Saturday, April 30, 2016

God's Answer

"Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; the Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 9:11-12)

The unholy coalitions would be cursed by God. Israel's alliances would not save her in the day of God's wrath. Pekah joined himself to Rezin the Syrian, but in the end, the Syrians would also be against Israel quite possibly in an alliance with the Assyrians. The last phrase appears four times throughout this section. Israel's wickedness had so angered the Lord that His wrath could not be turned away until He had fully dealt with northern Israel.

"For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts. Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed." (Isaiah 9:13-16)

In letting the heathen nations invade northern Israel, the Lord was attempting to bring His people back. Outside of God, Israel was completely vulnerable, and the Lord wanted them to realize this; however, their pride would not permit them to see their predicament for what it was.

Rebellion blinds the eyes and fogs the senses. Human pride will go to unimaginable depths in seek of self-justification. Repentance is a much less costly option.

Verse fourteen is describing the completeness of Israel's punishment. The head, tail and everything in between would be taken away in a single day. The second part of the verse restates this fact. The entire branch along with the cattail would be quickly brought to an end.

The elderly man should have been watching out for Israel's welfare. In loving God and others, he should have been setting the example. The aged were also those in positions of authority. They judged the people and gave counsel concerning the country's direction. The spiritual climate of Israel had become so bad that not one of them could be trusted to give righteous advice.

The prophets should have been giving forth the Scriptures. Their revelations were to be guided by none but the Holy Spirit, and any prophet that spoke against the counsel of God was to be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Israel's condition had deteriorated to the point where false prophets were praised rather than punished (Jeremiah 5:31). They were not warning the wicked man against the error of his ways but rather encouraging him. Their false dreams and visions did not compliment the commandments of Scripture but instead discouraged personal holiness.

Nothing could be done with such a situation; therefore, the Lord promised to destroy them. The saddest part of all is that they did not perish alone. Those whom they led were also destroyed. The disobedient man always takes someone with him.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Israel's Arrogance

"The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars." (Isaiah 9:8-10)

The Lord's Word cannot be reversed. The majority of Israel had rejected it, yet its judgments would be fulfilled. What God sets in motion, men cannot alter. To this very day, the Bible's commandments go unheeded by the majority; however, God has sent His unalterable Word into the world. In His timing, all will be fulfilled.

The Lord said, "All the people shall know." Israel chose to ignore God's truth, but the day was fast approaching when she would be forced to look truth in the eye. She would see the fruit of her choices, and she would know that God is always justified in the end. Every man's choices come back to visit him (Galatians 6:7).

Human pride is always in opposition to God's authority (James 4:6). Israel refused to acknowledge her wickedness and to submit to the holiness of the Lord. Human pride is also deceptive. Through continual warfare, Israel's cities and towns had been destroyed (the bricks had been broken down). In the siege of Israel's cities, the enemy had cut down the surrounding trees (the sycamores had been hewn down). Yet, for all this, Israel refused to see her attitude as the problem. She did not believe that her physical destruction was the result of her sinful ways but rather the consequence of a deficiency in her defenses. Instead of choosing repentance, Israel chose to make her physical defenses stronger.

This response to the chastening hand of God is very common. Rather than see the chaos, confusion and lack of peace in their lives as the result of adherence to biblical principles, people choose to place the blame for these things anywhere but where it belongs. The situation becomes even worse when an individual knows that God is opposing him yet he chooses to continue his pursuit of what he wants.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Promise of a Savior (Part IV)

"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:7)

When God said to David in II Samuel 7:16, "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever," He was not making empty promises. Through the everlasting kingdom of Jesus, this promise to David is fulfilled. According to the book of Revelation, this kingdom will continue for 1,000 years on earth, and after the old heaven and earth have been dissolved, Christ's kingdom will be eternally established in the new heaven and earth.

Years after Isaiah prophesied, Daniel reaffirmed these promises of Christ's kingdom when he wrote,

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:14).

The word justice is the same Hebrew word which is often translated as righteousness. The modern-day "Church" seems to have little concern for the righteousness of God in the attitude and lifestyle, yet without it there would be no future kingdom.

The verse ends by reassuring the reader that such things will never come about through the zeal of men. Only God can bring peace, order and wellness. Human ambition is plagued with pride and self-will, but God's zeal is faultless.

