Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Sin of Confederacy

"The LORD spake also unto me again, saying, Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son; Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: 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 8:5-8)

The name Shiloah means sent. A small spring erupting on the east side of Jerusalem was eventually channeled into the city. Flowing down from near the temple and terminating into a man-made pool at the bottom of the city, the waters of Shiloah are those referred to by Jesus as "the pool of Siloam (John 9:7)."

In this passage, the Lord uses this gently flowing spring to represent the peace and security of a kingdom whose trust is in the LORD of hosts. In contrast, Assyria is represented by an overflowing river which wreaks havoc on the surrounding landscape. Ahaz and his people must choose between the life-giving stream of God and the life-threatening river of the Assyrians.

This people may be in reference to northern Israel who had placed such confidence in Pekah and his ally Rezin; however, context would seem to indicate that God had in mind the people of Jerusalem when He made this statement. The small, weak province of Judah had become enamored with the seemingly great power and security of its northern enemies. Allowing human logic to guide their thinking, they had convinced themselves that their salvation lie in an alliance with Tiglathpileser whose might exceeded that of their opponents. The Lord promised that the king of Assyria would not be content to simply deliver Judah and then leave. This destructive Assyrian river would reach well into the land of Judah and threaten even Jerusalem itself; however, the city of God's choosing would be delivered as is seen in Isaiah 37:36-37.

Isaiah ended this warning with the same promise given in 7:14 - "God with us." Even though Judah would nearly destroy herself through her own rebellious choices, God's mercy and faithfulness would once again prove to be the means of deliverance.

Eventually, God would bring full judgment upon Jerusalem through King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon; however, God's longsuffering nature kept His people from experiencing the full impact of their foolishness during the ministry of Isaiah. The Lord is very gracious. By God's mercy, a Christian is often spared the full and immediate impact of his poor choices while the Lord patiently chastens and directs those He loves (Revelation 3:19).

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Sign of Mahershalalhashbaz

"Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria." (Isaiah 8:1-4)

Isaiah's second son was a sign of the coming judgment upon northern Israel and Syria. Mahershalalhashbaz means haste (to) spoil, speed (to) prey. In fact, in 10:6, the words spoil and prey are the Hebrew words shalal and baz respectively.

Just as Isaiah had referred to his first son in the prophecy of 7:16, he now uses his second child to illustrate the speed with which the king of Assyria would come against Israel and Syria. These prophecies were given in an attempt to warn Ahaz that his primary foe was not Israel or Syria but rather the mighty Assyrian Empire which he was about to call upon for help.

According to II Kings 16:7, Ahaz did send to Tiglathpileser for aid. The king responded by moving his army westward. His first target was the Mediterranean coast. He marched south as far as Philistia and subjugated major cities such as Gaza. Perhaps his desire was to cut off the assistance of Egypt as well as to block the enemy's access to the sea. After this, the Assyrians marched north against Israel. The result of this campaign is given in II Kings 15:29.

In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.

Pekah was also killed by Hoshea who was probably acting in accordance with the wishes of Tiglathpileser (II Kings 15:30). After subjugating Israel, the king concentrated his efforts on Damascus and the Syrian armies. In 732 BC, Damascus was taken, Rezin killed and the people of Syria deported to Kir (II Kings 16:9). This event was prophesied by Amos in the days of King Uzziah.

I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD (Amos 1:5).

All of these events came to pass very shortly after Isaiah prophesied. Before his little boy would be old enough to say, "Mommy" or "Daddy," Israel and Syria would no longer be an enemy. Instead, Ahaz and his posterity would face the consequences of seeking the help of the heathen.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Scourge of Assyria (Part II)

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land. And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns. With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns. And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle." (Isaiah 7:21-25)

These passages illustrate the changes which would take place in the land in the aftermath of war. Instead of flocks and herds being abundant, a man would carefully nourish a young heifer and two sheep. Both man and his domestic animals would be scarce due to the bloodshed and deportation. Rather than meat being a part of the daily diet, it would now be scarce. The animals could not be killed due to their scarcity and through their milk would now produce the main food source. Grains are not mentioned anywhere in the passage because the farmland would be devoured by the coming invaders.

The places of the vineyards would be desolate, and briars and thorns would overrun the once well-tended fields. Men would go out with bow and arrow to hunt for food and to protect themselves against the wild animals hiding in the cover of such undergrowth. The Lord would allow the hills to become places of pastureland for the few flocks that remained. All of these things seem to be indicating a change for the worse in the aftermath of punishment upon Judah for her apostasy.

