Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Nature of the Kingdom (Part III)

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:6-9)

These verses describe the peace and security which will return to creation during the reign of Christ. Before man chose to sin against God, there was no death nor violence in creation. God gave Adam, Eve and the beasts of the earth the fruits of the field as food. Carnivores did not exist. Only after the sin of Adam and Eve did death and violence come upon the scene. After their consumption of the forbidden fruit, God immediately killed an animal and used its skin to cover the sin of Adam and Eve's nakedness (Genesis 3:21). After bringing Noah and his family through the great flood, the Lord introduced the fear of man into the animal world and gave to mankind the animals for food (Genesis 9:1-4). None of these things were intended in God's original design; they are the consequences of rebellion.

The human race has lived for so long in a sin-cursed world that the revocation of sin's curse is nearly impossible to imagine. Yet, in the millennial kingdom God will restore much of creation's early harmony. One cannot say that the curse will be lifted entirely, because the prophet Ezekiel speaks of the Millennium's citizens eating fish and offering memorial-sacrifices in the millennial temple (Ezekiel 47:10, 43:18-27). However, for all intents and purposes, this passage speaks of a peace and harmony in the world which has not been witnessed since the earliest days of creation.

Instead of having their young carried off by natural predators, the sheep and the goat will live in peace with those who were once their enemies. No trace of violence or danger will be seen as a small child guides both the lamb and the once-ferocious leopard like a shepherd would lead his flock.

As mentioned previously, in the beginning of creation, all living creatures were herbivores; therefore, the lion and other carnivorous beasts will return to the diet of vegetables and fruits for which they were intended.

An asp is a type of poisonous snake. Quite likely, this name refers to a cobra. Although a cockatrice typically refers to a mythical dragon-like creature, here it clearly refers to a type of poisonous snake or other reptile. In the present world, for anyone, especially a small child, to play on or near the den of a deadly snake would be unimaginable; but in the kingdom the danger of these creatures will pass away. The following verse explains why. It is because the earth will literally be full of the knowledge of God.

The holy mountain undoubtedly refers to the future Mount Zion which the millennial temple will occupy. As the Law of Christ goes forth from this temple and the world's inhabitants are taught by the very One Who created them, the knowledge of God will saturate the earth. The result? Peace, such as has not been in existence since the days of Adam and Eve, will flood the whole earth. Society teaches that liberation from the Law and knowledge of God brings peace while the following of God breeds hatred and violence. This is a lie which has been promoted by the powers of darkness. The Bible teaches the direct opposite. The more one knows and loves God, the more peace he will experience.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Nature of the Kingdom (Part II)

"And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." (Isaiah 11:3-5)

As the example to all of mankind, Christ's judgment will be characterized above all else by the fear of the LORD. Unless a man is concerned with nothing but doing right in God's eyes, he will undoubtedly make unrighteous judgments and decisions. When establishing the nation of Israel, God made it clear that her judges were not to respect the face of either the poor or the rich man but to respect only the commandments of God in their decisions. This same fear of God that will be openly displayed in Christ's judgment during the millennial kingdom is to be clearly displayed by the Christian Church now.

Jesus told the Jews of His day, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24)." Christ will not judge by what appears to be so, nor will He judge solely by what He has heard. His judgment will be based entirely upon the truth of Scripture.

Man's judgment is tainted and lacking in perspective. Most people do not make decisions by what is true; they make decisions based upon who or what they do or do not like. Human nature tends to be swayed by rewards and the benefit of personal relationships. Religious politics plagues the judgment of churches. Church members may stand unjustly against a pastor simply because he is encouraging them to do right and they do not like it. Others may not bring a pastor or other leader to judgment for fear of that leader's position or what may happen to them personally for speaking out. Unrighteous bias, the fear of man, lust, covetousness, pride, anger and ignorance pervert a man's just judgment. Christ wants His people to get the facts, determine what God has commanded and respect only the Lord in the decision-making process.

The Hebrew word behind equity means straightness, uprightness or a level place. God's judgment is the same for all. A believer should judge his enemy with the same truth and concern as he would judge his closest friend.

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour (Leviticus 19:15).

In the millennial kingdom, Christ's judgment will be more immediate than what is seen in His current dealings with mankind. The earth will be subject to the rod of His Word, those who refuse to subject themselves will be given over to immediate judgment. This reality is seen in Zechariah 14:10 where the Lord gives this warning to the nations, "And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain."

