Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Desolation of Zion's Rebels: Jerusalem's Ruin

"For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator." (Isaiah 3:1-3)

The word stay means support, and a staff carries the same meaning. Through the future invasions of the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Lord threatened disobedient Israel with the elimination of life's basic needs - food and water. According to Lamentations 2:12, Jeremiah witnessed the groans of hungry children after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. "They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom."

The Lord also promised to remove Jerusalem's citizens. After the deportation under the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem's occupants would be few in number. Sorcery characterizes three of the eleven people groups mentioned. The Hebrew participle behind the word prudent means one who divines. This is not a positive thing. A diviner is someone who utilizes sorcery in an attempt to see the future. The word behind artificer appears only here, and it means either magical or mechanical art. It may refer to someone who skillfully uses magic or to someone who is proficient in the art of manufacturing idols. Eloquent orator literally means discerning whisperer. In Jeremiah 8:17, the same word behind orator is translated charmed in reference to poisonous snakes which the Israelites were attempting to manipulate through sorcery. These discerning whisperers were snake-charmers. In their rebellion, the citizens of Jerusalem had degraded to the point of adopting Egypt's heathen religious practices.

"And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable." (Isaiah 3:4-5)

Children are capricious and inexperienced. Immaturity and the absence of life-wisdom prevents them from making desirable leaders. Because Jerusalem's citizens were proud people who preferred the powers of hell over the pure doctrine of Scripture, God promised to remove their rebellious leadership and to replace them with foolish children. After all, why should not they have child-leadership when they had behaved like rebellious children who refused to be corrected by the prophets?

Part of Israel's punishment would be the absence of respect for the elderly. God's displeasure would be evident through the presence of disrespectful people who cared nothing for giving deference to the gray head as was commanded in Leviticus 19:32. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD."

As the world becomes more hateful toward God, this disrespect among young people becomes more evident. Parents are no longer parents; they are now the slaves of the children. Sadly, this same attitude is seen in many homes which profess to be Christian. When the children within a group of people have no healthy fear of their elders, sin rests at the door.

"When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand: In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people. For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory." (Isaiah 3:6-8)

Isaiah warned of an approaching day in which the qualifications for leadership would consist of nothing greater than the presence of food and apparel. The future situation of Jerusalem would be so bad that the people would be looking for someone who had the basic necessities of life in order to make him a ruler. If Israel would not repent of her unholy direction, God would bring her to a place where she would be deprived of any legitimate leadership. She refused the greatest Leader of all; therefore, she would have none.

Though the wicked often prosper for a time, a tongue that speaks against the things of God will eventually be put to silence. This principle is valid in the life of a believer. The Christian who speaks against the things of God or refuses to follow Christ in holiness will be brought to a place of great distress.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The LORD'S Monarchy: The LORD'S Majesty

"Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day." 
(Isaiah 2:10-11)

As is often the case with the prophets (especially Isaiah), the remainder of the text bounds forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Much of what is pictured in this last part of chapter two parallels the prophecies of Revelation.

In God's chastening of Israel through the Assyrian and Babylonian armies, many of these things were fulfilled in principle; however, the context, language and parallels to New Testament prophecies strongly indicate that the main fulfillment is yet future.

When the Holy One of Israel returns, man's pride will be absolved. In the face of God's majesty, no man will be able to stand. Man is easily pleased with himself, and he is constantly attempting to rob God of His glory (an endeavor which is impossible - Isaiah 42:8). However, when God returns to punish the world and to redeem Zion, man will stoop to the lowest level in an effort to escape the Lamb's wrath.

"For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day." 
(Isaiah 2:12-17)

The items mentioned in this list would be things which represent strength and majesty. Lebanon (the area north of Israel) was and is known for its magnificent cedar trees. The area east of the Jordan known as Bashan boasted good pastureland and an abundance of oak trees. Tarshish was known for its wealth, especially precious metals. Solomon collaborated with the servants of Hiram to bring riches from this region once every three years (II Chronicles 9:21). The Lord promised to deal with this outlet of man's pride. Psalm 48:7 compliments this passage when it says, "Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind."

All of these things, along with the other items mentioned in the list, were used of men to exalt themselves; therefore, the Lord promised that someday every occasion for pride in man will be abolished.

"And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isaiah 2:18-22)

This chapter ends with the absolvement of idolatry. Again, the word used here for idols means worthlessness. In the face of Christ's return, men will find no comfort in the things which they have chosen over God. This passage parallels Revelation 6:14-17 which vividly describes the unregenerate's response to the Lord's return.

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

The text says that each man made the idol for himself. This is the opposite of how God intended things to be. Man is not the creator; he is the creature. Human nature wants to be in control. The human heart does not want to be accountable to any higher authority. This is why people are willing to stoop to the foolishness of image-worship. However, at the return of Christ, this perversion of God's plan will be absolved.

God's wrath is kindled through man's abuse of His creation. God never intended for the earth to house wickedness. When He returns, His divine anger will cause the earth and its inhabitants to shake as He executes vengeance on those who have abused His spotless creation.

And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).

The text ends with an encouraging reminder. Despite his terror, man's existence is nothing better than temporary. Through this last verse, the Holy Spirit is encouraging every man, woman and child to choose the fear of the Lord over the fear of man. Godly fear leads to faith in His Person, but the fear of man always discourages faith in the Person and work of God.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The LORD'S Monarchy: The LORD'S Mandate

"Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers. Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots: Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not." (Isaiah 2:6-9)

The Lord promises to forsake all that forsake Him. Rather than find delight in the blessings of Christ's coming kingdom, the rebel will be cast out.

