Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part IV)

"Thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house, and say, What hast thou here? and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre here, as he that heweth him out a sepulchre on high, and that graveth an habitation for himself in a rock?" 
(Isaiah 22:15-16)

Shebna was in a position of high authority. To be over the house was to be next to the king (II Kings 10:5, 15:5). The placement of this rebuke leads one to believe that Shebna was an adversary rather than an advocate of Isaiah's prophecies. Could he have been encouraging the people toward an alliance with Egypt against Assyria (Isaiah 30:1-2)? None can say for certain, but the possibility is very real.

The common practice of the day was to prepare a grave in the vicinity of one's established life. Such endeavors were symbolic of stability, respect and wealth (Matthew 27:60). Shebna was obviously very comfortable with his position in the face of God's chastisement.

"Behold, the LORD will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee. He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house. And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down." (Isaiah 22:17-19)

As a ball is helpless in the hands of a child, Shebna would be powerless to deliver himself as God allowed him to be violently carried off by the Assyrians. The chariots of glory are likely Judah's war chariots for which Shebna was responsible. Instead of being a symbol of strength for Judah, these things would become a picture of her reproach when they fell under the control of the enemy.

The Scriptures are silent as to Shebna's ultimate end. If he is the same man presented in Isaiah 37:2, he is seen in a reduced status of scribe yet not removed from leadership entirely. Perhaps he repented at the preaching of Isaiah and God did not need to carry out His wrath, or perhaps he was taken captive at a later time.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part III)

"And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die. And it was revealed in mine ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord GOD of hosts." (Isaiah 22:12-14)

Through Isaiah and the other prophets, God had called His people to repentance. The weeping, mourning and wearing of sackcloth should have been prevalent as a manifestation of the heart change; instead, God found in the vast population of Israel a carefree and sensual attitude. If tomorrow brings death, then why not thoroughly enjoy the present? This insatiable lust to gratify the flesh was practiced by the Epicureans of Paul's day (Acts 17:18). Epicurus believed that pleasure, not principle, was the ultimate end. In his rebuke of Corinth's false teachers, Paul quoted this verse here in Isaiah (I Corinthians 15:32). Such base reasoning has always existed.

Death and not dialogue was God's response to this hardness of heart. God is very longsuffering; however, when a man completely rejects repentance, he has no other option. The doctrine of repentance has been dulled, and in many cases rejected, by most religious circles. Yet, God continues to present just one choice. Change or die. Contrary to false teaching, a person cannot have his or her sinful lifestyle and a relationship with God.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision (Part II)

"And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago." (Isaiah 22:8-11)

The LORD uncovered or laid bare Judah before the approaching army. Without the aid of God, tiny Israel would soon be gobbled up by her much larger enemies. Her helplessness apart from divine aid seems to be the emphasis of this first verse.

The house of the forest is likely the house of the forest of Lebanon built and fortified by Solomon (I Kings 7:2, 10:17). Rather than look to God in the face of adversity, Judah was trusting in her feeble defenses.

Threatened by Sennacherib, Hezekiah set about to repair the damage done to David's fortress in Mount Zion (II Chronicles 32:5). He also diverted the Gihon spring - the source of which is found on the northeastern end of the city. Through the construction of a tunnel, the water was brought into Jerusalem (II Chronicles 32:3-4, 30). The pool of Siloam mentioned in John 9:7 was fed by this spring.

In order to strengthen their defenses, the inhabitants of Jerusalem disassembled various homes and used the materials to fortify the wall against Sennacherib's attackers. According to the account of II Chronicles 32:7-8, Hezekiah encouraged the people to look to God for help. Perhaps that was in response to the warnings of Isaiah. Regardless, God was not pleased with the initial preparations of His people, because the efforts involved everything but seeking the face of God. Obviously, this should have been the first step.