When Isaiah penned these words, Israel and Judah were in a sad state of affairs. Ahaz continued to lead the people further into apostasy and the Assyrian Empire was knocking at the door. World events were quite unstable. Little has changed with time. The world is still a wicked and uncertain place; however, God's faithfulness remains sure. The promise of Christ's birth has come to pass, and the God-fearing may look with certainty and eager expectation for the promise of His second coming.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Promise of a Savior (Part III)

"For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:5-6)

Because of their rebellion against the Lord, Isaiah's countrymen had become all too familiar with the realities of warfare. Ahaz's idolatry had brought upon him and his people conflicts with northern Israel, Syria, Edom and Philistia (II Chronicles 28:5, 17-18). In less than forty years, Sennacherib would invade Judah. On top of all this, world domination by the Babylonian Empire was not far away.

Human warfare is a frightening and unstable reality. Amidst all the cries and bloody confusion there is an underlying tone of uncertainty as to the final outcome. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, the earth will witness a new type of warfare. The LORD of hosts Himself will face the armies of the earth, and the outcome will be anything but uncertain. Gone will be the victorious cries of Israel's oppressors. Instead, the fires of God's holiness will go before Him (Psalm 50:3-4) as He returns in great fury to subject the nations, bring Israel to repentant faith in her Messiah and exalt her to her proper place within the framework of Christ's kingdom (Isaiah 66:15-16).

Most people are more familiar with verse six. Christ's second coming would not have the same benefit for mankind if it were not for His first advent of substitutional atonement. This passage is a direct prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. In the middle of all the fear and uncertainty brought on by man's sin, Isaiah was moved to give a promise to Israel and to the world of God's redemptive plan. Christ would be born. He would die, be buried and rise again; and He will return to reign forever in righteousness.

The Son of God is first called a child. Born in human flesh, the Scriptures often refer to Him as "the Son of man." Man's redemption could not be accomplished apart from God taking upon Himself human flesh.

Christ is then called a son. As God's "only begotten Son," He is flawless in every way. In Christ, the divinity of God is inerrantly wedded to the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7).

The Scriptures give Him the formal name of Wonderful. This name carries with it the idea of that which is amazing, marvelous and incomprehensible. The Hebrew word behind this name appears in many forms throughout Scripture.

When Sarah laughed at the promise of God concerning her giving birth to Isaac, God replied, "Is anything to hard for the LORD?" The root of the verb hard is the same as that from which Wonderful is derived. God asked Sarah and Abraham, "Is anything too wonderful for Me?" Nothing is too marvelous for God to accomplish. This would have been a comforting thought to Isaiah and to the others who feared God. Their human kings were failing them, and they had little control over the events. However, their wonderful, amazing and incomprehensible God had all things under His divine control. This reality holds true in any dispensation.

The adjectival form of this name Wonderful is seen in Judges 13:18 where the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, "Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?" The word secret is the adjectival form of the Hebrew noun behind Wonderful. Many believe that the Angel of the LORD Who appeared to Manoah was a preincarnate appearance of Christ. Christ asked Manoah, "Why do you ask for My name since it is marvelous, amazing and incomprehensible?"

When the psalmist David considered the keeping power of God in his life, he exclaimed, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it (Psalm 139:6)." Again, the word wonderful in this Psalm is the adjectival form of the noun translated as Wonderful. There are many things which mortal men cannot comprehend, but nothing is incomprehensible to the One by Whom God the Father made all things (John 1:3). When the child of God feels overwhelmed and intimidated by those things which cannot be comprehended, let him or her rest assured that the Christian serves a God Who is intimidated by nothing. He Whose name is Wonderful does all things well (Mark 7:37).

Christ is also the supreme Counselor. He is the only One Who needs no counsel while being fully equipped to give flawless counsel to all (Psalm 16:7). "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor (Romans 11:34)?" His inerrant counsel may be sought at any time through the richest source of His counsel - the Scriptures. Yet, the tendency for most of mankind is to seek help from any source except the Bible (Psalm 119:24).

The text makes a bold proclamation of Christ's deity by declaring Him to be both the mighty God and the everlasting Father. Christ is not a god; He is the God. He is JEHOVAH. He has no beginning of days nor end of life. Jesus told the Jews during His earthly ministry, "Before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58)."

The Lord Jesus Christ is also the Captain, Chieftain or Prince of peace. God's wrath is often poured out because of sin, but the Lord's heart is one of true peace. God told Israel, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11)." The Lord's anger has been poured out upon Israel and the nations not because of unrighteous hatred on God's part but because of human rebellion. The day is fast approaching when God's Son will reign, and peace will be a noticeable characteristic of that reign.

The Prince of peace offers peace freely; however, it is available only to the one who is willing to repent and to turn from sin to faith in Christ. The man who rejects Christ or who is content with nothing more than a head-knowledge of God will not be a partaker of God's peace. "There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked (Isaiah 48:22)."