At the return of Christ, His spoken Word will be what destroys His enemies. The armies of the earth who will gather themselves together against the Lamb will be destroyed literally by the breath of His lips (Revelation 19:21). The Scriptures, the most rejected authority known to mankind, will be what conquers in the end.

As a the middle-eastern girdle provided support and aid to the one wearing it, righteousness and faithfulness will support and direct the judgment of the Savior. Righteous may be defined as acting in accordance with divine or moral law. Faithful may be defined as being strict and thorough in the performance of duty or steady in allegiance or affection. The Lord Jesus Christ embodies these divine attributes; therefore, His saints should allow His Spirit to display them through His people.

How much more peace could Israel have experienced had they acted in accordance with divine law? Similarly, how much healthier would a church be if each of its members were consistent to perform that which is in accordance with the divine and moral Law of God?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Nature of the Kingdom

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;" (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Bypassing the Church Age, the text bounds forward to the millennial kingdom. Christ's birth is definitely in view; however, His second coming is the primary focus of this chapter.

Born of a virgin through the line of David's son Nathan, Christ appeared upon the scene of history as a green sprout springing from a root that seemed to be lifeless on the outside. Yet, God is able to do the impossible. Some years later, Jeremiah would compliment this prophecy by writing...

"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah 23:5-6)."

This same Christ Who died for the sins of mankind and rose again from the dead has been set a time determined by the Father. After the "time of Jacob's trouble" has past, the Lord's promise to David will be realized when Christ sits upon His millennial throne.

Concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, John wrote, " He that cometh from above is above all ... For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him (John 3:31, 34)." Christ is not, as a common man, given the Spirit of God. Christ is God; therefore, He will flawlessly display, to the fullest capacity, the many righteous attributes of the Holy Spirit.

Christ's Spirit is described as being one of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and godly fear. Because the Savior's Spirit indwells every Christian, each believer should allow these six godly traits to shine through him. Worldly wisdom and a general lack of wisdom are not fruits of the Spirit. The absence of understanding is not a fruit of the Spirit; it is an indicator that the flesh is in charge. The inability to give righteous counsel is not a fruit of the Spirit. A lack of God's power in one's life cannot be blamed upon some imagined deficiency in God's Spirit. A distaste for knowledge is not a fruit of the Spirit, because Christ wants His people to be well versed in His doctrine. Surely, a lack of the fear of God is not a fruit of the Spirit. If the fear of the Lord will be evident in the Spirit of the very One Who is the Creator of all things, how much more should it be evident in those who have been saved by His grace? Peter said, "...Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear (I Peter 1:17)." For those who have questioned the validity of godly fear, let them come and ponder the Spirit of the very Christ Who will sit someday as King over all the earth.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Assyria's Punishment (Part IV)

"Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one." (Isaiah 10:33-34)

God told a frightened King Hezekiah, "...Concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it (II Kings 19:32)." Sennacherib would accomplish nothing more than shaking his fist at God and His people. By a divine miracle, the Lord promised to cut down the tall boughs of Assyria's pride.

Because of its magnificent cedar trees, Lebanon is often used symbolically for pride and great accomplishment. The king of Assyria saw himself as a mighty cedar which was far too powerful for any god. He did not understand that he was facing off with the one true God. Jehovah of the armies promised His people that Sennacherib would proceed no further. His thickets and his mighty cedars would be destroyed.

Four times in the previous passages, the Lord promised that His hand would remain stretched out upon Israel until their sin was requited. In chapter ten, on four different occasions God promised (12, 16-19, 26, 33-34) that He would destroy those who refused to see themselves as instruments in the hand of the Almighty. Just because the Lord can use the ungodly to chasten sin in His people, it does not mean that the godless will continue. All things are moving toward the righteous reign of the Holy One of Israel.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Assyria's Punishment (Part III)

"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction. And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." (Isaiah 10:24-27)

Even in the middle of severe correction, God's heart is toward the restoration of His people. God chastens when needed, but His heart is always toward the welfare of mankind (Psalm 30:5). This reality is clearly illustrated in Jesus Christ.

As Gideon destroyed the Midianites, God promised to destroy the Assyrians (Isaiah 9:4). As Moses' rod was upon the Red Sea so that God's people might pass over, the Lord promised to lift up once again His rod of deliverance in favor of His people.

