Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Babylon's End

"Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 47:1-4)

Over time, the luxurious throne of Babylon disappeared into the desert sands. Babylon itself is presented as a young woman of marriageable age who comes to a shameful end. Rather than be married and live in honor, she is overcome by an attacker and exposed and abused as a slave. Grinding meal was the task of a female servant. Many Chaldeans would be taken into captivity and reduced to servitude. Overall, the wording appears to be symbolic of Babylon's subjugation.

Babylon's end would not be accomplished by man's power but by God's. If human armies were the only force attacking Babylon, she may have hope; however, the power behind Babylon's conquest was that of the Almighty. Against such power, human pride cannot stand.

"Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms. I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke. And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments." (Isaiah 47:5-9)

Judah's punishment was deserved; yet, the Lord points out the merciless nature of Babylon's armies. To subjugate was not enough. Judah's citizens, both young and old, were destroyed. The book of Lamentations gives a vivid pictured of Jerusalem's condition in the aftermath of war.

Rather than fear retribution for her merciless behavior, Babylon rejoiced in her condition. Pride blinded her to the importance of mercy. She saw herself, not as a wretched sinner, but as a lady of wealth and position who profits from the oppression of others. The suddenness and totality of Babylon's judgment closely parallels that pronounced against the Babylon of the future antichrist.

How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her (Revelation 18:7-8).

In the shadows of ancient Babylon's destruction hides the future judgment of the world's vilest trade center. Human pride and rebellion are the common denominators of both Babylons.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Babylon's Purpose

"Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory." (Isaiah 46:8-13)

Israel and all of mankind is challenged to consider the vanity of idolatry. Any man of intelligence can see the folly of idol worship. Through His conquest of the Babylonian Empire, God would demonstrate that there is none like Him. Marduk, Nebo and the remainder of Babylon's idols would fall. Through the declaration of such things long before they took place, the Lord declared to His people the end from the beginning. When Israel's liberation under Cyrus took place, the people would know that God is God alone.

The icon of the Persian standard was a golden eagle. This ravenous bird symbolizes Cyrus and his kingdom. From the eastern country of Media-Persia, God would bring Babylon's conqueror; but in Israel would be found the salvation of God. The Lord declares the state of every man. Each is far from righteousness. One does not have to be an idolater to be in this condition; he simply has to be outside of God's merit. On the other hand, God's righteousness brings deliverance. Through the Person of Christ, God has brought it near to mankind. Israel tasted of God's righteousness when the Jews were delivered from Babylon's captivity; and someday each Israelite will personally partake of Christ's righteousness in the millennial kingdom.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Babylon's Idols

"Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you." (Isaiah 46:1-4)

As Cyrus, Babylon and her kings were instruments in the hand of the Lord to deal with Israel and the world as God saw fit. Unaware of her servitude, Babylon continued proudly in her idolatry only to be cast down by the Persians whom God had stirred.

Bel and Nebo were Babylonian deities. Isaiah presents them as being carried off by the enemy. Crafted of silver and gold and being of great weight, they were a wearisome load for the animals which carried them on carts. There is no need to pinpoint the exact time in history at which these events took place. Whether under the hands of the Persians or of some other people, all of Babylon's idols eventually came to nothing. On the night of his blasphemy, Belshazzar rested in the power of his gods to deliver him, but they too fell.

In opposition to Babylon's powerless idols stands the God of Israel. He is not presented as being carried off by the enemy but rather as carrying His people through the countless attacks of the enemy. The Lord's care is from conception to death. Even over faithless Israel, God presided; and one can hear in His declarations a call for repentant faith in His saving power. Ultimately, the Lord's ability to carry Israel through all hardships will manifest itself fully in Christ's kingdom.

"To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble." (Isaiah 46:5-7)

The Lord presents His incomparable nature. God cannot be duplicated. He has no "beginning of days nor end of life (Hebrews 7:3)." The word lavish means to provide abundantly. The idolater is not afraid to spend great wealth on his idol. His god lacks no physical beauty or monetary value, yet it is worthless. It is spiritually destitute, and its physical beauty and worth only serve to distract further the unwise man.