Ahaz saw his deliverance in the king of Assyria, but the Lord promised him that such confidences would be confounded. The king's only hope lie in the deliverance of the Almighty Who would, without fail, bring the Salvation so longed for by the God-fearing among Israel's inhabitants.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Scourge of Assyria

"The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes." 
(Isaiah 7:17-19)

II Kings 16:7-18 declares that King Ahaz rejected God's help and turned to Tiglath-pileser in his time of need. Ahaz gathered the silver and the gold found in God's temple as well as that found in his own house and sent it to the king of Assyria in return for his military aid. Tiglath-pileser did come and temporarily deliver Ahaz; however, II Chronicles 28:20 indicates that the alliance was ultimately destructive for Ahaz and Judah. It cost Ahaz a great deal of money and made him subservient to the Assyrian Empire.

The Lord promised that Ahaz's rejection of God and his trust in Assyria would prove disastrous. After Ahaz passed on, Judah saw an invasion of her land by the Assyrian army. This account is vividly described in Isaiah 37. As numerous as the bees and the flies, the Assyrians would come into Judah and devour the land. This invasion came sometime near 701 BC.

"In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard." (Isaiah 7:20)

God called Assyria a razor that is hired. Ahaz hired Assyria to help him, but God would take this hired razor and use him to punish the faithlessness of Israel. When a leper was cleansed of his leprosy, he shaved off all of his hair and washed himself and his clothes (Leviticus 13:8-9). The Lord may have been using this as a word picture when He said that the razor of Assyria would consume the hair of Judah's body. God would use Assyria to purge away the filth of Judah's rebellion.

Throughout his inscriptions, Tiglath-pileser clearly indicates his submission to Assur, the chief god of the Assyrian pantheon. Little did Tiglath-pileser know that he was nothing more than a razor in the hand of the Almighty.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Sign of Immanuel

"Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?" (Isaiah 7:10-13)

Still standing near the watercourse of Jerusalem's upper pool, Isaiah commands Ahaz to put God to the test concerning His good promises. Ahaz declared his rebellion by rendering a refusal to put God to the test. Whether his words were gendered by false piety or whether they were gendered by a direct refusal to humble himself before the multitude, it is difficult to say. Regardless, Isaiah was highly displeased with his faithless response. Ahaz's oppression and abuse of others was evil enough, but how dare he step on God's grace and refuse to seek the Lord!

Ahaz's attitude is a fitting example of man's hard heart. Quite likely, by this time Ahaz had already suffered the defeats mentioned in II Chronicles 28:5-15. His land had been overrun by the enemy and his capital city besieged, yet he refused to humble himself and to seek God's face. This rebellious tendency is not confined to Ahaz.

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." (Isaiah 7:14-16)

Ahaz refused to ask God for a sign; therefore, the Lord Himself would give a sign of His gracious intentions toward Israel and the world. Thankfully, God's faithfulness is not contingent upon the obedience of men.

In Genesis 24:16, Rebekah is called a virgin; however, her situation is qualified by this statement, "neither had any man known her." The reason this qualifying statement exists is because the Hebrew word behind virgin in Genesis 24:16 could be translated young woman (of marriageable age). This type of woman would normally be a virgin but not in every instance. The Hebrew word behind virgin in this passage is different. It requires no qualifications. It pertains to that woman who has never had intercourse with a man. God prophesied of Mary who would become pregnant with the Christ-child prior to having relations with a man.

The name Immanuel means God with us. Ahaz had led Judah into apostasy. He was about to hire, or had already hired, the Assyrian army to come to his defense which would prove to be disastrous for Israel. On every front, things did not look good for Judah, and in the midst of it all, Isaiah gives this glorious promise, God is with us. God would become man and deliver Himself up for the sins of all. The birth of Jesus Christ is referenced as being the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew 1:23.

The Holy Spirit declared that God the Son would eat only that which is good (butter and honey) in order that He might refuse all evil and choose good. Christ in His sinless nature did only those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29). He studied, lived and fulfilled God's Law. The Lord's people in this dispensation could learn much from the Savior's example. Instead of being engrossed with doctrines and teachings of men, it would be far better to be filled with the teaching of Scripture. If a person wants to know what he should not do, he should carefully study that which he should do.