Looking back at Israel's failure to trust God is easy; however, an honest man would have to admit that he too has failed to put God first as he should. Israel's failure to remember the Ancient of Days in a time of trouble should be a reminder of the faithless tendency that haunts every man.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Burden of the Valley of Vision

"The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops? Thou that art full of stirs, a tumultuous city, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle. All thy rulers are fled together, they are bound by the archers: all that are found in thee are bound together, which have fled from far." (Isaiah 22:1-3)

To better understand the context of this prophecy, it would be helpful to read II Kings 18, II Chronicles 32:1-20 and Isaiah 36-37. This chapter deals with the future invasion of Assyria, and the end of the chapter may have the Babylonian invasion in view as well.

Jerusalem is represented by the poetic title of the valley of vision. Whether this name is derived from the valleys surrounding the city or whether it is derived from the small valleys within the city one cannot say for certain. Regardless, the title applies to the city of David and God's dealings with her through the armies of the heathen nations.

Jerusalem is presented as being in a stir. Upon the flat roofs of the city's houses (a common place to assemble), people are gathered together. Undoubtedly they are disturbed by the news of Assyria's march toward Jerusalem. Having a reputation of being a joyous city, Jerusalem is now presented as a place of despair as God seeks to get her attention through the fear of Sennacherib and his men.

Under normal circumstances, an invading army would be met by soldiers and a battle would be the natural result; however, the opposite is found here. Rather than fighting, Judah's men have fled in fear and sought refuge behind the walls of the city where the enemy's archers have hemmed them in. The picture is one of dread, defeat and despair. Before Assyria, Judah is helpless. Jerusalem has been surrounded, and none but God can deliver her (II Chronicles 32:22).

"Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people. For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains. And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield. And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate." (Isaiah 22:4-7)

As Isaiah considers the vision, he becomes overwhelmed at the destruction of his people. When Sennacherib invaded Judah, he attacked other cities beside Jerusalem. Lachish was one of those cities. Undoubtedly, other towns were conquered and many would have lost their lives in the process. A mass grave containing over fifteen hundred bodies discovered at Lachish may be the result of Sennacherib's invasion.

In her rejection of God, Jerusalem finds herself in a state of absolute despair. Such is always the case when men reject God's authority. Similar words were spoken by Jesus to the citizens of Jerusalem upon their rejection of His Messiahship (Luke 23:30-31).

At this time, Elam was subject to Assyria, and apparently its citizens were a part of the Assyrian army. According to Jeremiah 49:35, the Elamites were known for their use of the bow. The location of Kir is unknown. It is mentioned in II Kings 16:9 as a place to which Tiglathpileser III deported the captives of Damascus.

Already mentioned by Isaiah in 17:5, the valley of Rephaim was likely one of the choice valleys mentioned. Along with this valley, one could add the valley of Jehoshaphat (Kidron) and the valley of Hinnom. All of these places would be filled with Assyrian warriors as they surrounded and prepared to attack Jerusalem.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Letter to the Church of the Laodiceans

"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:14-16)

Jesus Christ is a faithful Witness of the truth. He never fails to guide men toward the truth of Scripture. Such was not the case with the church at Laodicea. They had failed in living the truth of Scripture before others. They needed to return to their mission of being salt and light in a sin-cursed world (Matthew 5:13-16).

Jesus' title of the beginning of the creation is not referring to Him as a created being. Jesus is God; therefore, it is not theologically possible for this passage to be placing Him on the same level as creation. Rather, this title identifies Him as the One Who made all things - the One by "Whom also [God] made the worlds (Hebrews 1:2)." In Him, creation finds its beginning.

Laodicea did not have its own local water supply. Aqueducts carried cold water from Colosse and hot spring water from Hierapolis; however, by the time this water reached Laodicea, both sources were lukewarm. The people of this congregation would have easily identified with the idea of being tepid.