Instead of choosing repentance and the fear of God, Israel and Judah turned to their neighbors for help in time of trouble. They also had adopted their ways. The word replenished means filled. Judah had sought to fill her spiritual void by making alliances with her eastern neighbors. She also had adopted their idolatry and godless lifestyle. In the days of David, the pure worship of Jehovah had prevailed throughout Israel; but now Judah found herself adopting the cultic religious practices of the previously hated Philistines. Spiritual degradation often takes place rapidly.

The Lord declared the land of Judah to be full of three things: riches, horses and idols. Israel had gathered an abundance of physical wealth, but she was spiritually destitute. This indictment reminds one of Christ's rebuke to the church of Laodicea. "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17)." Israel's wealth had served to encourage a heart of ingratitude and foolish independence.

Israel's land was also full of horses and chariots. These things symbolize military power. The prophecies of Isaiah took place during a time of political and international turmoil. The Assyrian Empire was becoming a greater threat, and Judah was strengthening herself physically against her enemies when she should have been focusing on her spiritual foundations. These prophecies took place while king Uzziah still lived. Early in his reign, he strengthened Judah's armies and prepared numerous weapons of war. As long as he remained humble, God helped him; however, once he became powerful, pride got the better of him. The text would seem to indicate that Judah's citizens followed this same vein of pride. They had weapons of war, chariots and horses in abundance; why did they need God? The coming years would soon demonstrate the vanity of man's power.

Finally, Israel was full of idols. From Dan to Beersheba, the Holy Land was defiled with idolatry. Compromises rarely stay small. Judah had failed to follow God with all of her heart, and it had cost her dearly. The word for idols literally means worthlessness. In the Old Testament, this word is commonly linked with idols and idolatry, whether the idol be an image, riches or vain men. In Zechariah 11:17, the word is used an an adjective in the phrase "Woe to the idol shepherd...." Placing trust in anything or anyone other than God is a worthless endeavor.

Because everyone was an idolater at heart, Isaiah cries out, "Forgive them not." The word for forgive literally means to carry, bear or take away. No man is capable of removing the sin from his soul. God is the only One Who can take up and carry away sin. Isaiah's request is not a cruel plea against helpless souls. Judah and Israel knew better. In the face of God's goodness, they had chosen idolatry. Their decision was not made in ignorance. It was made in knowledge of the prophets' rebukes. It was blatant; therefore, it was unforgivable. They refused to repent; therefore, God refused to forgive.

"All unrighteousness is sin (I John 5:17)," but unrighteousness committed in the knowledge of God's Scriptures is doubly frightening.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The LORD'S Monarchy: The LORD'S Mountain

"The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 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 2:1-2)

As with many passages in Isaiah, this passage is millennial in nature. It deals with the Lord's return and the establishment of Christ's earthly kingdom.

The "mountain of the LORD'S house" speaks of Mount Zion which once marked the place of God's temple. Since the Lord's withdrawal of His divine presence in Ezekiel 11:23, Mount Zion has been destitute of her true glory; however, when Christ returns, Zion will become the resting place of the most glorious temple yet known (Ezekiel 40-48).

The text says that the Lord's mountain will be exalted above all. If one takes this literally, the new temple mount in Jerusalem will be the highest point of the surrounding area. This would seem to indicate that some geographical changes will take place which is very likely based upon Ezekiel's description of the millennial Jerusalem and its temple.

Psalm 48:1-2 says,

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

The millennial temple will someday be the most beautiful place on earth. This is difficult to imagine with Jerusalem in its present state. Although the holy city is currently a place of strife and tension, God will transform it into a place of unimaginable beauty and peace. Above anything else, the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ will serve to make the future Jerusalem the most desired of all cities.

The Hebrew word for flow is the verb form of the word river. Just like a flowing river, the nations will pass through the holy city, each citizen offering reverence to the King of kings and each receiving the invaluable teaching of His holy Law.

"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD." (Isaiah 2:3-5)

"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)." Instead of being void of the knowledge of God, most of the earth's inhabitants will have a heart to seek after God. The terrors of the Great Tribulation will have passed. The rebellious armies of Armageddon will be dissolved, and the surviving inhabitants of the earth will be given a heart to seek after God.

The Law of God will be primary in the future kingdom. Though rejected by the world and lightly esteemed by carnal Christians, the Law of God will someday be feared and heeded as the great Schoolmaster for which it was intended to be (Galatians 3:24). The Law of God was never meant to save a man's soul. It was ordained to lead the repentant sinner to the spotless Messiah who will someday personally expound the heart of His Law to the obedient ear. If God's Word will have such a prominent place in the future kingdom, how much more should it be studied and obeyed in this current dispensation? Regardless of the liberal's wishes, the Law is not going away. "...The word of our God shall stand forever (Isaiah 40:8)."

The book of Revelation promises that the worst of wars is yet to come; however, when such things have passed, the world will once again know absolute peace. The future generations of the millennial kingdom will have no concept of the art of warfare. People struggle everyday to find peace. They look for it in better living conditions, better education and increased governmental control. They search for it through inward reflection and meditation. Everywhere, people are desperately trying to find the answer to peace; but they will not find it apart from God. God is love and peace and wellness. War exists not because God is cruel but because man is sinful. God is a Man of war (Exodus 15:3) only because of a need to deal with the rebellion of men. God loves peace. He is called the Prince of peace, and He has promised a blessing upon the peacemakers of this world (Matthew 5:9). The man who professes belief in Christ yet has no heart for peace is displaying a heart that is not right toward God.

