Some use the Lord's dealings with Pharaoh of the Exodus as evidence that some people cannot believe because God will not let them. The ten plagues of Egypt and the simultaneous hardening of Pharaoh's heart are favorite evidence for the support of Calvinism. But let's step back and read the passage.
First of all, God knows in advance who will resist and who will accept Him. This divine ability is called foreknowledge and it does not, in any way, negate man's free will. Knowing that Pharaoh would stubbornly resist Jehovah's authority, God raised Pharaoh up for the purpose of using him to show God's power.
Ex 9:16 "And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth."
Any individual can choose right; however, God also knows what they will choose; and He is able to use even their choices of rebellion to bring Himself glory.
Ps 76:10 "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."
Pharaoh could have believed God, but he chose to harden his heart (Ex. 7:22, 8:15, 8:32, 9:7).
God also hardened Pharaoh's heart as the text clearly says; however, He was helping Pharaoh do that which he had already chosen to do. In 9:14, an interesting transition occurs. God told the king, "...Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart... ." Plague the heart? What did the Lord mean? Simply stated, if we don't respond to God, He can help further our terrible and rebellious condition. It's almost as though God was saying, "If you want to rebel against Me, I will help you with that." Rebellion is a slippery slope, and God will not be patient with rejection forever. After this statement to Pharaoh, the text says more often that God hardened Pharaoh's heart.
Should this passage be used in support of Calvinism which says that some people cannot believe because God won't let them? I don't think so. Man has a free will, and God has foreknowledge. The Lord could have and would have saved Pharaoh if he had chosen to respond like Ruth the Moabite foreigner. However, Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his heart and eventually reached a point of no return because God plagued his heart. Biblical accounts such as this do not wipe away the vast amounts of Scripture which freely invite all people to be saved. Christ died for all and invites all to be saved!
Isaiah 45:22 "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." (Isaiah 66:23-24)
From month to month and from week to week, there will be no end to the countless crowds of people who come to acknowledge the supremacy and grace of the Almighty God. As Isaiah said earlier, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it (Isaiah 2:2)." The word behind worship means to descend or to bow down. The restored state of Christ's Kingdom will bring with it a renewed sense of the fear of God. Gone will be the shallow and fleshly worship that focuses on stirring up the emotions while leaving one feeling empty in the aftermath. Every believer has the responsibility of encouraging others toward biblical worship in this age. The world is destined for a reverent and sincere worship of the King, so why would God expect less of His people now?
Like Malachi's, Isaiah's prophecies end on a very serious note. More than physical death is intended here, because to transgress against God by the rejection of His Word, and ultimately His Son, is to incur eternal damnation. According to the text, the bodies of those slain in the final battle of Christ's return will be visible for all to see. Perhaps the offensive move and subsequent overthrow of the Gentiles mentioned by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 38 and 39) reflects a different side of the Battle of Armageddon and the result of that will be the dead described here by Isaiah. In any case, those who reject the righteousness of God through the rejection of His Son are destined for a fearful end. The Lord seems to use the ancient rubbish heaps on the south side of Jerusalem as an illustration of the carnage and chaos for which the Lord's enemies are destined. In biblical times, trash and even the bodies of criminals would be deposited on the burning rubbish heaps which lay in the valley south of the city. It was in reference to this when Jesus illustrated the fearful end of all who are not secure in the salvation offered only by Jesus Christ (Mark 9:44). Seeing the burning bodies of God's enemies, Isaiah pens a word of warning; because beyond the rotting corpse of a human body is seen an eternal destiny. The flames of hell await the one who rejects the salvation of God; and if the visible display of rotting and burning flesh serves to turn a sinner from the error of his way, then the object lesson has accomplished its mission. Knowing the hardness of men's hearts, the Lord appropriately closes this magnificent salvation book with a stern admonition. Mankind is hopelessly lost. He is evil in his nature and alienated from the very mind of God; yet, great hope exists. The Holy One of Israel, Yeshua the Messiah is the sinless sacrifice Who died on a cross for the sins of mankind (Isaiah 53). He rose from the dead on the third day (I Corinthians 15:3-4). In the sight of many witnesses (Acts 1:9), He returned into heaven to take His seat at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12); and now He awaits His sure return. In His infinite grace He leaves behind this command to all who choose to hear it ...
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
Sunday, September 23, 2018
"And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain." (Isaiah 66:21-22)
The them refers most likely to the returning Jews mentioned previously. According to Ezekiel, the sacrificial system will be revived in the Millennial Kingdom. This will not be for the temporary covering of sin, because all sin (past, present and future) has been dealt with permanently for the one who trusts in the finished work of Jesus. Rather, the millennial sacrifices will be in memorial of what Christ has already accomplished. God will take the surviving remnant of the Jewish people and employ them as priests and Levites in the temple service. In Jesus the Great High Priest, every man and woman is made a king and priest unto God the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16, Revelation 1:6). The Jewish temple service of the Kingdom dispensation will be a physical illustration of this spiritual truth. At last, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Israel will serve her King in sincerity and righteousness as she fulfills the heart of God's words spoken centuries ago by Moses.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).
Looking beyond the time of the Millennial Kingdom and into the permanency of the Eternal State, the Lord uses the unmoveable nature of the future heaven and earth as an illustration of His permanent election of Israel. The Jews have not been eliminated nor replaced by the Church or some other entity. They are God's chosen people, and He will save and restore them. Throughout eternity, saved Jews will stand shoulder to shoulder with saved Gentiles and echo the praises of Jesus Christ as they sing, "...Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (Revelation 5:12)." In simple faith, the Bible should be taken for what it plainly says. Woe be to any belief or system of theology that allegorizes or rejects hundreds of passages as clear as this one and applies solely to itself the promises and hopes so plainly meant for the Jews.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
"And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD." (Isaiah 66:19-20)
The Gentiles who are not destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon will be employed as Christ's messengers to herald, in distant lands, the salvation of JEHOVAH God; they will also retrieve the dispersed Jews and return them to their beloved homeland. God's grace toward mankind takes the center of the stage as Isaiah pictures the days following the Great Tribulation when Christ's forgiveness and authority will be known world-wide in a way not previously experienced.