Cold water has value, and hot water has value; but lukewarm water is often putrefying. To most people, it is not gratifying to drink nor is it pleasant to use for bathing. Lukewarm people are much the same way. They are frustrating to deal with because of their tendency to change positions depending upon the situation. They are not easily identified as being either cold or hot toward Christ; therefore, they are very dangerous due to their hypocrisy. God does not want His people to be serving two masters. A man cannot serve God and the world (Matthew 6:24). The Lord wants His people to be zealous for Him. As both cold and hot water have value, even so the Lord wants His people to have a distinct value for Him. Anything less is putrefying. Not even the world appreciates a hypocrite, so why should God?

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." (Revelation 3:17-18)

Laodicea was a very wealthy town. After the city had been destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD, the citizens refused imperial assistance from Rome and completely rebuilt the town by means of their own wealth. This self-sufficient attitude apparently had penetrated the church and plagued the members.

Although endowed with every earthly pleasure, the man without God as his focus is a most miserable creature. The Lord reminded His people of their spiritual condition. They looked good on the outside, but inside they were "full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27)." The Greek word behind wretched is the same word Paul used to describe the horrid condition of his sinful flesh (Romans 7:24). If a believer is not walking in the Spirit, what has he left with which to please God? God was not impressed with their well-to-do households. The respected position of their city offered Him no benefit. The Lord desired "truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6)." He demands the very same from His people today.

The city was rich; but Christ is far richer. The Lord admonished the assembly to "lay up for [themselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:20)."

The city was known for its luxurious black wool; but Christ offers the spotless white robe of His righteousness (II Corinthians 5:21). Such language seems to indicate that many in the church were not truly saved but were merely false professors. This is certainly within the realm of possibility. A worldly and apathetic church will lead to an unregenerate membership.

The city was known for its "Phrygian powder" which was manufactured from Phrygian stone and used as an ointment for the eyes. The Lord encouraged them to stop taking pride in these limited medicines and to start seeking after the One Who can open both the physical and spiritual eyes of the blind.

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:19-20)

Contrary to the world's teaching, rebuke is a natural outflow of genuine love. God exposes and disciplines those He truly cares about. People should not be deceived by the apparent well-being of the sinner. Such an individual is simply storing up the wrath of God against himself. The Lord will not permit the Christian to live indefinitely in sin. Rather than become angry at this reality, the believer is commanded to repent. He should change his mind toward his sin and let this change of mind affect his actions. Repentance might be described by this very simple phrase, "God is right and I am wrong; I will let Him change me."

Verse twenty is often quoted in witnessing to the lost; however, its true context deals with Christ's relationship to His Church. As a whole, the members of the Laodicean church had dethroned Christ from their hearts. Wealth, position, physical comfort and influence had left no room for the Savior. Such a tragedy might happen to any Christian of any age. The human heart has not grown purer with time. Every man is capable of withholding love from the One Who has bought each man with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Lord is very merciful, and He knows who will listen and who will not. Graciously, He reached out to the church of Laodicea. He did not have to. He chose to. His longsuffering nature is every Christian's example.

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 3:21-22)

As with the other churches, the Lord closes with a gracious promise to the genuine believer. The Laodicean church could have read this and considered their pursuit of the city's temporary wealth and power versus the believer's eternal reward in heaven. Temporal gain is so appealing and yet so fleeting.

Of all the churches addressed in Asia Minor, the Christian Church of today might perhaps identify most with the church of Laodicea. Plagued by worldliness, lust and and an insatiable desire for instant gratification, she finds herself in a place where Christ is no longer the center but rather the outsider. Let her open her ears and repent. He will not keep knocking indefinitely.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Letter to the Church of Philadelphia

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." (Revelation 3:7-8)

In contrast to the church of Sardis, Christ had nothing negative to say to the believers in Philadelphia. To these believers, Jesus emphasized His holiness, truth and supremacy. When God gives another the authority to fulfill a task, none can reverse the work (Matthew 16:19). What the church of Philadelphia had sought to do for their Savior could not be nullified by a God-hating world. This reality would have comforted the war-wearied saints of Philadelphia, and it should encourage believers today. So much seems to be working against the truth of God, and yet, the doors of opportunity and change which are opened and shut by God cannot be touched by even the most powerful of men.