Because peace is an attribute of Christ, the Lord wants His people to be propagators of peace. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9)." Contentious and trouble-making Christians are not demonstrating the heart of God in their conduct. It is possible for a believer to be zealous for God's truth while maintaining a Christ-like attitude, and he certainly need not go about seeking ways to cause trouble and dissension.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Promise of a Savior (Part II)

"Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian." (Isaiah 9:3-4)

Israel would never find happiness in numbers. She would find it only in returning to the Lord. As God, through Gideon, delivered Israel from the oppression of the Midianites, he has promised to fully deliver Israel from the oppression of those who reign over her. A near fulfillment of these things may be seen in the return of the Jewish exiles at different points in history; but the full impact of this promise will be realized when Christ returns to put down the kingdom of the antichrist and to liberate His chosen people. Israel's acknowledgment of her Messiah Whom she has so long rejected will result in great national joy (Psalm 53:6, Isaiah 59:20, Zechariah 12:10, 13:1). The context of the following verses declares this to be the case.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Promise of a Savior

"Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isaiah 9:1-2)

The next seven verses are very messianic in nature. In the midst of pronouncing judgment, the Holy Spirit interjects an encouraging word concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His future Millennial Kingdom.

The Lord lightly afflicted northern Israel through the invasions of Tiglathpileser III. Israel was subjugated as a result of his conquests; however, she was permitted to continue as a subordinate nation during the remainder of his reign. This changed when Shalmaneser V took the Assyrian throne. Hoshea, the king of Israel, had been paying tribute to the Assyrians; but at some point, he revolted and called upon Egypt for assistance. Shalmaneser responded by invading Israel, capturing Hoshea and besieging Israel's capital city of Samaria. The Assyrians laid siege to the city for three years before it finally fell in 722 BC. By this time, Shalmaneser had died and Sargon II had made himself king. Sargon finished what Shalmaneser had started by destroying Samaria and deporting northern Israel to foreign lands per Assyrian policy (II Kings 17:1-6). As the text says, after Israel's light affliction came a more grievous punishment due to her continued rebellion.

Matthew 4:12-17 declares the Galilean ministry of Jesus Christ to be a direct fulfillment of verse two.

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Hundreds of years after her deportation, which had not yet taken place at this time in Isaiah's ministry, Israel would witness God's good intentions toward her as Jesus Christ preached repentant faith as the means of entering His coming kingdom. However, in spite of this divine grace, Israel would reject the mercy of her Messiah just as she rejected the deliverance of God in the days of the Assyrian conflicts. In light of this, the prophecies continue and look past the Church Age to the day when Israel will be nationally converted at Christ's second coming.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Sin of Confederacy (Part VI)

"And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness." 
(Isaiah 8:21-22)

In Israel's punishment by the coming invasions of the Assyrians, the rewards of Israel's rebellion would be clearly seen. Proverbs 13:15 says, "Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard." Israel's path would be hard in her time of need because she refused to surrender to the fear of the Lord.

When the enemy came and the cities began to be besieged, the Israelites would fret themselves or become angry and frustrated at their plight. Instead of repenting, the general population would curse their king and the God Who made them. Severe chastisement does not always get man's attention. The human heart is unbelievably hard and utterly faithless. After looking upward and uttering a curse toward the Holy One of Israel, the eyes of Israel's citizens would be turned toward the reality of their present condition; and this condition would prove to be one of absolute darkness and death. When the enemy came, he would not spare.

The end of the unrepentant sinner is eternal darkness, but the one who places his faith in the Holy One of Israel may say with humble confidence, God with us.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Sin of Confederacy (Part V)

"And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:19-20)

In her distress, Israel would turn to witchcraft for answers rather than to God. The Lord knew this, and so He gives a warning to all. The you in verse nineteen is plural. God is predicting and denouncing Israel's actions. The Hebrew word behind peep means to chirp or peep (like a bird). In 10:14, it is used to depict a bird robbed of her eggs. Israel's sorcerers would make these sounds while practicing their hellish magic. Whether they were mimicking the voices of the dead on whom they were calling, or whether they were depicting the sounds of the underworld, it is not quite clear. Regardless, the Lord considered their incantations to be empty sounds uttered by a spiritually destitute individual who was unable to deliver either himself or the one coming to him for aid.

Two questions are then asked. "Should not a distressed people seek the face of the God Who made them?" If any can help, surely it is the One Who by the Spirit of Christ made all things. The second questions asks, "Should the one who lives seek answers from the one who has died?" How foolish it is to look for answers from one whose frailty has placed him in the grave! After asking these rhetorical questions, the Lord declares that to which a man should seek - the Law and the Testimony. In verse sixteen, God had promised that His Law and Testimony would be preserved among those who love Him; and now, He directs the sinner back to the only thing which will bring healing - the Scriptures. God did not point Israel to another source of help simply because they did not want to obey the Scriptures. Most men reject God's Word; however, it stands as the final authority which will judge all things in the last day.