This passage ends with a beautiful invitation to forsake the dark wisdom of the world and to walk in the light of the knowledge of God. Jesus Christ gave a similar invitation to all when He said, "...I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12)."

Micah 4:1-5 parallels these passages almost word-for-word. This fact has been the victim of needless debate among many. The question has been asked, "Who copied whom?" "Did Isaiah steal these prophecies from Micah, or did Micah copy Isaiah?" Why should it be unimaginable that the Holy Spirit would move two different men to write nearly the exact same thing? Would not such a divine work serve to compliment the fact that the Bible has many penman yet only one Author? The God-fearing man need not waste time with such useless questions. He need only remain focused on the faultless nature of God's Word. The double appearance of these encouraging prophecies need only spark rejoicing, not confusion and doubt.

Just as this passage ends with an invitation to walk in God's light, Micah 4:5 says, "For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever." Revelation 22:11 declares, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." Some people will never change. They want nothing to do with God, and nothing will bring them to repentance. God encourages those who hunger and thirst for Him to keep following. The God-fearing individual need not be distracted or discouraged by those who do not follow. In the end, it will be well with the righteous.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: Jerusalem's Purging (Part III)

"And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them." (Isaiah 1:28-31)

Too many people view God as the security man who is trying to monitor twenty or more cameras all at once. Such an individual is likely to overlook a thief. God sees all at once. He does not have human limitations. He sees all and knows all. Every apostate and false professor will receive what his works have bought him.

Idols and shrines were often erected near strong trees and gardens. These places represented strength and life. They gave the false impression of well-being and prosperity. God promised Israel that He would dry these places up and confound their abuse of His creation.

The Lord says they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired. Speaking of future generations which would see the chastening of Judah and her cities, the Lord used the third person plural. He then switched to the second person plural for the second verb. The choices of the people in Isaiah's day were setting the groundwork for the spiritual failure of future generations. Rebellion has far-reaching consequences.

Israel could choose to worship her idols while pretending to serve God, but the end would be destructive. The spiritual ground of the rebel is dry and barren while the spiritual ground of the righteous man is "like a tree planted by the rivers of water (Psalm 1:3)."

Although the wicked often appear strong, God promised that both the idol worshiper and the one making the idol would burn together. They would destroy one another. Tow represents the small threads of flax and other such materials. The rebel and his companions are as volatile as dry grass and matches. The unquenchable fire ultimately represents the everlasting fires of hell. The man who turns from God and pursues something else will be consigned to the flames.

While he cannot receive condemnation in hell, the believer can be distracted by the various idols of the world. Idolatry is the worship of anyone or anything other than God. It is easy to get one's eyes off of the Lord. Practicing the principles of idolatry is just as destructive as the physical act itself. Perhaps this is why John commanded the Christian Church, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols (I John 5:21)."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: Jerusalem's Purging (Part II)

"Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness." (Isaiah 1:27)

God's redemption consists of judgment and righteousness. Man's sin must be judged. In Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, God has fully judged sin. In Christ, each believer has received what his sin deserves (II Corinthians 5:21).

In Christ, each believer also finds the righteousness he so desperately needs. Through simple faith, the righteous character of God is imparted to the repentant sinner (Romans 4:3).

By God's grace, the Messiah has fully dealt with the judgment of man's sin as well as the need for God's righteousness. The individual seeking to be saved need only flee in faith to Christ's payment in order to escape his rightful condemnation. At Christ's return, Israel's eyes will be opened to the reality of these things and the hearts of her citizens will join the ranks of the spiritually circumcised.

The Hebrew participle behind converts might well be translated the ones who turn. The King James translators translated the exact same participle as them that turn in Isaiah 59:20. God is not asking men to give only mental assent to the supremacy of Christ, He is asking them to change their minds concerning their sin and God's holiness. Repentance (turning) is an inseparable part of saving faith.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: Jerusalem's Purging

"Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:" (Isaiah 1:24)

The Holy Spirit now turns to Jerusalem's purging. The Hebrew word behind ease carries with it the idea of comfort. God promised that He would comfort Himself by bringing retribution upon lost Israel.

When the Lord's doctrine is devalued and diluted by disobedient and rebellious people, God is greatly disturbed. As the professing church becomes more and more liberal, it becomes bolder in its disregard for the need to maintain pure doctrine. This disregard is accompanied by an attitude of apathy concerning the reality of God's displeasure. The end result of such things is always disastrous.

"And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city." (Isaiah 1:25-26)

God promised Israel that He would not tolerate but rather remove the devalued and diluted religion which they had adopted. Contrary to the liberal's beliefs, God will not permit the indefinite continuance of disobedience to Scripture. Payday is coming.

For Israel, the full restoration of her judges and the complete purging of her people will take place upon the second return of the Lord Jesus Christ. After her national conversion at Christ's return (Romans 11:26, Isaiah 59:20-21), the nation of Israel will serve her Messiah in righteousness.

The Holy Spirit describes the future Jerusalem as the city of righteousness and the faithful city. Righteous and faithful are two adjectives which describe the Lord Jesus Christ. Jerusalem will someday be righteous and faithful only because the Lord is righteous and faithful. Were it not for the Redeemer's presence, His saints would have nothing in and of themselves.