The Hebrew definite article on front of the word child could accurately be translated as this as well as the. With this in mind, Isaiah was likely referring to his young son Shearjashub. As he stood there before Ahaz and his people, Isaiah pointed to his little boy and said, "Before this child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good... ." Before Shearjashub was old enough to make accurate judgments concerning right and wrong, both Syria and Israel would experience the loss of their kings. Isaiah gave this prophecy sometime between 735 and 732 BC. In 732 BC, Damascus was taken by Tiglath-pileser and Rezin was killed (II Kings 16:9). Very near to the same time, Pekah was murdered by Hoshea and Israel was subjugated by the Assyrians (II Kings 15:29). As God declared to Ahaz, before Shearjashub could grow up, Judah's fierce adversaries would be brought to nothing

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Sign of Shearjashub (Part III)

"Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." (Isaiah 7:7-9)

Rezin was the king of Damascus; yet, he would be killed by the king of Assyria sometime near 732 BC (II Kings 16:9). Damascus was the chief city of Syria; yet, God would use the Assyrians to conquer it. On all fronts, Syria would be robbed of its strength. In addition to this, within sixty-five years, northern Israel would be conquered and led away captive by the Assyrian army. The full impact of this was realized in 722 BC when Samaria was conquered by Sargon II of Assyria.

Rezin would be killed. Damascus would be conquered, and Syria would be deported. Pekah, the son of Remaliah, would be murdered from those within (II Kings 15:30). Samaria would be conquered eventually, and all of northern Israel would be exiled. When Isaiah pronounced these words, many of these prophecies were very near; however, Judah's heart remained hard against God, so Isaiah declares, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." Faith is the foundation by which man approaches God. Those who will not believe what God has said will never be established. Their lives will simply come and go, and their end will be hellfire. God's promises would remain steadfast. Regardless of Judah's response, the Lord would do what He had just pronounced; however, Ahaz and his people would not be benefited if they refused to repent and to turn from idols to God.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Sign of Shearjashub (Part II)

"Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:" (Isaiah 7:3-6)

God used Isaiah's children as signs for what He would do in Israel (Isaiah 8:18). In light of this, Shearjashub's name means a remnant shall return. The Lord was not attempting to encourage Ahaz because of any worthiness on his part. Ahaz was a king who repeatedly expressed his lack of concern for God's will. Instead, the Lord is showing grace to Ahaz and his people as well as His far-reaching goodness to the future generations of Israelites.

The time for Jerusalem's destruction had not come; therefore, God openly declared His intentions to drive back Judah's fierce neighbors who had made an unholy confederacy for the purpose of destroying any pro-Assyrian opposition. God calls Judah's opponents "smoking firebrands." Pekah's and Rezin's anger had made them like two burning pieces of wood which could not be touched; yet, God in His power would toss them back into the land from whence they came and eventually destroy them through the king of Assyria.

Nothing more is known of Tabeal. Apparently, Israel and Syria had intentions of installing him as a puppet-prince once Jerusalem had been overcome.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Sign of Shearjashub

"And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." (Isaiah 7:1-2)

Between chapters six and seven, there is a time gap of approximately six years. The text skips the reign of Jotham and picks up with his son Ahaz. Quite probably this is due to the fact that the text is mainly concerned with the conflict between Judah, Israel and Assyria which took place during the reign of Ahaz.

II Kings 15:34 and II Chronicles 27:2 declare that Jotham's heart was toward God; however, he failed to remove the idolatrous high places of worship (II Kings 15:35), and he himself did not enter into the temple of the Lord (II Chronicles 27:2). Whether his failure to visit the Lord's house was due to apathy or whether it was born out of fear for what had happened to his father is not known. Regardless, his failure to fully follow after God left the people in a state of spiritual corruption (II Chronicles 27:2), and it set the stage for the apostasy of his son Ahaz.

Ahaz was pro-Assyrian in his policies (II Kings 16:7), and the Lord may have used this to create tension between Judah and her anti-Assyrian neighbors - Ephraim and Syria. Regardless of the circumstances used by the Lord, God was punishing Ahaz and his kingdom for their sins by allowing Israel and Syria to war against Judah (II Kings 15:37, 16:1-4).

Syria had been a long time foe of Israel, but now they were in a common agreement against Judah. Likely, this seemed to be quite the betrayal in the eyes of the Judah's citizens. Rebellion against God often leads to alliances where there should be none (Matthew 22:15-16, Luke 23:12).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Vision of God's Glory: Isaiah's Commission (Part II)

"Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof." (Isaiah 6:11-13)

Isaiah may have been asking how long he should prophesy, or he may have been curious as to how long Israel would reject. Either way, the Lord's answer made it clear that Isaiah's words and Israel's rejection would continue until the enemy had devoured the land and deported its inhabitants. Isaiah's ministry did not span the time up until the Babylonian invasion; however, it did go beyond the invasions wrought by the Assyrians on both Israel and Judah. Israel's hard heart followed her all the way to the end of the Old Testament and into the era of the New Testament Church, and it will be with her until the return of Jesus Christ.

