Friday, September 22, 2017

Messiah the Servant

"Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law." (Isaiah 42:1-4)

In Matthew's gospel, the Holy Spirit declares that Jesus Christ is the Servant presented here.

Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust (Matthew 12:18-21).

The Lord's first coming was a near fulfillment of this prophecy, and His return will bring its consummation. As the Servant Who does not fail or turn aside from truth, the Lord Jesus is the only One in Whom the Father has true delight. God's soul cannot truly delight in the individual who is outside of Christ, because for the believer Jesus "is made ... wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (I Corinthians 1:30)."

When Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leadership, he did not pursue arguments on their level. He simply withdrew and finished the ministry which had been entrusted to Him. As God, the Lord was not threatened by the rejection of men; therefore, there was no need to do battle with the unregenerate leadership which resembled crushed reeds and piles of smoldering flax. The Jews lifted up their voices against Christ. They cried against the Lord, but such were not the Lord's ways. Unlike evil men, Christ is not hateful and oppressive. The finished work of Calvary ushered in the redemptive judgment of mankind and brought to both Jew and Gentile the merciful salvation of God.

As with His first coming, the second will not witness Christ engaging in petty arguments against His opponents. His judgment will be swift and effective. The isles, or coasts and regions, will wait upon His righteous Law that will proceed, without apology, from the millennial Mount Zion (Micah 4:2).

In the Hebrew text, there seems to be a play on words. The verb for fail shares the same root for the noun smoking. The idea is to be dim, smoldering or failing. The verb behind discouraged shares the same root as the noun translated bruised. The idea behind both is to be crushed. The Lord's enemies fail and pine away as piles of smoldering flax. As reeds whose internal walls have been crushed and rendered ineffective, unregenerate men will not stand in God's judgment. However, such is not the case with the Lord Jesus. He will not fail as the smoldering flax, and He will not be crushed under the discouragement of His opponents. At His second coming, He will execute the full judgment of the Father, and the world's nations will witness a time of men turning to faith in Christ such as has never been seen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Description of the New Jerusalem (Part III)

"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:22-27)

As a structure that represents the ministry and character of the Lord Jesus Christ, the temple will not be needed in the eternal state. The patterns of the things in the heavens will be replaced by the real and eternal things. As representations of God's light, the sun and the moon will also not be needed. They will be replaced by the eternal light that is emitted from God's holy character. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples caught a small glimpse of the radiant glory which was masked when Jesus came to earth. In eternity, all of His glory will shine forth unrestrained. No created light could ever compare to the purity of the Savior.

It would appear that the new earth will have nations. The text speaks of kings bringing the nation's glory and honor to the new Jerusalem. Eternity will witness a structure not unlike what exists today; however, the future structure will be completely untainted by sin. Only the redeemed will make up the citizens of the nations. Rather than using the wealth of creation for selfish and prideful purposes, the saints of the countries will use it to honor the Almighty.

Because darkness will be banished (for it cannot exist alongside the brightness of God's character), the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem will never be shut. Human frailty will not exist. There will be no need for sleep and recovery. The service of the "Dayspring from on high (Luke 1:78)" will continue uninterrupted by the absence of night. The text is emphatic; the presence of the unregenerate will not, in any way, be permitted. The lake of fire will receive all who are outside of Christ; they will be banished from His presence forever. The plight of the saved and the plight of the lost could not be more different. One is assigned to unimaginable splendor and glory in the sinless presence of God; and the other is assigned to an eternity of unimaginable sorry, pain and torment. Such a contrast of futures is made possible not by man's righteousness but by faith in the righteousness of the Lamb. Everyone deserves a chance to hear the gospel while time remains. "...The night cometh, when no man can work (John 9:4)."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Lord's Intentions (Part IV)

"Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you. I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay. Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words." (Isaiah 41:24-26)

Still condemning the lifeless idols, the Lord considers the man who chooses them to be an abomination. Man was created to worship only God. He was designed to bring glory to God; and to choose someone or something over the Creator is to live contrary to the very purpose for which man was created.

Verse 25 is difficult to interpret. God may be speaking of raising up Nebuchadnezzar who was said to come from the north upon Judah (Jeremiah 4:6); but this seems unlikely since the individual is described as calling upon God's name. More probably, this is a reference to the Messiah Who will subject God's enemies and eliminate idolatry upon His return. His appearance from the north pictures a position of power and dominance. Some see in this prophecy Cyrus' rise to power. Again, this may be true but seems unlikely based upon the wording and context. Idolatry's judgment seems to be in view, and only Christ can bring such judgment. The Jewish migration to Jerusalem under the hand of Cyrus may have been a token of God's future intentions to judge idolatry and to bring about the salvation of His people, but it was not the full fulfillment.

