemption and restoration. The command is given to the one who seeks or pursues the Lord and His righteousness. To seek God sincerely is to seek His righteousness through the Sacrifice which He accepts. These promises are applied specifically to the Jewish nation, but the principles are timeless and not limited to any one man or country.

As a people facing the Babylonian captivity, God reminds Isaiah's countrymen of their humble beginning. Apart from an obedient ear to God's call, Abraham had nothing. The Lord's miracles provided Abraham and his wife with a son. God's bounty and provision followed them and kept them. In the same way, God would keep His people through the upcoming captivity. He would not permit them to be diminished to the point of extinction, nor would He permit permanent banishment from their homeland.

Verse three looks beyond the Babylonian captivity and Church age and ushers the reader into the millennial kingdom. Zion's comfort speaks of Israel's reinstatement. Zion's ultimate comfort will be found in the reality of Jesus Christ's personal rule from this place. Under His kingship, spiritual destitution will be greatly depleted and the earth's physical transformation will visibly reflect this spiritual reality. The word behind melody appears seven times in the Hebrew text and six of those occurrences are in connection with praise to God. The thanksgiving and the melody mentioned are not simply products of man's sensual delights but rather they are the results of a grateful spirit made alive by a genuine relationship with the Holy One of Israel.   

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Servant-Savior (Part VIII)

"Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." 
(Isaiah 50:10-11)

Verse ten may be applied three different ways. Firstly, it may be applied to Jesus Himself Who walked the dark road of separation as He became sin for mankind. On the cross he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring (Psalm 22:1)?" For a brief time, the Father separated Himself from the Son Who willing became sin for man. Such were dark times; yet, even there, the Lord Jesus Christ trusted in the eternal promises of Jehovah as is evidenced by the latter part of Psalm 22. "My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him (Psalm 22:25)." The Savior trusted that God would not leave His soul in hell neither suffer His Holy One to see corruption (Psalm 16:10).

Secondly, this passage may be applied to any individual who wishes to follow Jehovah God in simple faith. Isaiah asks, "Who is willing to fear God only?" "Who is willing to obey the call to repentant faith as preached by every true prophet of God?" Outside of the Messiah's righteousness, everyone walks in darkness. Light and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10), and one demonstrates the validity of his or her godly fear by fleeing to the authority of God's sacrificial Lamb. The passage clearly gives a gospel call to each and every individual - encouraging him or her to "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)."

Thirdly, this verse may be applied to the believer who seeks comfort in the darkness of tribulation. Isaiah walked in dark days, and to one degree or another, every believer experiences the darkness and rejection of Satan's world. To such a person, God calls out and encourages trust in His ability to overcome. He encourages simple faith as he works practical sanctification in the lives of His people.

The last verse is a word of rebuke to the one who rejects the light of God and chooses the light of his own understanding. To reject God's light is to reject His Son and His authority. It is to choose the way of death, because apart from a relationship with the Light of this world (John 9:5) there is no hope. The Lord uses the familiar picture of a common fire. For a period of time, the fire of man's understanding may burn. For a time, it may exude some form of light; but eventually, it will go out - leaving its victim to stumble and be injured. The word behind sorrow pictures a place of pain and terror. Man's wisdom ends in darkness when the temporary light of its fading embers gives way.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Servant-Savior (Part VII)

"He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up." (Isaiah 50:8-9)

At the resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ was justified by the Father. The righteous Prince of Life could not be held by death's bonds because His sinless character would not permit it (Acts 2:24). This opening verse echoes that of Romans 8:32-34.

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

In Christ Who has been declared righteous by the Father, the believer finds his justification by grace through faith. In Jesus, the repentant sinner is declared righteous; but such could not be the case were it not for the imparted righteousness of the Messiah. "...But ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (I Corinthians 6:11)."

The sentence, who is mine adversary? is literally who is lord of my judgment? No accusation can stand against Christ. No enemy could lord over him with condemning judgment. Jesus is He Who "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth," and when "he was reviled," He "reviled not again ... but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously (I Peter 2:22-23)." In full assurance, the Savior committed Himself to the keeping of the Father, and after accomplishing man's redemption, Jesus rose in triumph over sin and death. As the text declares, the enemies of the Messiah will wax old and perish in eternal damnation, but the Savior will reign forever.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Servant-Savior (Part VI)

"The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." (Isaiah 50:5-7)

Unlike the natural man who fails, the Lord Jesus did not neglect any aspect of the Father's will. Christ's ministry was, as His character, impeccable. So much was the case, that Jesus could say with boldness and honesty, "...The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him (John 8:29)."

Out of love for helpless sinners, the Lord gave His physical body to the abuses of His persecutors. The sins of mankind, not any fault or weakness on the part of Jesus, placed the Savior in this position; yet He endured because His compassions determined that He would be "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8)." In the Gospels, the Holy Spirit did not record the account of Christ having his facial hair pulled off, so this passage provides some extra insight into the physical pain and humiliation experienced by the sinless Son of God. Apparently, pulling out one's beard was not an uncommon form of punishment by the Jews since this same behavior is seen in the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:25). In the Israelites' culture, spitting in one's face was considered to be the apex of contempt. Despite theses atrocities, Jesus "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)."

The last verse presents a beautiful contrast to the Savior's humiliation and sacrifice. True, He is the Servant-Savior; yet, He is also the conquering King. The humiliation and pain of the cross was followed by unimaginable glory. The word for confounded means humiliated. A difference exists between humiliation of person and humiliation of purpose. In person, Christ temporarily underwent shame and humiliation, but in purpose, He knew none. In pure faith, the Lord's face was set as a flint against the mockery and disdain of His enemies. As the enemy cursed Him and said, "He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him... ," Christ confessed, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee (Psalm 22:8, 22)."

The perfect balance of submission and victory displayed in the life of the Savior provides excellent guidance for the Christian. Performing all things in charity does not mean living a life of weakness and defeat. Submission and humility must dominate every aspect of the believer's life; yet, in these things true victory is experienced as faith finds strength in the sure dominance of Christ's everlasting kingdom.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Another one finished!

It's always an exciting time for me when hours of study and effort appear in printed form!  The commentary on Revelation is complete and the link is presented below.  The book is available in paperback and e-form.  I am very grateful to my wife for the hours of editing and formatting that she put into this work.  Praise the Lord for the study of His Word.  Revelation is not just a compilation of difficult and unclear passages.  It's a letter to literal churches, and the book is filled with practical application for us today!

to purchase the commentary on Revelation, click here.