Christ praised these saints for keeping His Word - the Bible. He places the denial of His name next to the keeping of His Word. To reject biblical authority is, in reality, to deny the name of Christ. This makes the matter of disobedience a bit more serious. Following biblical order is not optional; it is imperative if a Christian is not to deny the name of Jesus.

"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:9-10)

Christ's true Church will triumph over false teachers. The weaponry of insincere "religious" people seems so powerful. They have, on their side, money, popularity, the common bond of emotion-lead thinking, the appeal of sensuality, etc. Yet, Christ will conquer all of these worldly weapons with the Sword of Truth and make every knee to bow before His holiness (Philippians 2:10-11).

Opposite to the expectation of the predominately unregenerate church of Sardis (3:3), the Lord Jesus promised to deliver the Philadelphian believers from judgment along with the world. This last verse provides evidence for belief in a pre-tribulational rapture. The term them that dwell on the earth is used throughout Revelation of the unregenerate who will undergo the Great Tribulation (6:10, 13:14, 14:6, 17:8). Jesus promised these saints that would escape such things because they were His true children.

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 3:11-13)

The Lord reminded them not to lose their rewards. The loss of the crown is not a loss of salvation but rather a loss of Christian reward (II Timothy 4:8). Again, the overcomer is the one who has exercised saving faith in the blood of Jesus Christ (I John 5:4-5). To such a person, God has promised a place of security within the city of His future glory. In the phrase go no more out, the Greek double negative is found thus making this promise highly emphatic. The true believer shall never, under any circumstance, be separated from the side of his God. The Greek word for temple is naoj. This word describes not simply the temple building but more specifically the inner temple - the holiest place of all. Overwhelming security and close fellowship with the Lord Jesus is the future hope of the believer.

As if this were not enough, the Christian will also have upon him the name of God, the name of the New Jerusalem, and the new name of the Lord Jesus Christ (19:12). All of these things only emphasize and drive home the reality that God's child is destined for far better things than what the world can offer. In light of such realities, the commands to stand fast in this life suddenly seem less difficult and much more reasonable (Romans 12:1).

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Letter to the Church of Sardis

"And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." (Revelation 3:1)

The Lord Jesus is presented as having God's seven Spirits. This is the only place where the Spirit is presented directly with the accompanying number seven. There is no need to search for some hidden, mystical doctrine presented by no more than one verse. Throughout the Bible, the number seven often accompanies the inerrant character of God. Perhaps the number seven simply represents the complete and infallible nature of God. Whatever the meaning, Christ Jesus is filled with the faultless Spirit of God unlike the dead church to which He was speaking. If Sardis needed anything, they certainly needed the regenerating work of God's Spirit which could be found by returning to the One Whom they had ultimately offended.

Sardis was one of two churches toward whom God had nothing positive to say. They were physically alive but spiritually dead, because they did not have the Spirit of God living inside them (Romans 8:9).

Sardis was known for many cults, and one of these claimed power to raise the dead. Perhaps this cult had infiltrated the church and taken it over. The strong nature of the language coupled with the absence of praise for any Christian work seems to indicate that a primarily unregenerate membership comprised Sardis' church. This type of "church" is often the result of the toleration and compromise seen in churches such as the one at Thyatira.

The Lord warned them that they were about to lose any and all Christian identity. People do not always consider the destructive end of worldliness within an assembly. Few realize that departure from Christ's doctrine leads to an illegitimate assembly of unregenerate people displaying a "form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (II Timothy 3:5)."

"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." (Revelation 3:2-3)

Simply put, the majority of this church's membership needed to return to faith in Christ. They were in jeopardy of facing the wrath of God along with the other unregenerate souls of the earth. Christ's return as a thief is used in connection with His second coming (Matthew 24:42-51) and not the rapture. Therefore, He was telling this assembly that they were in danger of being destroyed with the wicked of the earth - something of which God's true Church need not be afraid (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the 
churches." (Revelation 3:4-6)

As with the church of Thyatira, God now turns to the few genuine Christians left in the middle of such debauchery and says, "They shall walk with Me in white." The works of the unregenerate church membership illustrated the unwashed nature of their souls, and the works of the outnumbered redeemed spoke volumes of their born-again status. God knows His own.