In reference to the Jerusalem of the millennial kingdom, Ezekiel 48:35 says, "...and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there." The saint is indebted to the merciful presence of God for all that he possesses. In Isaiah's day, Israel trusted in her own righteousness. In the days of the Lord Jesus, nothing had changed; and in the present day, the Jewish people are still convinced that God is found through human goodness and ability; however, the Scriptures are clear. Righteousness is of God, and it is graciously imparted to the one who is willing place his trust in the righteous blood of Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: Jerusalem's Apostasy (Part II)

"Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them." (Isaiah 1:23)

Israel's leadership had become covetous. No longer were they content with God and what He provides. Each one had to have just a little bit more. In Jeremiah's day, this defect in leadership had become so prominent that the Lord said, "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it (Jeremiah 5:1)."

The covetous nature of Israel's princes had led them to pass over the righteous judgment which they were employed to exercise. Because of an uncircumcised heart, they cared nothing for the lovingkindness of God. The poor widow and the fatherless child could offer them no rewards; therefore, their judgment was trampled by those who desired to have what little they had.

Covetousness always ends in a failure to exercise righteous judgment. Demas fell in love with what the world had to offer. This led him to forsake Paul in his time of need (II Timothy 4:10). Demas failed in righteous judgment. Judas' covetousness led him to betray Christ. When he should have been standing behind the righteous King, he found himself handing Him over to men who cared nothing for judgment. Judas' joy was short-lived. The thirty pieces of silver did not give rest to his tortured soul.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: Jerusalem's Apostasy

"How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:" (Isaiah 1:21-22)

The Lord begins this next section with Jerusalem's apostasy. The city's flesh-focused religion had left it as spiritually destitute as a prostitute. God was no longer her focus nor her authority. Jerusalem had committed both physical and spiritual adultery; therefore, the term harlot is befitting.

In the days of David, Jerusalem had been the home of biblical judgment. Although he too had faults, David was a God-fearing man who understood the need to rule in obedience to the Scriptures. Before his death, David penned these words under the Spirit's direction,

The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain (II Samuel 23:2-4).

Yes, at one point, Jerusalem's soul had enjoyed the undefiled judgment of God; but now, the daughter of Zion cried, "Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers (Jeremiah 4:31)."

Israel's doctrine had become valueless and diluted. Dross consists of the impurities found in silver and other metals. It must be removed in order for the full value of silver to be realized. Through disobedience, Israel had devalued God's Law in the eyes of a lost world. There idolatry, oppression, immorality and lack of separation from the heathen had left them with a hypocritical religious structure which was laden with impurities.

The Lord is not condoning the enjoyment of wine as an alcoholic beverage, but rather, He is simply using the concentrated nature of wine as an example of biblical doctrine's undiluted potency. Any of the people hearing this prophesy would understand the unappealing nature of diluted liquor to the one who chose to use it. Rebellion had left Jerusalem with a watered-down doctrinal system. God's truth was no longer the only standard. Obedience had become optional and subjective. Such a religious structure was nothing different than what the heathen nations had; therefore, how could Israel ever hope to attract the lost nations to a holy God Who is supposed to be different than the subjective and ever-changing gods of men?

God does not want His people to be on the fence. He does not want His doctrine to be devalued and watered-down through hypocrisy. Christ told the Christian church at Laodicea, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16)." A man cannot have both God and the world (James 4:4, Matthew 6:24).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Call to Repentance (Part II)

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 
(Isaiah 1:18)

These last two commands emphasize the redemptive love of God. God tenderly calls for His people to come, and to come immediately. God has given mankind something which He has not given to any beast - the ability to reason. The Lord wants man to consider his present course, his past and his future. Just like most people of today, many of Israel's population were content to live in the here and now, not considering the far reaching consequences of a failure to honestly seek God. God gave man the ability to reason. Human reason is a great privilege, but it has dire consequences if not used to follow after God's commandments.

God promised Israel spiritual cleansing if they would hear. Salvation comes not by religious ritual or rule-keeping. It comes only through faith in the righteousness of God. When God saves a man's soul, nothing is left to chance. Israel's sins were many and very vile. They had been guilty of child sacrifice, idolatry, perversion, oppression, drunkenness and much, much more, yet God promised a full cleansing to the sinner who would turn around and flee to God's saving grace.

"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." 
(Isaiah 1:19-20)

It was not enough for Israel to simply acknowledge their disregard for God's Law; they needed to demonstrate a change of heart through obedience. God's grace is sufficient to cleanse the sinner, but it is not intended to enable the continuance of an unbiblical lifestyle. God called Israel to obedience, and today He is calling lost men of every nation to obedience.

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (Romans 16:25-26)

If Israel would change their ways, they would enjoy the physical prosperity of God's blessings upon the land. This promise is to Israel and not to the Church. The two must never be confused; otherwise, serious doctrinal error will occur. However, the principle of this promise may safely be applied in any dispensation. Obedience always brings spiritual prosperity; and, in many instances, physical prosperity. Many professing believers are not at peace in their souls because they are attempting to remain loyal to the world when God has called them unto obedience to His holy character.

The LORD offered Israel an alternative. They could choose rebellion, but it would come at a great price. God does not respect persons. The same rules apply to everyone. Unholy living comes with an expensive pricetag.

The LORD did not provide His people with a third option. Man's heart is deceptive. Many people believe that they will be able to harbor some rebellion and still enjoy God's blessings. The Bible presents no such alternative.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Call to Repentance

"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:16-17)

In calling Israel to repentance, the Lord gives them eleven commands. The first two deal with their need for regeneration. God is not simply asking for moral reform; He is insisting upon conversion. The inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem did not need Jewish ceremonial washings; they needed soul washing. They needed to repent of their sin and turn to faith in the saving grace of God as promised through the Person of the Messiah. To the audience of Isaiah's day, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was yet future; therefore, a man would have to exercise faith in the shed blood of a future Messiah as pictured in the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. God called them to this cleansing faith when He said, "Wash you, make you clean." If they would acknowledge their wickedness and trust in the righteousness of God, the Lord would cleanse them from the inside out.