God challenges man's idols to predict and to guide the future as He has. If they could do such things, God would declare them to be righteous. Of course, they cannot. Neither man nor his images can take the place of God. Righteous is a title reserved for none but the Lord, and He will justify the man who chooses to trust in the righteousness of God.

"The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings. For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word. Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion." (Isaiah 41:27-29)

The verses are reminiscent of Israel's millennial redemption. The Lord Jesus brought good tidings upon His first coming. The nation rejected these, but the future promises to bring more good tidings when Israel's blindness is lifted and faith in Jesus Christ is realized.

God surveyed Israel's leadership, and He could not find a righteous counselor among them. The nation's idolatry up to the point of her captivity had left her void of scriptural wisdom. Jesus' day witnessed the same state of spiritual barrenness. Open idolatry had been replaced by self-righteous pride. Israel's faithlessness followed her into the New Testament era. Spiritually speaking, the nation is full of wind and confusion. Were it not for the Lord's merciful intentions of redeeming her, she (as all men) would be forever lost.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Description of the New Jerusalem (Part II)

"And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Revelation 21:15-21)

The dimensions are impressive. A furlong is about 600 feet; therefore, the city will be approximately 1,370 miles long, wide and high. Such a proportion staggers the imagination; yet with God "all things are possible (Mark 10:27)." Some commentators believe that the city is in the shape of a pyramid. All is mere speculation beyond what the text discloses. The city's wall (likely measured from the base) is some 215 feet thick.

Representing the purity of God, the entire city is made of transparent gold, being purer than any metal found on earth. What a beautiful reminder of the purity which has been imparted to the saint through belief in Jesus Christ! In fleeing to Jesus' blood, the Christian is made a "[partaker] of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4)." As already mentioned, a jasper can be red, yellow, brown or green and sometimes blue. A sapphire is a deep, rich blue color. A chalcedony is likely blue, but its exact color here remains somewhat uncertain. An emerald appears as a darker green gem. A sardonyx is a form of agate with swirls of brown, red, gray and white. A sardius is a reddish stone, while the chrysolite is a goldish-green color. The sardius is thought by some to be in reference to a ruby. A beryl is a beautiful sea-green stone. A topaz is typically yellow but can be other colors. The chrysoprasus is an apple-green colored quartz; a jacinth is an orange-red stone, and an amethyst is deep purple. Some colors are approximations because the exact identity of certain stones mentioned in the Greek text is uncertain. Despite the inability to describe with confidence the exact color of every gem mentioned, the reader is left with a overwhelming picture of colorful beauty and variation - all of which stands as a witness to the purity, beauty, and sanctity of God's character.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Lord's Intentions (Part III)

"Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:14-20)

Jacob's unflattering title reminds every man how depraved he is in God's eyes. Outside of Christ's righteous blood, a man has nothing to offer God. Over and over again, Israel had proven to be rebellious; and they are not alone. Mankind is basically wicked (Romans 3:23). He needs the Lord's imparted righteousness. Man's desire to boost his self-esteem has caused him to sneer at the title of worm. Pride has blinded every man to his true spiritual condition. Only repentance and faith in Christ's sufficient blood can bring acceptance before God at the day of judgment. Outside of a relationship with God, man is as helpless and dirty as a worm.

At the return of Christ, God has promised to make Israel victorious over her enemies. History has yet to witness such a Jewish victory, but one day they will conquer their enemies under the headship of the Messiah. A threshing instrument was used to harvest grain. As a well-sharpened harvesting tool, Israel will beat down the enemies of the Lord upon His return (Zechariah 14:14).

Like every nation, Israel is a proud people. To this day she has not given God the glory through Jesus Christ. In the millennial kingdom she will honor the Lord rather than honoring man. To Isaiah's audience, this would have been particularly significant since Israel was so often infatuated with the aid of other nations. The need to give God the glory is not limited to Israel. Every believer needs to be certain that God gets the credit and not man.

The transformation of the wilderness into a garden should be taken literally. Isaiah has already prophesied of such things (35:1, 7). The earth will be renewed at the Lord's return. All of this beautiful greenery and life will stand as a testimony to the life-giving nature of God. Everything about the Lord exudes life. John said, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men (John 1:4)." Earth's change for the better will stand as a testimony to God's regenerating nature. Death and bareness are products of sin, not God's original handiwork.

God's purpose in transforming the earth is so that Israel and all people will be brought to the realization of God's power and goodness. The word for understand can mean to prosper. It is a prosperous thing to humbly consider the power and goodness of the Lord. Gratitude does wonders for delivering a person from wrong attitudes and actions. The word behind create is that used in Genesis 1:1. It means to make something out of nothing. God does not need to make something out of that which already exists. He can form anything He wants out of nothing at all. The changes of the millennial kingdom will not be brought on by natural phenomenon; and it is pointless to spend hours conjecturing how God will change the earth. His power is limitless.

"Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together." (Isaiah 41:21-23)

The Lord now addresses the false gods which had so often plagued the nation. God commands both them and their worshipers to come near to Him. The Lord wants to ask some questions. If Israel's false gods are the true God, then let them provide accurate prophecy of future events. Such ability is the ultimate proof as to who is truly omniscient. The accuracy of the Bible's prophecies bears witness to its divine nature.

The Lord wants people to use reason. He gave man the gift of common sense. The Lord is merciful in that He encourages people to compare His works with the works of pseudo-gods. As the Creator of all, He is not obligated to give man such an audience. The tenor of Elijah's words may be heard in these verses.

Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked (I Kings 18:27).

Temptation exists to believe that one is spiritually well because he is not involved in actual idolatry. However, Israel's open idolatry was eventually replaced by the abominable god of self-righteousness, and the end state of the nation was worse than the former (Matthew 12:45). Self-righteousness is an idol which every man is tempted to worship.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Description of the New Jerusalem

"Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:11-14)

The New Jerusalem is the heavenly city for which every true believer waits. She is, as Paul put it, "the mother of us all;" and the principles of redemption for which she stands are in direct opposition to the flesh-based religions of mankind (Galatians 4:25-26).

John now begins to describe with some detail the physical beauty of the city. Every aspect of her grandeur reflects the purity and splendor of Israel's Holy One. A jasper stone can be red, yellow, brown or green and, in some instances, blue. The city emitted beams of light which, to John, resembled the colors of a transparent jasper. Such an image of God's glory would be dazzling. Quite likely, John's description falls far short of the actual reality. Comparisons help, but they are not complete substitutes.

Like the millennial Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48:31-34), the city's gates stand in memorial of Israel's twelve tribes. Dan was excluded from having a place among the 144,000 witnesses; but here he is likely reinstated since his name is definitely found on the gates of the millennial Jerusalem. God's grace is that which reinstates a man when he deserves to be excluded.

The gates bring to remembrance the old covenant while the foundations of the city, being laid in memorial of the Lord's twelve apostles, call to remembrance the new. In this construction, the inseparability of the Old and New Testaments is seen. God's dealings with Israel and His workings through the Church are not mutually exclusive. The entire Bible is cohesive. Israel is not the Church, and the Church should never replace Israel; but God's holiness, love and redemption have not changed between Covenants.

For I am the LORD, I change not...(Malachi 3:6).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Lord's Intentions (Part II)

"The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came. They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved." (Isaiah 41:5-7)

In contrast to Abraham's rejection of idolatry, the Lord presents man's acceptance of it. The context seems to indicate that Abraham's victories over Chedorlaomer struck fear into the hearts of the surrounding nations. However, this fear did not move them to faith in Jehovah God. It only encouraged them to beautify and to strengthen their idols. Each idolater encouraged his neighbor to trust in his god. The carpenter is the engraver or the artificer. This man was responsible for carving out or forming the idol's shape. The goldsmith would overlay the idol, and the man with the hammer and anvil would form the various parts and appendages. Blinded by faithlessness, each man trusted in his idolatry while rejecting a relationship with God through faith.

"But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." (Isaiah 41:6-13)

How foolish to pine away in idolatry when God had called Israel's father out of such things. The word for friend is literally beloved. Abraham was beloved of God not for some intrinsic self-righteousness but for faith in his Creator. In turn, this faith manifested itself in a life that was noticeably different from the world. James quoted both Genesis 15:6 and this passage here in Isaiah when he wrote, "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23)."

God's covenant of faith with Abraham cannot be broken, and so the Lord commands Israel not to fear. Although Israel would undergo intense judgment because of her rebellion, she will one day be delivered. Such deliverance will not come through her goodness but through the goodness of God. The emphasis is on God's ability and not man's as He says I will strengthen, I will help and I will uphold. All of these actions come through the strong hand of God's righteousness. Man's righteousness brings death, but faith in God's righteousness brings life. With great clarity, God makes it evident that "The just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11)."

The Lord promises to destroy Israel's persecutors. In 605 BC, what was left of Assyria's power was destroyed in the Battle of Carchemish. Babylon fell under Persian control in 539. Persia gave up her dominance to the Greeks at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331. The Roman Empire came and went. Down through the years, Israel's persecutors have been many and more will arise; however, they are all destined for the same end. God's hand will preserve His people. Christ's righteousness will someday cleanse His people, and in the millennial kingdom every enemy of God will be subservient to Christ.