Sunday, April 30, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation (Part III)

"Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures. The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan. And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound." 
(Isaiah 30:23-26)

These verses highlight the blessed nature of the kingdom. Christ's kingdom will bring not only spiritual blessing but also physical blessing. The "effect of righteousness (32:17)" will leave in its wake agricultural abundance. Drought and destructive heat will become a thing of the past. The rain needed to nourish the planted seeds will come at the proper time. The scarcity of pastureland will vanish. Christ's kingdom will be home not only to resurrected saints but also to human flesh and animals in abundance. Not even the necessary food of the cattle and the donkeys will be lacking. Each will eat pure, rich grain which has been harvested and processed.

Rivers refers to a channel or a canal. The picture is that of irrigation for the purposes of farming. Kingdom blessings will bring an abundance of water for irrigation as well as for consumption. Instead of being home to the idolatrous high places, each mountain and hill will be marked by watercourses, irrigation ditches and naturally occurring canals which have been carved out by the abundance of rain. The Lord says that these things will be realized "in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall." Such a pronouncement of judgment almost seems contrary to the peaceful scene painted in the text; however, the fall of God's enemies at the return of His Son will bring true peace to the world. To this point, the peace of the world has been shallow and temporary to say the least. Only the presence of Christ's authority can bring true peace. The genuine believer knows this to be true in his soul (John 14:27), and someday it will be true of his environment.

The lights of the heavens will also be affected by the joy of Jesus' physical reign on earth. Moonlight will be amplified to equal that of the sun, and the sun's brightness will be seven times greater than its current condition. It will not be used to scorch men as is seen in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 16:8); but instead, it will be used to bring needed light for growth and wellness. All things will reflect the inexpressible joy of the Lord's worship. Again, God clarifies the context of these prophecies by adding in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound. These promises are millennial. They are reserved for the time when God will bring spiritual life to the Jewish nation through repentant faith in Jesus the Messiah.

...Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:17-20).

Friday, April 28, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation (Part II)

"And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence." (Isaiah 30:20-22)

For Isaiah's countrymen, this bread and water of affliction represented the oppression of the Assyrians; but the representation need not stop there. The empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome were all used to afflict the disbelief of Israel. In rejection of Jesus' authority, Israel cried, "...His blood be on us, and on our children (Matthew 27:25)." Such rejection has brought about the continuation of this divine affliction.

Yet, the text promises a change in the future. Instead of rejecting the true prophets and teachers of God, Israel will acknowledge and appreciate them. The spiritual blindness will be lifted and the eyes and ears of the nation will be opened. The godly teacher who was once in the shamed minority will be exalted to a place of respect. Rather than reject godly counsel when straying from the path, the Jews will accept it. Humility and sincerity will replace pride and dissimulation. In the kingdom, this attitude will exist among the citizens of the world and not just among the Jews. The approach of the end times is bringing with it fewer and fewer genuine believers. Righteous counsel, even among professing believers, is steadily becoming less appreciated. For many, that voice which whispers in the straying ear, "Turn back to God" is more of a burden than a blessing. The advent of the kingdom will change these things. The earth will be full of God's knowledge, and the righteous man will no longer occupy such a scorned position.

The covering refers to the thin plates of precious metals used to overlay the images which were often made of wood. God's work through the Assyrians and Babylonians would serve to purge Israel of her idolatrous ways. This rebuke of idolatry clearly indicates that Hezekiah's reforms had not been accepted by many. Apparently, idolatry was still present; and after Hezekiah's death, Manasseh would lead the people back into the abominations of idolatry and child sacrifice. Josiah's reign would witness the last thrust toward purging the land of idolatry before the Babylonian invasion.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation

"And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee." (Isaiah 30:18-19)

Once again, God's grace is emphasized as the last part of this chapter discloses Israel's restoration. The Lord is in no hurry. He knows what it will take to bring Israel to faith in the Messiah. With great patience and wisdom, the Lord is working all things toward the day when the world will worship before Him in truth. In that day, Jerusalem will be His prized city, and the Jewish nation will be raised to a position of prominence because of the Lord Jesus Christ. God is a God of judgment. He will not rest until the earth is filled with His judgment. Until that time, anyone may find a happy refuge under His gracious wing. Had Isaiah's audience repented and waited upon God while observing the heart and letter of His Law, they too would have found the blessedness mentioned in the text.

A promise is given concerning God's favor toward the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Under the pressure of Sennacherib's threats, King Hezekiah cried to God for help, and God graciously answered. Undoubtedly, this event is in view. However, the future restoration of God's people is the main thrust of this prophecy. The gracious nature of God is highlighted toward the end of verse 19. The Lord strongly desires the restoration of both Jew and Gentile. Human pride and disbelief, not unconcern on God's part, keep people from obtaining deliverance.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part VI)

"For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill." (Isaiah 30:15-17)

Once again, amidst all the turmoil, uncertainty, fear and human preparation, the Lord with both simplicity and power reminds Israel where her true hope lies. Salvation comes not by human preparation but by confidence in the Strength of the Holy One of Israel. Adversity naturally encourages human nature to make preparations for its own deliverance; however, God encourages just the opposite. Rather than instantly turn to human strength in times of trouble, God encourages each person to stop and to seek first the help of his Redeemer. The Almighty graciously offered deliverance to Israel if she would but acknowledge Him by faith; however, she was not willing. Following the same principle, the Lord Jesus offers permanent deliverance to those who will, in faith, make Him their only Source of salvation; but like the stubborn Israelites, most people refuse to accept the humble simplicity of God-fearing faith.