The next seven commands are not teaching salvation by works; they are demonstrating the reality of a changed life. True conversion results in a change of mind and behavior (II Corinthians 5:17, I John 3:8-10). A willingness to put away evil is indicative of genuine repentance. The man who claims to be God's child yet is unwilling to put away his old ways is a liar.

The Lord commanded Israel to cease from evil and to learn good works. The unconverted individual belongs to Satan (II Timothy 2:25-26). His thoughts, motives and actions are ultimately against the righteous will of God (Romans 8:7); therefore, engaging in evil comes naturally to him. On the other hand, when a person turns from sin to faith in Christ, he is given a new heart, a new mind. The Holy Spirit gives him an understanding which was not before present. Because the believer is God's child, he is taught of God to love and to do well. This does not mean that a believer cannot sin. He certainly can and does; however, he will not do so without the conviction of God's Spirit nor will he do it apart from the chastening of God. God teaches His children to do well. In giving these commands, the Lord confronted Israel with their need to come to God as their sole means of righteousness.

God first commanded Israel to seek judgment and then qualified the meaning of His command by telling them to relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless and plead for the widow. Doing these things demonstrates a love for others. This type of love characterizes the love that God has toward the lost sinner. A man who cannot or will not love others is a man who is destined for hellfire (I John 3:14-15). Israel was displaying their unregenerate nature through the oppression of these helpless people groups; therefore, God called them to repent and to assume a behavior that is worthy of genuine repentance.

The oppressed, the orphan and the widow are unable to repay. They cannot promote their deliverer to a position of honor. They cannot give large sums of money in order to make the prospect of assisting them more enticing. In short, they can offer nothing. Reaching out to these unfortunate people would be a tremendous demonstration of God's love. Such acts of kindness would be in perfect keeping with God's commandment to love one's own neighbor as himself. Jesus echoed these words which the LORD spoke through Isaiah when He said to the Pharisees, "But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:13-14)."

The oppressed need a deliverer. The fatherless need a father. The widow needs the provision and protection of a husband. God is all of these things to those who seek Him. In light of this, reaching out to these people with the intention of showing God's love comes closer to accurately representing the holy nature of God than anything else a man might do.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Comparison to Sodom (Part III)

"Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them." (Isaiah 1:13-14)

Secondly, God declares His disgust with Israel's solemn meetings. The new moon signified a time when Israelites would reconsecrate their lives to God. This involved sacrifices, the reading of Scripture and so forth; yet, what use was such activity when the hearts and lives of the individuals involved remained unchanged? Solemn meetings do not have to be vain. In fact, in Joel 1:14, the LORD encouraged Israel to engage in such a meeting. "Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD." Performed in an attitude of repentant faith, the solemn meeting has great value, but outside of this, it is useless.

The phrase I cannot away with has the idea of I am not able (to bear). God cannot bear outward expressions of devotion while the heart remains unchanged. In Hosea 6:6, the LORD said, "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." What eternal significance is the religious gathering of a disobedient people?

The temple of the Israelites was very beautiful. The facilities were elaborate, the decorations ornate and very valuable; yet, none of this impressed God. The courses of the various priests and Levites were detailed and well thought out. Psalms were sung to God by talented and beautiful voices, yet God was not pleased. The physical beauty of buildings, the vast number of sacrifices, the expense involved and the talents of people have never been the things which have obtained God's favor. God looks to the faith of the God-fearing man, and He delights in that man's obedience.

"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." (Isaiah 1:15)

Having the God of heaven hide His face from one's prayers is a frightening prospect, yet such is the plight of the one who will not be admonished by Scripture. The Lord does not take pleasure in hiding His face from people. He openly declared why such things had come about. The hands of Judah's citizens were full of blood. This is a picturesque way of saying that the people had been guilty of murder (much of which occurred through child sacrifice), robbery, hatred and oppression of all kinds. God will not hear the man who claims to love the Lord while hating others (I John 4:20-21). By doing such things, Judah's inhabitants had openly declared the reality of their unregenerate state.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Comparison to Sodom (Part II)

"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?" (Isaiah 1:11-12)

Firstly, God declares His disgust with Israel's sacrifices. In Leviticus 3:15-17, the LORD had made it clear that the blood and the fat of the animal sacrifices were to be His.

And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the LORD'S. It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.

Offered in a spirit of humble dependence upon God, the Old Testament sacrifices of God's people were precious in His sight. These things pictured the future sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and man's need of spiritual cleansing through His holy blood; however, when offered in disobedience to the heart of God's Law, the sacrifices did nothing but weary the LORD'S soul.

The word for tread means to trample (under foot). The same Hebrew verb appears in a different form in II Kings 7:17 where the Bible says, "...and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died...." Giving God lip-service and physical offerings apart from obedience is nothing short of trampling upon His holy things. If the Israelites were not going to respect God's holiness by keeping the heart of His Law, they were better off to steer clear of His holy temple. The Lord gave a similar warning in Malachi 1:10 when He said, "Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought...." A literal rendering would read, "Who (is there) also among you? and let him shut the doors, and do not kindle (fire) on my altar out of favor." If Israel were to continue being disobedient to Scripture, they would be better off shutting the temple doors and extinguishing the altar fire which was never to go out (Leviticus 6:13).