Assyria's yoke and burden would be removed from Israel for the simple fact that God had decreed such to be the case. His anointing oil is upon His people and upon the place of His future throne. Israel cannot be annihilated.

"He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages: They are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging at Geba; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled. Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth. Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem." (Isaiah 10:28-32)

These passages describe the course of the Assyrian army as they marched toward Jerusalem. When Isaiah penned these words, the events were yet future; however, the Holy Spirit describes each step of the future attack upon Mt. Zion as though it were happening before Isaiah's very eyes.

All of the towns mentioned were in relatively close proximity. Aiath means heap of ruins. Lying on the east side of Bethel, it was the Ai of Joshua's day. Moving south, Migron and Michmash are mentioned next. The two cities were very close together, and Michmash would serve as the place where Assyria's army would leave their supplies while they made an assault upon Jerusalem - an assault which never came to pass.

Even further south, Geba would serve as a temporary lodging for the Assyrian army. Just a few miles to the west, Ramah would hear of the enemy's nearness and be afraid. Not far to the south, Gibeah's inhabitants would flee for their lives as Assyria came nearer and nearer.

The rest of the towns mentioned would experience the same fear, and they too would flee for their lives as the Assyrians continued their march toward God's holy city.

Coming to Nob and likely within view of Jerusalem, the king of Assyria would proudly shake his fist at the prized city. Little did he realize the disaster in which he would soon find himself.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Assyria's Punishment (Part II)

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land." (Isaiah 10:20-23)

In an effort to gain relief from the oppression of the enemy, Ahaz served the gods of his Syrian enemies. When the oppressions continued, he turned to an even greater enemy for help - the king of Assyria. This proved to be disastrous (II Chronicles 28:20-21, 23). Rather than return to the Lord, Judah continually turned to the enemy for aid; however, God promised that the remnant would have a different heart. Undoubtedly, when Sennacherib was miraculously destroyed by the angel of the Lord, the remnant of Judah's citizens were moved to faith in God. Also, it may be that some of the captives taken by Sennacherib were freed after the king's defeat.

Although in context the text is speaking specifically of the remnant in Assyria's time, the principles of this repentant heart in God's people will also be seen in the last days when the Jewish survivors of the Great Tribulation are brought to humble faith in God.

The Hebrew phrase behind the remnant shall return is the exact same Hebrew phrase behind the name of Isaiah's son Shearjashub. God is reiterating His promise of Israel's preservation which He made to Judah through Isaiah and his family.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Assyria's Punishment

"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; and shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth. And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them." (Isaiah 10:15-19)

"The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD (Proverbs 16:33)." Every man's tendency is to see himself as more than he is. Human pride attempts to push God from His throne so that it might reign instead. The success of such things is as probable as an inanimate tool suddenly rebelling against the craftsman.

In the Hebrew text, the name Lord in the title Lord of hosts is actually Jehovah and not Adonai; therefore, the title should read the LORD of hosts. Once again Isaiah's favorite title for God appears as the Lord reminds mankind that He holds ultimate control over the progress and demise of the nations.

God promised to begin kindling a fire beneath the power of Assyria. This reality is clearly illustrated in His punishment of Sennacherib when he came against Jerusalem sometime near 701 BC. The prideful Assyrian monarch came with thousands of trained troops (many trees); however, when he departed from the city, he was 185,000 troops short. The trees of his forest were few.

The text calls God the Light of Israel. Apart from God, man lives in spiritual darkness. This has been Israel's case as she has pursued God through dead works; however, when Christ returns to redeem His people, His light will penetrate their hard hearts, bringing repentance and salvation. Paul wrote of this truth when he said, "But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away (II Corinthians 3:15-16)."

God's light is not restricted to the Jewish nation. Jesus 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)." The Light of Israel will save any individual who turns from sin to faith in Him.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Assyria's Presumption (Part II)

"Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped." 
(Isaiah 10:12-14)

The Holy Spirit predicts the destruction of Assyria after God had finished using her to punish Judah's rebellion. This prophecy undoubtedly includes the destruction of Sennacherib's 185,000 troops (Isiah 37:36); however, it should not be limited to this event. The fall of the entire Assyrian Empire is likely in view as well. The text says that God would do this only after accomplishing His work upon Judah. During the reign of Hezekiah, the Lord allowed the Assyrians to invade much of Judah and threaten Jerusalem itself. Although Hezekiah did much to follow the Lord and to bring about spiritual reform in Judah, the land was far from well. Apparently, ungodliness still abounded. Hezekiah himself joined a pact of rebellion as Sennacherib ascended the throne and eventually found himself stripping the treasure from the Lord's house and giving it to Sennacherib in order to curb his wrath (II Kings 18:14-16). Judah's solicitation of Egyptian aid is also mentioned in II Kings 18:21, an act which would have been less than pleasing to God.