As previously mentioned, the overcomer is the one who is truly born-again; therefore, being clothed with white raiment is synonymous with having one's sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. If such is not the case, one will encounter serious theological complications with this passage and eventually find himself believing that one can lose his salvation. The majority of Sardis' church membership did not have salvation. A man cannot lose something he does not possess. God promised the saved that they were safely clothed with the white raiment of Jesus' righteousness.

To these believers, God made an encouraging promise. He said, "I will not blot out his name out of the book of life." The presence of the double negative ou mh in the Greek text presents the idea of an impossibility. The saved person cannot, under any circumstance, lose his or her salvation. The name has been firmly established within the pages of God's book; and there it shall remain forever (Romans 8:38-39).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Letter to the Church of Thyatira

"And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." (Revelation 2:18-19)

The fiery eyes of the Savior illustrate His ability to see all things and to judge all things (II Chronicles 16:9, Proverbs 15:3, Isaiah 66:15-16). The polished brass which has withstood the fires of purging represents yet another aspect of God's judgment. The Lord saw everything about this church - good and bad. Nothing was hidden from His eyes, and He would give them what their works deserved.

As with the other churches, Christ did not fail to mention the good works of this assembly. With that perfect balance of both encouragement and rebuke, the Lord opens this discourse with a word of praise. As people grow, stumble and get back up, they need to be praised as well as rebuked; otherwise, the journey would get very discouraging very quickly.

"Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not." (Revelation 2:20-21)

The Lord is very gracious. This church had severe problems, and yet God tenderly but firmly calls her to repentance. The Lord knows the frail frame of man, and He is very patient in His efforts to correct ungodly behavior.

Thyatira was a tolerant church. Like many assemblies of today, she permitted certain people to do just as they pleased. Perhaps fearful of creating tension, she did not address the disobedience and false doctrine which plagued her.

Contrary to the Scriptures, the church permitted a woman to teach (I Timothy 2:12-15, I Corinthians 14:34-35). This was not limited to a ladies Sunday school class but was an outright teaching of mixed groups. This woman known only as Jezebel was given free reign in the church to do as she would.

In keeping with the evil practices of Ahab's wife, she taught the members of the church how to "worship" both Christ and devils. Undoubtedly, this issue paralleled the sin of the church at Pergamos. Jezebel went by the title of prophetess, but God knew the truth. She was a false prophetess, she was not submitted to God's authority structure of male leadership and she was teaching wide-spread immorality. She taught the church to practice lasciviousness and compromise. These things are always closely linked to false teachers. Also, she had no respect for the deceived souls upon which she preyed nor for the God Who created them. People are not pawns for the church leadership to use as they will, and God will not take their abuse lightly.

In spite of her sin, God gave her the opportunity to repent. The Lord delights in conversion. Even wicked King Ahab found some respite from the immediate wrath of God through his humble response to the prophet's rebuke (I Kings 21:25-29). God does set a limit upon the length of people's rebellion; however, He is very merciful.

"Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come." (Revelation 2:22-25)

God first addresses Jezebel and her followers. She loved the bed of licentiousness, so God promised to replace it with a bed of tribulation. Undoubtedly, marriages and personal relationships had been ruined by this woman. God promised certain death to her offspring which likely included both physical and spiritual. Her, her children and her followers would be destroyed. Their works demonstrated the unregenerate nature of their souls; therefore, hell was their certain end except they should repent and turn to Christ. If the church was not willing to separate from her midst, God would see to it that a distinction was made between the wicked and the just.