Despite the hopeless condition of Isaiah's countrymen, the Lord promised that He would preserve a remnant of His people. He would not allow them to undergo complete annihilation, and He would preserve to Himself a band of genuine God-fearing individuals. God views the Jews as His holy people, and their protection will continue until the dawn of the Millennial Kingdom.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Vision of God's Glory: Isaiah's Commission

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." (Isaiah 6:8)

This passage is often referred to as Isaiah's second commission. The Lord had obviously called Isaiah to prophesy prior to this event; however, perhaps Isaiah needed a fresh reminder of God's call upon his life. Being near to the death of Uzziah and to the ever encroaching presence of Assyria, this commission may have been especially encouraging. God is faithful to provide His servants with renewed assurance of His will for their lives, especially during tough times.

The Lord could have delivered His message to Israel by any means, but He sought for a man. I Corinthians 1:21 says, "...It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." God graciously allows people to serve Him when He could easily use another medium.

Isaiah's response has become highly respected down through the ages. He quickly volunteered for God's service. Isaiah could not have known all that awaited him. Undoubtedly, he had some knowledge of what to expect; however, the intricate details of his future belonged to God. The uncertainty of continued service in the capacity of a prophet did not sway him from answering God's invitation. Isaiah knew that the safest and most rewarding place is always in the will of God. The rejection did not deter him. The sacrifice did not deter him. The eyes of Isaiah were on the eternal rewards of service to the Holy One of Israel.

"And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." (Isaiah 6:9-10)

In general, Israel had no intention of repenting; therefore, God vividly described to Isaiah the end result of his prophesying. God did not shut the eyes and ears of people who were willing to listen. Instead, He gave to the Israelites the hard heart which they had already chosen for themselves. This conclusion is reinforced by the words of Christ in Matthew 13:14-15.

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Jesus made it clear that the Israelites had chosen to close their eyes to His teachings; therefore, their decision would leave them in a hopeless state of unbelief.

A continual hardening of the heart is a dangerous thing. Proverbs 29:1 says, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." Eventually, repeated rejection will lead to irreversible destruction.

Such a prospect could not have been very encouraging for Isaiah, yet it was the ministry to which God called him. God's longsuffering nature inspired one more attempt at bringing about repentance in the heart of Israel, and Isaiah volunteered to be the messenger of God's mercy.

Discouragement comes easily when positive results are not readily apparent, especially when a believer receives criticism from those who lean toward a more worldly approach to soul-winning; however, it must be remembered that God's will is often a difficult road. The Bible does not promise that every Christian will have the joy of seeing numerous people come to the faith, but it does promise a reward to those who stand firmly on the truth. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58)."

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Vision of God's Glory: Isaiah's Humility

"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5)

Overcome by such holiness, Isaiah was certain that he would soon perish. In the light of God's countenance, Isaiah's righteousness was turned into uncleanness. Daniel had a similar experience when, on the banks of the Tigris River, he saw a vision of the LORD. Concerning that vision, Daniel wrote, "...for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength (Daniel 10:8)." Man, on his best day, fails to meet God's standard. This is why God's righteousness must be imparted to a man in order for him to have eternal life (II Corinthians 5:21).

Isaiah's vision of God led him to an understanding of certain facts. He understood that God is pure in the strictest sense of the word. He was made aware of his own wickedness. He realized that the religiosity of his native country was not sufficient to stand in such a presence. He was moved to humility, and the fear of the Lord overtook him. Toward the end of the passage, Isaiah acknowledged God's absolute authority by calling Him, the King. In this encounter with God, there is no hint of rebellion, sensuality or self-focus.

Much of what is called worship in these days is not genuine. The music is often sensual. People are often encouraged toward self-esteem rather than toward humility. Lip service is often given to God while compliance to His commandments is absent; and worldliness, not holiness, often characterizes the overall "worship experience." Such things are in stark contrast to what Isaiah experienced when He met the LORD of hosts.

"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." (Isaiah 6:6-7)

In the midst of Isaiah's fear and inadequacy, the mercy of God shines through. No man is worthy to stand before God, and yet God has made a way for man to have a relationship with Him.