By way of application, professing Christians who will not heed the Bible's rebuke concerning their sins would be better off to shut the church doors and to walk away than to continue their displays of rebellion and hypocrisy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Comparison to Sodom

"Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah." (Isaiah 1:10)

Such an indictment would have been very distasteful to the Israelites. However, the religious rebel is no better off than the godless pervert, because they both share the root sin of pride. Perverseness is not where Sodom and Gomorrah's sins started. They started with pride which led the inhabitants of these two cities into all sorts of lasciviousness. Ezekiel 16:49-50 declares this to be so when it says, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good."

Man's tendency is to look down upon those who are involved in gross sin while passing over the root sin which is in every man - human pride. The disobedient believer has more in common with the Sodomite than he may think.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Consequences of Rebellion (Part III)

"Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." (Isaiah 1:9)

This section ends on a note of divine mercy. Salvation is all of God. Ultimately, Israel could not look to her so-called righteousness. She had nothing to offer God. Neither her pedigree nor her position could save her. Like every man, the Jews had failed to live up to God's standard. If Israel was to be saved, it would have to be through the tender mercy of God. Had the Lord not remembered His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, there would be no trace of Israel just as there is no trace of wicked Sodom and Gomorrah.

Like Israel, every man is in need of God's saving mercy. Every individual has hopelessly broken God's standard and completely missed the mark of holiness through sin (Romans 3:10-23). If a man is to escape the hell fire which now torments the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, he must turn in faith to the righteous merits of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Consequences of Rebellion (Part II)

"Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city." 
(Isaiah 1:7-8)

Rebellion also breeds desolation. Not only was Israel spiritually ill, she was physically ill. Ever since the departure of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, northern Israel had been consistently oppressed by her enemies. In the southern kingdom, things had not been much better. In the days of Rehoboam, the pharaoh of Egypt had been successful in attacking and looting Judah. The Edomites to the south, the Moabites and Ammonites to the east and the constant pressure of Israel's hated enemies to the west, the Philistines, had all been used of God to inflict punishment. Sin had literally ravaged the land and made it far less desirable than what it once was in the days of Joshua.

Sin's consequences have not changed over the years. Many believers have found themselves in great need because of sin. A lack of having one's needs met is not always an indication of sin; however, it often is. Not only can a believer find himself lacking physical provision due to sin, but he can also experience consistent and oppressive turmoil in the home and workplace. Many professing Christians live in daily chaos and disorder without admitting that such things may be the result of sin. Righteousness breeds physical peace (Isaiah 32:17), so a lack of peace means a lack of righteousness.

Judah's position had become very precarious. A cottage (literally booth or tabernacle) in the middle of a vineyard is in danger of being overcome by the vines. A lodging place in the middle of a cucumber patch is in danger of the same. Cucumbers grow on the vine. The cucumber plant spreads itself far and wide. Without the gardener's pruning, the cucumber plant would overrun the lodging place. Also, a besieged city is in immediate danger of falling to the enemy. God used all of these illustrations to aid Jerusalem in recognizing its dangerous position. To the north, Israel and Syria were plotting against Judah. On the west lie the Philistines. To the south was Egypt and the Edomites. To the east were the Arab nations, and beside all of this, the ravenous nation of Assyria was just a few years away from invading Judah. Rebellion had robbed Jerusalem of God's protection, and she was open to attack.

When a believer chooses to wander from God, he will find himself in a very dangerous position. The Lord is the One Who protects His people, and when a Christian removes himself out from under God's protective hand, he is asking to be destroyed. Jesus said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves...(Matthew 10:16)." This is not a threat to the one who is under God's watchful eye; however, it should be a major concern to the rebel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Israel's Rebellion: The Consequences of Rebellion

"Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." (Isaiah 1:5-6)

Rebellion breeds sickness. God asked Judah, "Why should you be smitten any more?" Stricken means smitten or beaten. In an effort to bring His people back, the Lord had allowed them to be invaded by numerous enemies. Foreign countries, plagues, civil unrest and famine (both physical and spiritual) had all been used in an effort to encourage Israel's repentance. God is not eager to punish mankind; He is desirous to see men repent and turn to faith in the righteousness of their Creator. The rebellious human heart paints God as a cruel oppressor, but the Scriptures depict Him as a merciful King who takes no delight in administering correction.

Despite God's many rebukes, Judah and Jerusalem continued to rebel more and more. Man's heart is deceitful and wicked. Divine chastisement does not guarantee a man's repentance. God has given every individual a free will, and it is up to that individual to humbly respond to God.

The Holy Spirit paints a very vivid picture of rebellion's results. Spiritually, Judah did not resemble a healthy happy human body, but rather it resembled one who was diseased, whose body was full of open sores which perhaps oozed with infection; or perhaps it resembled the battered and torn body of a soldier whose wounds had not been treated and wrapped. Such disgusting illustrations represent the way God views a disregard for His doctrine. Israel's lax view of the Lord's doctrine had touched every area of her body. She could not come before the Lord and flaunt any form of spiritual wellness. She was sick with apostasy, idolatry, oppression and hatred. Her only hope of healing was through the avenue of biblical repentance.

By disregarding the doctrine of separation and holiness, the professing Church has acquired many wounds, bruises and putrefying sores (fresh wounds). Disobedience is often presented on the silver platter of large church buildings and fancy facilities, but God is not deceived. Sooner or later, the putrefying sores come out.