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48).

In verse twenty, the Lord makes it clear that the man who does not agree with the light of the Scriptures is full of darkness. God's disciples have a certain appreciation for God's words; but the false disciple considers the Bible's doctrine and authority to be of little worth. Jesus said to those who rejected His office of King, "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do (John 8:43-44)."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Sin of Confederacy (Part IV)

"Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion." (Isaiah 8:16-18)

Most of Isaiah's countrymen refused to listen to his warnings, yet this did not nullify either the terror or the beauty of God's promises. The Testimony has been bound up and the Law sealed. "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89)." Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away (Mark 13:31)."

Rather than reject the way of faith and join the doomed confederacy of Israel, Isaiah resolved to wait upon God Who had temporarily turned away His favor from Israel. Eyes of faith enabled Isaiah to see a God Who never forsakes His own. Even though the situation looked dim, Isaiah held to this promise, "For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalm 48:14)."

Isaiah could have complained about his situation, but instead he chose to accept the ministry to which God had called both he and his family.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Sin of Confederacy (Part III)

"For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken." (Isaiah 8:11-15)

The Lord warned Isaiah and his audience against trusting in alliances. While Judah remained confident that Assyria could deliver her, the Lord assured Isaiah that such things would come to nothing. The rebellion of idolatrous Israel had placed her in a very precarious position. She had forsaken the help of God; therefore, she was destined to be overrun by the godless.

Rather than live in fear and flee to man in time of need, the Lord commands that each individual sanctify God in the heart. Sanctify means to set apart as holy. The one seeking mercy and deliverance is to set God apart in the soul. This command brings to mind the words of Peter. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (I Peter 3:15)." The proper fear of God brings deliverance from the fear of man. The Lord was the One chastening Israel through the surrounding nations; therefore, He is the One to be feared. A proper fear of God leads to a proper love of God; and a heart filled with love for God has no room for anything unprofitable.

The Lord promised to honor the man who turns to Him by being a sanctuary in the midst of trouble. As Isaiah faced all of the turmoil brought on by the sin of his people, he would have found this promise quite comforting; and such a promise is applicable to all who will seek God in sincerity and obedience.

On the other hand, the Lord promised to be an opponent to the unrepentant citizens of Israel and Judah. They refused to bow the knee to the fear of the Lord; therefore, they would not partake of His peace. Instead, they would face the wrath of the king of Assyria as well as that of the up and coming Nebuchadnezzar.

This passage teaches against inappropriate alliances while encouraging trust in none but God. This principle is very applicable to the Christian who is consistently faced with the temptation to trust people rather than God. The believer must be especially careful not to cooperate with the unregenerate or the disobedient in order to gain the upper hand. If each saint will "pass the time of [his] sojourning here in fear (I Peter 1:17)" while "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [his] faith (Hebrew 12:2)," he will be well.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Sin of Confederacy (Part II)

"Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us." (Isaiah 8:9-10)

Verse nine is actually made up of seven imperatives. A literal rendering would read, "Associate yourselves, O ye people and be shattered; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and be shattered; gird yourselves and be shattered." As the Lord delivers His warnings of the coming Assyrian invasions, He interjects the reality of His sway over all events. Northern Israel, Syria and the Assyrian armies could all set themselves against the land of Judah, but God would ultimately frustrate their purpose. He would not allow the light of Israel to be fully extinguished. Babylon could come against Israel with all of her rage; yet God would preserve a remnant of His people. Down through the centuries this command has held true, and it will to the end. Israel has been hated by many, and her greatest affliction is yet to come; however, God has commanded that all of her enemies shall be shattered while she herself is reserved for that great day when her national conversion shall be fully realized (Romans 11:26).

In verse ten, God gives two more commands to the enemies of Israel. He says, "Take counsel" and "Speak the word." In just a few years, the Assyrian king Sennacherib would be waging war against Jerusalem. He would be taking counsel as to how he might overthrow her. He would be speaking malicious and blasphemous words against God and His people, but God promised, "It shall not stand." Why? Because God and not man is faithful. Israel's salvation was, and is, to be found in this sole promise, God with us. This is the exact same Hebrew phrase translated Immanuel in verse eight. Salvation comes not by the works or faithfulness of men. It comes by the grace and righteousness of God. When Israel could not help herself, God would save her. When Hezekiah would find himself in dire straits with the Assyrian armies just outside the walls of Jerusalem, God's promise of years earlier would shine through - God with us