The seraph took a live coal from the altar, the place of sacrifice. Isaiah's hope of cleansing is not found merely in the coal, but rather it is found in what the altar and its coals represent - the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through God's redemptive plan pictured in the Old Testament sacrificial system, Isaiah found cleansing from his sin.

Isaiah could do nothing to help himself. In his deepest distress, God's grace stepped in and provided the means of Isaiah's cleansing. Thus will He do for all who come to Him in simple faith.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Vision of God's Glory: The LORD'S Holiness

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1)

The full impact of this opening statement cannot be realized apart from an understanding of the history surrounding Uzziah's death. Some years prior to Uzziah's death, Assyria's power had declined somewhat. Defeated in battle by the kingdom of Urartu to the north, Assyrian strength sustained a significant blow. Consequently, the subjugated provinces were starting to gain more boldness in their attempts to be free of Assyrian domination.

In 746 BC, rebellion broke out in the royal city of Kahlu and Ashur-Nirari V was killed along with the royal family. Tiglath-pileser III (also called Pul in II Kings 15:19) seized the throne and established himself as Assyria's new monarch. He immediately brought about many reforms in an attempt to restore the waning power of the kingdom. Prior to his rule, Assyria's provincial governors exercised great authority, and, in many instances, operated independently of the king. Tiglath-pileser put a stop to this by removing much of the power of the individual provinces. He cut the size of the provinces in half and appointed eunuchs as the new governors so that there could be no family dynasties.

After this reorganization of the empire, Tiglath-pileser set about making drastic changes to the military. Prior to his reign, Assyria's troops consisted of conscripts. These individuals were drafted mainly during the summer months between the times of planting and harvesting. Such a system limited military campaigns to only a few months out of the year. By requiring each province to give a certain number of men, Tiglath-pileser created Assyria's first professional fighting force - a force which could campaign year round.

Having established his kingdom and his military might, Tiglath-pileser turned his attention to the old enemy of Urartu whom he engaged in battle. Unlike the previous confrontation, the Urartian troops fell before Assyria. In 743 BC, Tiglath-pileser besieged the city of Arpad for aiding the kingdom of Urartu. Three years later, Arpad fell, and Tiglath-pileser continued his push westward.

Along the western coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the little land of Judah, King Azariah (Uzziah) co-reigned with his son Jotham. God had firmly established Uzziah's kingdom and made it strong. Uzziah was successful in his campaigns against the Philistines, Arabians and Ammonites (II Chronicles 26:6-8). A host of fighting men along with ingenious inventions used for shooting arrows and slinging stones outfitted the military of Uzziah (II Chronicles 26:11, 15). Surely such a powerful king seemed to be the likely candidate to fend off the threatening Assyrian forces; however, sometime near the westward advances of Tiglath-pileser's army, Uzziah passed on into eternity.

With their powerful leader gone and the reality of Assyrian invasion staring them in the face, the inhabitants of Judah were encouraged by Isaiah to lift their eyes from the temporal kings of the earth to the eternal King of the heavens. Far above any human king sat the LORD of hosts. Much greater in strength than mortal man and holding sway over the affairs of all, the Holy One of Israel makes His appearance in this chapter at a point in history when God-fearing men like Isaiah needed encouragement such as only God can give.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Vision of the God's Glory: The LORD'S Holiness (Part II)

"Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." (Isaiah 6:2-4)

The root of the Hebrew word translated seraphim means to burn. These angelic beings glowed with the brilliance of burning flames, and yet their countenance paled in comparison to that of the Lord. In this passage, they seem to be acting as defenders, worshipers and proclaimers of God's holiness. Two wings covered the feet since the feet, being in contact with the ground, are symbolic of uncleanness. Two more wings covered the face because of their unworthiness to look upon the One Who sat upon the throne. Unable to refrain from the praise which God's holiness incites, each seraph answered the other with declarations of God's intense purity. They hailed Him as the LORD of hosts or JEHOVAH of the armies. As the supreme Commander in Chief, the LORD holds sway over the forces of both the seen and the unseen worlds.

The overwhelming effect of these declarations caused the massive posts of the temple door to move, and God's presence was characterized by the smoke which had once filled the temple at the completion of its construction (II Chronicles 7:2). Isaiah's countrymen had grown apathetic to the holiness of God; therefore, this vision would have served to remind them that neither God's character nor His standards had changed. If the priests of Solomon's day could not enter, with true piety, the place of God's presence, how dare the people of Isaiah's day offer worship tainted by insincerity and rebellion!