Through it all, God's desire was to heal His people. When a believer is being chastened because of sin, the only intelligent and profitable response is repentance. When a man returns to the fear of the Lord, he will find healing for his many spiritual wounds. He may then return to spiritual growth through the study and application of Scripture, and he may also rediscover the peace that comes through walking with Christ.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Isaiah's Introduction (Part III)

"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward." (Isaiah 1:4)

The Holy Spirit gives Israel four titles. He calls them a sinful nation, a people who are loaded down with iniquity, a seed of evildoers and children that are corrupters. In Exodus 19:6, the Lord said, "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." Yet, now He calls them a sinful nation. By disregarding the commands of Scripture, Israel had become the direct opposite for which she was intended.

When a Christian engages in disobedience, it is not a light thing. Rather than fulfilling his calling of being a believer-priest within a nation of holy people (I Peter 2:9), he finds himself serving his flesh and indirectly serving the powers of darkness.

Iniquity carries with it the idea of bending and twisting that which is right. Iniquity perverts the holy standards to which a believer has been called. Judah was weighed down by such things and so is every Christian who bends and twists God's commands in order to justify his own desires.

God reminds Israel that justification is not found in human lineage. Even though they could trace their heritage as far back as Abraham, they were still nothing better than a seed of evildoers. Abraham was saved by faith. Without the justification which comes only from God, he would not have found eternal life. Likewise, apart from God's righteousness, every man is hopelessly lost in his own sin; and when he forgets such things and takes lightly the admonitions of God's Law, he finds himself raising up a generation of evildoers just like himself.

Lastly, sin corrupts. It does not deliver or breed life in any way. Romans 6:23 declares this to be so when it says, "For the wages of sin is death." Sin breeds eternal death, and it also kills the fruits of one's actions which otherwise may have been profitable.

The Holy Spirit also accuses Israel of three actions. He says that they had forsaken the LORD, provoked (despised or abhorred) the Holy One of Israel and gone away backward. How foolish to forsake the very One from which life and wellness issue, yet such is the way of disobedience. When a believer engages in sinful thoughts, actions and motives, he departs from the very One Who has given him life.

Through her disregard for God's holy covenant, Israel had despised her Holy One. God's holy nature will not permit Him to pass over such attitudes. He will deal with such things. In his rebellion, a man often thinks that God will not deal harshly with him if need be. Such thinking is not only naive; it is extremely dangerous. As time progresses, professing Christians think less and less of God's holy character and the biblical obedience to which such character calls the believer.

Not only had Israel turned away, it had turned away and gone backward. Rebellion and disobedience always lead away from the direction of productivity. God will not just leave a man alone to live his life as he so chooses. The Lord will see to it that such decisions lead into the pathway of destruction. God allows such things so that men might repent and return to the fear of the Lord.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Isaiah's Introduction (Part II)

"Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." (Isaiah 1:2-3)

The children represent Israel, and the cause of God's rebuke is immediately given. Judah had rebelled against God. As the book will soon declare, they had failed to keep the two greatest commandments of Scripture, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... and ...Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 22:37-39)." Rebellion may be defined as an open effort by people to change the government or leadership of a country by the use of protest or violence, open defiance toward a person or group in authority or a refusal to obey rules or accept normal standards of behavior. Rebellion is a serious matter, and it always breaks the heart of God, especially when it involves His people who should know better.

God esteemed two creatures as being more loyal than Israel: the ox and the donkey. An ox is not known for its intelligence, and yet it has the ability to recognize its owner. Donkeys are famous for their stubborn foolishness; however, even they have retained the ability to appreciate the value of their owner's feeding trough. In contrast to the humble dependence of these base creatures, Israel had grown independent of God. It had wandered away through its vain traditions and hedonistic ideologies.

When a Christian rebels against God's commands and principles on any level, he is displaying less wisdom than an ox or a donkey. Rebellion is deceitful. The rebel often thinks that it will be well with him, but the Scriptures promise his destruction. "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1)."

How sad it is when God's own child does not stop to consider the One Who has redeemed him, delivered him and kept him through all adversity. Judah was guilty of this, and the rebellion of Israel is alive and well in every human heart, just waiting to rear its ugly head.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Isaiah's Introduction

"The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." (Isaiah 1:1)

The main place of Isaiah's prophecy was Judah and its capital of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place of God's temple and God's priests. Of all places, Jerusalem and its suburbs should have known the danger of disobedience and apostasy; however, the very city which housed God's temple was guilty of idolatry, murder, oppression and immorality of all kinds. The intensity of the Lord's rebukes may well be understood when one considers the vast amount of divine light which had been shed upon the holy city.

Every born-again Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit. With the privilege of God's divine presence comes the responsibility of responding to God's light as seen in His Word. To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). If God did not take lightly Jerusalem's departure, He certainly will not take lightly the departure of those whose bodies serve as the dwelling place of His Spirit.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Overview of Isaiah (Part III)

The Layout and Theme of the Book

The book of Isaiah can be divided into two main sections. Chapters one through thirty-nine deal primarily with the subject of judgment. Before a man can return to God, he must first be made aware of his departure. Interestingly, these chapters are occupied with the Assyrian oppressions which plagued both the northern and southern kingdoms. As God warned His people of judgments, He used the Assyrian Empire as both an illustration and an actual instrument for the purpose of inflicting that punishment.

The latter half of the book, chapters forty through sixty-six, is focused primarily on words of comfort and the coming redemption of Israel. By this time, the Assyrian Empire was fading into the historical horizon, and the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia were on the rise. As Judah would continued to experience the failure of kings such as Manasseh, Amon, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, God brought assurance of a future redemption. Eventually, Jerusalem would be devastated by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and many of the Jews would be led away into Babylonian captivity; however, these things would not transpire without the divine promises of redemption given in the latter part of the book.