Enamored with the war-chariots and prized horses of Egypt's armies, the people refused faith in Jehovah and chose the physical advantage of swift horses. Unfortunately, they did not remember Psalm 20:7. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." Because of Israel's choice, the Lord promised that the tables would be turned upon her. The prized horses of the Egyptians would be no match for the enemy. Through the power of God's Spirit, the Assyrian would be given the upper hand while Judah and her allies would be defeated.

When God's blessing rested upon Israel in the days of Joshua, the Lord promised that one Israelite would chase a thousand enemy soldiers (Joshua 23:10); however, Israel's rebellion had produced a situation directly opposite to what God had intended for her.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Preparation of the Vials (Part III)

"And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles." (Revelation 15:5-6)

Naos (naos) is the Greek word behind temple. This word often refers to the innermost portion of a temple. The Holy of Holies in the heavenly temple was opened, and from it came seven angelic messengers whose attire matches their mission. The white of their garments calls to remembrance the holiness of God. The golden girdles which bind together their clothes suggest value, determination and focus. They are prepared to carry out even the hardest of tasks. Pouring out such awful judgments is never pleasant, yet the wills of these messengers are aligned with the righteous desires of God. Mercy has been extended; God's fear has been refused; judgment day has come. The angels are not driven by faulty emotions but by the pure wisdom of God.

"And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled." (Revelation 15:7-8)

The Almighty is ascribed the trait of eternality. This world and the heavens that contain it will pass away (II Peter 3:10). Yet, God's nature, wisdom and salvation will continue. He is eternal, and He offers eternal life to the one who will simply trust the Lord Jesus Christ as His Savior.

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish...(John 10:28).

As the holy presence of God forbade the priests from entering Solomon's temple (I Chronicles 7:2), even so it is seen forbidding entrance to all until the administration of the seven plagues has been completed. The unmoveable presence of God indicates His determination in bringing about the end of these events. All possibility of entreaty has been taken away. The temple is seen as impassable, and God will not be swayed from His righteous course. The unalterable nature of such things calls to mind God's words to Jeremiah. "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth (Jeremiah 15:1)." Some things cannot be reversed. The kingdom of Christ seems so far away at times; however, when the proper hour for its advent arrives, no one will be able to stop it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part V)

"Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit." (Isaiah 30:12-14)

The word is that which Isaiah had been speaking all along, not to mention the words of his contemporaries coupled with the words preserved in the Torah. In short, Judah had rejected the inerrant Word of God; and in doing so, she had rejected God Himself. As an alternative, the people were relying upon the wealth and power obtained through the oppression of others as well as their perverse decision to make alliances with the heathen nations. Such is a poor substitute for the everlasting deliverance offered by God.

The Lord likens Judah's precarious situation to a high city wall which develops a weak spot. The faulty portion of the wall cannot support the weight of the surrounding bricks and begins to buckle out. Once the buckling bricks are pushed outward too far, they let loose without warning. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to be within danger's reach will be crushed by the falling debris. Such was Judah's decision to flee to Egypt for aid. Ezekiel gave a similar illustration concerning the false prophecies which encouraged Judah to resist the authority of the Babylonian Empire.

Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter: Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it ... Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered morter, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it; To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 13:10-11, 15-16).

The wall, which represented the expectations of Judah's alliances, would be so thoroughly shattered that not one piece of debris would be useful for even the most menial task.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part IV)

"Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." (Isaiah 30:8-11)

As a testimony to future generations, God commands Isaiah to inscribe His words on a table or tablet (probably of stone) and to write them in a book. God would not simply overlook the rebellion of Judah, it would forever be recorded. Wrong decisions do not simply disappear; God keeps perfect records of judgment for those who refuse to repent and to trust Him. Through Jeremiah, the Lord portrayed the serious and lasting effect of sin. "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars (Jeremiah 17:1)." Apart from repentant faith in the Messiah, the sins of every individual are preserved in perfect records. Only faith in the righteous blood of Christ can wipe away the condemning testimony of a person's rebellion (Romans 8:33-34).

One can say that he loves and serves God, but the truth is found in His obedience or disobedience to Scripture. Even if Judah's citizens had verbally acknowledge the righteous nature of Isaiah's prophecies, they were liars and rebels in God's eyes because they were not putting feet to the acknowledgment. Perhaps they were like many people today who sit under the teaching of Scripture and nod in acknowledgment to what is said, yet go out the doors of the church and do just as they think best.

Beginning in verse 10, the Lord interprets the heart's desire of Judah's people. They did not mind prophets so long as those prophets spoke in favor of their ungodly desires. People want to be religiously encouraged, but they do not want to be sanctified. They want to have their ears tickled with the things that lift them up. Most people want prophecies that encourage fleshly behavior while minimizing holiness. The same heart is seen today in most religious circles. People resent preaching and teaching that promotes separation and the fear of God. The list of sins that are truly offensive to God seems to be getting more and more narrow. The average church is very accepting of most things that God clearly condemns.

Perhaps with a tone of irony, Isaiah says, "Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." Whether or not Judah's people were actually saying this, they were living it. Their rejection of Isaiah's warnings followed by their march down into Egypt clearly demonstrated what they thought about God's care and counsel. The actions always disclose the heart behind the words.