Not only did the Lord use the Assyrians to purge His people during the reign of Hezekiah, He also used them to deal with Manasseh's wickedness (II Chronicles 33:11). The Lord had a definite work to do in Judah; however, when it was fully accomplished, He would turn to the Assyrians and deal with their abominable pride.

God, in His wisdom, directed the growth and accomplishments of the Assyrian Empire; however, they credited their progress to their own prudence. Man was created to bring glory to God. When he fails to do this, no profitable course remains.

The Assyrians always deported their captives and replaced them with people from other lands. This policy was implemented in an attempt to quench the passions of patriotism. This policy of deportation is referenced in the phrase "removed the bounds of the people." Northern Israel's deportation and replacement with people from other countries set the stage for the mixed culture of the hated Samaritans of Jesus' day.

In these passages, Assyria repeatedly boasts of her accomplishments. The personal pronouns I and my are prominent. Pride is always dangerous. It turned the anointed cherub into Satan, and it can destroy a believer's life and testimony (I Timothy 3:6).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Assyria's Presumption

"Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?" (Isaiah 10:7-11)

In these passages, the Lord predicts the prideful thoughts that would be born in the heart of Sennacherib - the Assyrian king who moved against Jerusalem sometime near 701 BC. Total power totally corrupts. After her many victories over the surrounding nations, Assyria's heart would be lifted up as she endeavored to move against the city of God's choosing - Jerusalem.

In the previous passage, God called Assyria "the rod of Mine anger." Verse seven discloses the fact that Assyria did not consider this to be the case. Instead, she came to see herself as all-powerful. Not content to accomplish God's wrath upon Israel, Assyria would cross the boundary and incite the wrath of God by her insatiable desire to swallow up the nations of the entire known world.

Her arrogant statements reveal her heart. She says, "Are not my princes altogether kings?" She viewed the servants of her kings as being kings themselves. One can only imagine what the actual kings thought of themselves. She then boasts of her victories. As Carchemish along the Euphrates had been overcome so had Calno. Calno is believed to be the same city as Calneh (Genesis 10:10), the location of which remains a mystery. Arpad was besieged in 743 BC by Tiglathpileser and overcome in 740 BC. As it had fallen under Assyrian control so had Hamath which rested along the Orontes river. Hamath was taken sometime near the fall of Damascus in 732 BC. In 722, Samaria would be taken and destroyed just as Damascus had fallen.

Isaiah then moves on to predict the future pride of Sennacherib as he contemplates overcoming Jerusalem just as Sargon had overcome Samaria. The apostate condition of Jerusalem may be seen in the fact that the text mentions her idols.

When Isaiah penned these words, these events were approximately thirty years away; however, God the heart Knower knew that Assyria would become too arrogant to be used any longer and that she would have to be put down.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Assyria's Purpose

"O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets." (Isaiah 10:5-6)

Having pronounced irreversible judgment against northern Israel, the Lord turns His attention toward the nation which He used to fulfill that judgment - Assyria. While the Assyrian kings were giving praise to their chief god Ashur for all the victories in the west, the God of heaven was enabling the Assyrian armies to be triumphant for the purpose of chastisement upon Israel and her neighbors. Man, in his pride, is blind to the reality that the one true God is ultimately in control of all things.   

Sunday, May 8, 2016

God's Answer (Part IV)

"And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." 
(Isaiah 10:3-4)

The Lord closes his prophecies against northern Israel by asking three questions. He first asks them what they will do when full judgment comes. Shalmaneser V and Sargon II would conquer and deport the ten northern tribes. God was about to correct Israel by the rod of Assyria, and in God's presence, Israel would find herself defenseless.

The Lord then asks them to whom they will run for help against His judgment. The answer is, To no one. There is no human aid against the judgment of the Creator. In Israel's final days, Hoshea sent to the Egyptians for help (II Kings 17:4), but they could not help him. Assyria was only angered further by his disloyalty. Israel's false gods as well as all of her confederacies proved to be her destruction.