In contrast to His rebuke of the unregenerate, God turns to the righteous and promises no other burden in addition to what they already had. He calls this group as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan. Such language is sufficient grounds for believing that Jezebel and her followers were not genuine Christians. Like thousands of "Christians" today, they simply did what pleased them while maintaining some shallow form of profession toward God - at least while such professions were culturally convenient. God was not fooled but these false teachers. He highlighted the saved of Thyatira's church by calling out their abstinence from continual engagement in evil activities.

Jezebel and her followers were not simply good people who did not truly mean what they said. They were followers of Satanic doctrine, and their speech declared as much (...as they speak...).

"And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 2:26-29)

The Lord promised a great blessing to the true believer. A man's works will eventually show him to be what he is. This passage would seem to indicate a special blessing to the believer who does not fall but rather remains steadfast. Christ will make such an individual a ruler over the nations in the Millennial Kingdom.

Exactly what is meant by the morning star is uncertain. The Lord Jesus is called the bright and morning star in 22:16. Regardless, the context is one of reward and close fellowship with the Creator of the universe. Compromise is never worth it. For a moment of pleasure, the church of Thyatira was willing to cast away so much.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Burden of Arabia

"The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim. The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled. For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war." (Isaiah 21:13-15)

Bordering the land of Edom, the Arabian tribes are the next to receive their promise of doom from God. The Dedanim lived near the borders of Edom (Jeremiah 49:8, Ezekiel 25:13), and they were known for their trade in ivory and ebony (Ezekiel 27:15).

Diverted from their normal route of travel by the threat of war, the Dedanim would be met by their neighbors who would bring them water and bread.

"For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail: And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it." (Isaiah 21:16-17)

As in 16:14, the Lord gives a precise timeline for these events. Just as a hired hand will not work less or more than the agreed-upon time, even so would God's judgment fall upon the tribes of Arabia at the exact moment. Kedar is used here to refer generally to the tribes of Arabia which were known for their wealth in flocks and herds (Ezekiel 27:21).

History is silent as to the exact method of this prophecy's fulfillment. Perhaps Sargon II or Sennacherib carried out God's wrath upon the Arabians. Regardless, one may be certain that what the Lord promised indeed came to pass.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Burden of Edom

"The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come." (Isaiah 21:11-12)

Dumah was the sixth son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:14). Here, the name is obviously connected to Edom. Perhaps Dumah was the name of a city within Edom's borders. Dumah means silence; therefore, it is possible that God chose this name as a picture of how He was about to silence Edom. The same Hebrew noun dumah appears in Psalm 94:17 and 115:17 where it has been translated silence.

The watchman heard an inquiry from Mount Seir (Edom). The voice asked concerning the night that would befall Edom. There may have been undocumented dialogue between Isaiah and the Edomites and this is perhaps their response. The watchman simply replies that Edom's morning will come but also its dark night. This describes perfectly the turbulent history of Edom. From time to time it rose in apparent prosperity only to once again decline in prominence to its present desolation.

This entire prophecy of Edom is very obscure; therefore, it is difficult to say for certain just what is meant by the last verse. One could easily view this as an invitation to repentance. The Lord may have given the Edomites the opportunity through Isaiah to turn from their wickedness and to come to the Holy One of Israel. If this is the case, it is yet one more example of God's merciful nature.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Second Burden of Babylon (Part IV)

"O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you." (Isaiah 21:10)

In context, the threshing can refer to none but the house of Israel. The phrase corn of my floor is literally son of my threshing floor. Threshed by the heathen nations (II Kings 13:7) yet having her valuable grain preserved by the Almighty (Amos 9:9), the house of Israel is given a vague but poetical title.

Likely, Isaiah did not understand all of what he saw and heard, but this did not stop him from faithfully presenting all of what God had said. Also, the value of God's Word was not diminished by the lack of human understanding. Eventually, this prophecy against Babylon would take on fuller meaning for the people of Israel; and its full impact will be realized when God destroys down to the ground the dark powers of the future Babylon - the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth (Revelation 17:5).