Direct references to Jesus Christ the Messiah are extremely common throughout the book. Since the subject of redemption is the main theme, the Redeemer's presence is not surprising. His spotless character and holy kingship are seen in 11:1-9. He is the servant mentioned in 42:1-25. In 49:1-50:11, He appears again as the Servant-Savior. His Messiahship is clearly the subject of 52:13-56:12. Within these chapters appear such blessed passages as Isaiah 53:1-12 where Christ's future death, burial, resurrection and glorious triumph are foretold. It is within this chapter where man is directly confronted with his need for a spotless, sinless human sacrifice such as Jesus Christ the Son of God. Lastly, in chapters sixty through sixty-six, the LORD'S glorious return is put on display. Because of his many prophecies concerning the Messiah, Isaiah was frequently quoted by Christ; and the gospel narratives are filled with fulfillment of Isaiah's revelations.

The coming glories of the Millennial Kingdom are numerous throughout the book. From the very start, the blessed state of Christ's future kingdom is put on display in 2:1-5. In chapter twelve, the God-fearing man finds his righteousness and peace in the righteous character of God through the promise of verses such as 12:2. "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation." The last chapter of the book ends with a magnificent exhibition of God's final victory over Israel's enemies. The LORD will someday return; and when He does, evil will forever be suppressed, and God's saints "shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against [the LORD]: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh (Isaiah 66:24)."

The LORD of hosts is Isaiah's favorite title for God. The term appears fifty-three times and denotes God's supreme authority over all things. The armies of Israel, the armies of the world and the supernatural armies of both light and darkness are fully at His disposal. With such magnificent power available to the man who comes to God through faith in Christ, what remains to threaten the God-fearing?

The Holy One of Israel is also a prominent title for God found throughout the book. In other Scriptures, it appears five times while appearing in Isaiah twenty-six times. God is first and foremost holy. Because of His holy character, He cannot allow the wicked to enter His kingdom. No amount of religious ritual can atone for man's sins before a holy God. No act of human effort or sacrifice is sufficient to reconcile a man's offenses. Only the holy character of Christ is found to be adequate in the eyes of God. The Holy One of God is a title attributed directly to Jesus in Mark 1:24 thus linking the Lord Jesus to this singular title found throughout the book of Isaiah.

The Lord is also commonly referred to as the Redeemer. This title is found thirteen times, and it appears exclusively in the last half of the book where God's redemption of His people is put on display in a more prominent way. The Lord is the one who has the power to buy a man back from the slave-market of sin. Apart from the choice to believe, a man is utterly helpless to bring about his redemption. Salvation is all of God. Man fails, but God is faithful. Hezekiah was a godly individual; yet his failures are clearly put on display in chapter thirty-nine. Uzziah was also commended for his righteous character, but the Scriptures also speak of his rebellion (II Chronicles 26:16-21). Had the nation of Israel been looking to either of these two men for redemption, the people would have been ultimately disappointed. In like manner, if a man looks to anyone or anything other than the one and only Redeemer (Jesus Christ) he will be gravely disillusioned.

Although the redemption of Israel is the primary theme of Isaiah's prophecy, a man must not gloss over the fact that any God-fearing individual may grasp the principles of the commands and promises found in this book. While Israel is the primary audience, God's love of the Gentile nations is found throughout the book (42:1-7, 45:22, 56:1-8, 65:1).

God's love has always extended to the entirety of mankind, and the merciful promise of Isaiah 66:2 brings everlasting joy to the soul of every repentant sinner.

"...But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Overview of Isaiah (Part II)

The Historical Background

Like most of the prophets, Isaiah's ministry took place during troublous times. Ever since the division of the Israelite Kingdom under the reign of Rehoboam, Israel had seen nothing but a succession of evil kings whose apostate ways had all but destroyed the nation. As Uzziah reigned in Judah, Jeroboam II reigned in Israel. Under his rule, Israelite territory was expanded considerably. Under Uzziah's capable hand, Judah's territory had been expanded also with victories over the Ammonites to the east and the Philistines to the west. Even to the very border of Egypt, Uzziah's power was made known (II Chronicles 26:6-8). Undoubtedly, these times of apparent strength and prosperity only encouraged many of the nation's inhabitants to forget God. The opening rebukes of Isaiah's prophecy bear witness to this tragic reality.

To the north, Jeroboam's victories were extremely temporal to say the least. God's grace in giving Israel room for repentance continued to go unheeded. After the death of Jeroboam II, the fourth and last of Jehu's sons (Zechariah) sat upon the throne. His reign would last only six months before he would be murdered by Shallum who then took the throne. After Shallum, only four more kings would reign before Israel would be conquered and deported to foreign lands.

To the east, in the land of Mesopotamia, Assyria had arisen to become the next world ruler under the hand of Adad-Nirari II. Although the Assyrians had not yet made a serious push into Israelite territory, it would not be long before Tiglath-pileser III would embark upon his famous western campaign of 743 BC; and in 722 BC, the Israelite capital of Samaria would fall to the Assyrian king Sargon II thus marking the end of the northern kingdom. After this, the Assyrians would advance toward the capital of Jerusalem while swallowing up the Judean countryside. The knowledge of such events brings to life the Lord's words when He warned Judah of Assyria's coming invasion saying, "And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel (Isaiah 8:8)."

Although Assyria would wreak havoc on the small kingdom of Judah, the Lord would deliver His people through a miraculous victory by supernaturally destroying 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night (Isaiah 37:36). After this event, Assyria would never be what it once was. God would remove her presence from Judah thus giving the southern kingdom approximately 115 additional years to repent of its sins before Jerusalem would finally fall under the rule of the Babylonian Empire.