The third question asks Israel where she will leave the glory in which she took so much pride. All of her cities and lands would be conquered, destroyed and given to foreigners. The riches and glory of Samaria were about to be plundered. No one would come behind Israel and express any awe over her greatness. All of her pomp and pride would descend into hell (Isaiah 5:14). Israel founded her society upon covetousness rather than holiness; therefore, the nation crumbled.

The people of Israel had turned their backs on the only One capable of delivering them from the surrounding enemies; therefore, the Lord promised that they would be taken prisoner, and many of them would be killed. The human heart is foolish enough to believe that the aid of others will be sufficient to thwart the consequences of rebellion, but God promises that such will not be the case.

The four expressions of the statement, For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still, indicate the completeness and surety of God's judgment. Such a structure is used in Amos when the prophet says concerning the punishment of Israel and her neighbors, "For three transgressions ... and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof (Amos 1:3)."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

God's Answer (Part III)

"Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!" (Isaiah 10:1-2)

Israel's government was corrupt. Righteous judgment in a court of law had become a thing of the past. The judges and elders of the land were now making decisions in favor of those who wanted the lands and possessions of the poor, and the false prophets of Israel were praising their behavior rather than correcting it (Jeremiah 8:10-11).

God's Law was being rewritten. Instead of leaving the corners of the fields for the poor to glean, the Israelites were stealing the fields of the poor. When the widow's house and possessions should have been protected under the Law, they were now being stolen. Undoubtedly this resulted in the destitution and eventual death of many people as they were exposed to the elements and given to starvation.

The heart of God's Law may be found in a genuine love for God and others; however, through covetousness, Israel had wandered so far from God's Law that a distinction between her and the heathen could no longer be seen.

These verses condemn the covetous heart of Israel. Covetousness is an insatiable desire to have more, and it comes in a variety of degrees. A Christian is fully capable of wanting more than what God has provided, and in so doing he walks in the footsteps of Israel's sins (Colossians 3:5).

Monday, May 2, 2016

God's Answer (Part II)

"Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 9:17)

Not even the poorest sort of Israel's inhabitants had kept themselves from wickedness. From the people of influence to the orphan and widow, everyone had rejected God and His Law. This demonstrates the fact that every man's heart is basically wicked. People of wealth and influence are not the only ones capable of spiritual deadness.

God Who made great provision in His Law for the special care of the stranger, fatherless and widow now commands their destruction due to the fact that no one was clean. Quite likely, every mouth was blessing idols and speaking lies. God's heart is toward the oppressed; however, the poor man is not exempt from the consequences of his sin simply because he is in a less privileged condition.

Because the land had become satiated with sin, the Holy Spirit reiterates the irreversible nature of God's judgment by saying, "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still."

"For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke. Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 9:18-21)

God does not permit men to do as they please without experiencing the results of their choices. Most people believe that they can live as they see best while experiencing long-term wellness. Such is not the case. Rejection of truth will bring a man, family, society or country to its knees. Rebellion always destroys.

The word darkened means scorched. God may have been describing the condition of the land after the fires of war had taken their toll, or He may have been describing the destitution of a country inhabited by hateful, lustful people. Likely, He was describing both conditions.

The greediness and oppression was unimaginable. No one could be satisfied with what he had. Each desired just a little bit more. It had come to the point where neighbor was devouring neighbor. The Lord may also be describing the terror and treachery which took place during the invasions of the Assyrian armies. Not only would Israel be oppressed by the Assyrians, Syrians and Philistines but she would also be plagued by civil strife and internal treachery. Such unrest is what claimed the life of Pekah who was murdered by Hoshea (II Kings 15:30).

In punishment of their sins, God had removed His hand of protection from Israel and had left her citizens to self-destruction. The withdrawal of the Lord's presence leaves in its wake a sea of moral corruption.

For the third time, the Holy Spirit emphasizes the unalterable course of God's wrath against Israel's sin by saying, "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still."

There is a timeless principle in these verses. Departure from truth leads to spiritual and moral unrest. Paul told the Galatian church, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another (Galatians 5:15)." The Galatian believers had departed from the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith apart from works and this had led them to a lack of Christian charity toward each other. Just as northern Israel had departed from God and had experienced great civil distress, the Christian church is capable of rebelling against truth and experiencing the unrest of walking in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.