Tarshish is commonly identified as the far western end of the Mediterranean in or near present day Spain. As a location, Pul is mentioned only here. The same name appears elsewhere as a title for the Assyrian king Tiglathpileser III (II Kings 15:19). Pul is believed to be identical with the biblical Put or Phut which was a country in northern Africa (Genesis 10:6, Nahum 3:9). Possibly, Phut or Pul could be identified with Libya (Ezekiel 30:5). Lud was a descendent of Shem. Here, Lud may refer to the descendents of Lud who settled in western Asia Minor. However, Ludim was a descendent of Mizraim the son of Ham (Genesis 10:13); therefore, Lud could very well be a shortened version of the name Ludim. There are two reasons for believing that Lud is here mentioned in relation to Mizraim rather than in relation to Shem. First, Lud appears next to Phut; and, in other places, the Bible mentions these two people groups together as being from the same area (Jeremiah 46:9, Ezekiel 27:10, Nahum 3:9). Second, Isaiah identifies Lud as being proficient with the bow. The Lydians (Hebrew Ludim) of northern Africa mentioned by Jeremiah were also known for their archery skills (Jeremiah 46:9); therefore, the Lud, Ludim and Lydians may be one and the same people. Tubal is placed alongside Meshech by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 38:2). Both of these people groups inhabited the areas just south of the Black Sea. The Hebrew name behind Javan is the same Hebrew name translated Grecia in Daniel 8:21 and 10:20. Indisputably, Javan is identified as Greece and the surrounding islands which are here called the isles afar off. The countries mentioned covered the perimeter of the ancient biblical theater. From the far north to the far south and to the distant places beyond the Mediterranean, God's glory is to be heralded by Gentiles who have experienced the grace of God through the Person of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.
The offering mentioned is the mincha which refers to the grain offering described in Leviticus. It does not refer to a blood sacrifice but rather to a gift that acknowledges the authority and grace of the Great Provider. The scene is staggering as one imagines thousands upon thousands of Jews being returned home by peaceful and friendly Gentiles. The Holy Spirit presents the Gentiles as the clean vessel in which the Jewish gift is presented and subsequently accepted. At last, the words of the Lord uttered by Amos will be fulfilled in their fullest sense. "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth (Amos 9:9)." As good grain, the believing Jews will be returned to Israel and offered at the feet of Christ. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can a man be made a clean vessel and an acceptable offering. Such wording pictures the millions of people, both Jew and Gentile, who will find forgiveness and cleansing by grace through faith in the finished work of Yeshua - the Holy One of Israel. In this present Church Age, the "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile has been broken down by saving faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:14); and in Christ's Kingdom, it will be the same. Israel will be restored to a nation of prominence under Christ's ultimate headship (Romans 11:25-27), and every Gentile who chooses faith in the precious Son of God will be accepted and given a place of service (Isaiah 56:3-8).
Thursday, September 20, 2018
"They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD. For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory." (Isaiah 66:17-18)
The sanctification and purification mentioned are in the context of idolatry. Under the wicked reign of Manasseh and other apostate kings, the Israelites were setting themselves apart to their false gods. The process of this evil practice included the consumption of those animals strictly forbidden by Old Testament law. The Hebrew word for mouse is that used to describe those rodents which infested the Philistine cities upon their capture of God's Ark. This was a vile practice described by Isaiah. The Lord saw every abominable detail of the idolatrous rites even though many may have thought that their works were hidden from God. When the Lord Jesus returns, idolatry will once more be rampant under the antichrist's evil reign as he plummets mankind to a depth of depravity yet unseen to humanity; therefore, in a future sense, these rebukes may apply also to the idolaters of the end times. God promises that both the sinner and his sin will be consumed together. Only in Jesus the Messiah can a man hope to stand in the final day of judgment.
In the same breath, God promises to reveal Himself to millions who have not seen His magnificence. The following verses reveal that this will not be in destructive judgment but in enlightening grace. Not only will the surviving remnant of the Jews be saved in the end times but also millions of Gentiles who will both hear of and respond to God's glory.
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 1:11).
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
"For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many." (Isaiah 66:15-16)
With the inevitable winds of judgment blowing, Isaiah's eyes are lifted by the Holy Spirit of God; and he is permitted to behold the Lord's return. His first advent was meek and lowly. The Messiah came to accomplish man's redemption; and this He did as He endured rejection, mocking, beatings and the pains of the cross and death; but as the angel proclaimed, "He is risen!" His return draws closer everyday; and it brings with it the defeat of Satan and his armies. It brings the lifting of the veil from the eyes of the Jewish people (II Corinthians 3:16) and their subsequent deliverance from the millions who hate and hound them.
Paul described Christ's return in much the same way that Isaiah presents it.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day (II Thessalonians 1:7-10).
At the hands of her enemies, Jerusalem suffered both these punishments - the fire and the sword. She suffered these things by not only the Babylonians but also by the countless enemies who came after, of which the Romans may be the most prominent in their destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The righteous God of all flesh has not forgotten the ill treatment His people have received. The Lord will use the same punishments on the heathen that they have used on Israel. "...For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7)."