Isaiah continues to emphasize the fact that man's gods cannot carry but must be carried. Their physical helplessness reflects their spiritual helplessness. Over against them stands the true God Who graciously carries mankind and is "the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Timothy 4:10)."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cyrus' Creator (Part IV)

"Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." (Isaiah 45:20-25)

The Lord presents an even broader invitation, and encourages all of humanity to come. Zechariah makes it clear that many will escape death at Christ's return (Zechariah 14:16). These and all others are commanded to flee idolatry and to seek refuge in the Lord.

Verse 22 reflects the grace of God which is so clearly seen in the New Testament dispensation. The word look has the idea of turning about and looking. God is commanding lost humanity to stop walking in its current direction and to turn about and look in faith to the Lamb of God. The command encourages both repentance and faith. John reflected the heart of this Old Testament command when he exhorted the multitudes to "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)." The invitation is open, but it cannot be accepted unless one is willing to turn about and to look in respect.

God promises that every knee will bow to Him in respect. The promise is indisputably millennial in nature. The divine oath parallels the promise of God found in Philippians 2:10-11.

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In his admonitions concerning appropriate Christian conduct, Paul quoted verse 23 (Romans 14:11). Even though Isaiah was speaking primarily of world-wide submission to God and not of the judgment seat of Christ for Christianity, Paul used this passage to demonstrate the sober nature of the Christian's accountability to God. The flesh can easily abuse the grace of God and forget that each and every Christian will give an account of how he has conducted himself in the Christian life.

Only in God is righteousness found. It cannot be obtained through law-keeping. It cannot be accomplished by doing what each man deems to be right in his own eyes. Good Christian living cannot impart it. Righteousness is found only in Christ, and it is imparted to the believer only through faith. The Jews will rest in this reality when they accept Jesus as their righteous Messiah.

After declaring His call upon Cyrus' life, God displayed His singularity, grace and sufficiency. The power of God was responsible for all of Cyrus' victories. Although the fingerprints of God were present on Cyrus' life, the king went to the grave uncircumcised in heart. The epitaph on his tomb reflects the sad end of the godless man, regardless of his former greatness. Although there is disagreement over the exact reading, the inscription read something like this:

O man, whoever you are and wherever you come from, for I know that you will come, I am Cyrus who won for the Persians their empire. Do not therefore begrudge me this bit of earth which covers my bones.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Cyrus' Creator (Part III)

"Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God. Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right." (Isaiah 45:18-19)

Isaiah speaks now of the conversion of the nations in the messianic period. He recognizes that the national deliverance of Israel at Christ's return will result in the salvation of many Gentiles. Paul spoke of this truth when he said,

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness (Romans 11:11-12)?

The tone of the prophecies recall Isaiah's previous prediction of Egypt's deliverance in the future kingdom of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 19:23-25). Whether the chains are literal or symbolic of a submitted people, it is difficult to say. One thing is certain, the people of Egypt and Cush will recognize the singularity and worth of Israel's God as they acknowledge His supremacy.

In contrast to those who submit themselves to the righteousness of God, the resistor of God's authority will be destroyed by the Lord, because "...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6)."

In the righteous blood of Jesus the Messiah, Israel shall be saved. This event will take place in all of its fullness at the second coming of the Lord. As John so aptly put it, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20)." The phrase world without end is literally as far as eternity. God's salvation knows no end. Whether Jew or Gentile, the penitent believer finds in Christ everlasting security.

As a token of His gracious intentions, God reminds Israel and the world that He did not create the earth to be a desolate heap of lifeless confusion. In the aftermath of Jerusalem's destruction in 586 BC and again in 70 AD, it would be easy to think that God would never again restore His chosen people. Here, He reminds mankind that He delights in fellowship with His creation. After the tribulation has taken its toll on human life, Christ's kingdom will provide the perfect environment for the production and nurture of human life. Resurrected saints and glorified saints will be in the kingdom, but they will also be accompanied by the humanity which God has seen fit to preserve from the seven years of horror.

God makes it clear that He has not taunted Israel. The Lord would not command a man to seek Him if He could not be found. As the personification of wisdom, Jesus Christ "crieth without; [He] uttereth [His] voice in the streets: [He] crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city [He] uttereth [His] words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you (Proverbs 1:20-23)." The righteousness of God as seen in the Law clearly points a man to the saving grace of God. Man's rebellion, not God's distance, has blinded his spiritual eyes. As Paul said in Athens, "...He be not far from every one of us (Acts 17:27)."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cyrus' Creator (Part II)

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 45:9-13)

The Lord is rebuking those who would question or scorn His dealings with man. A potsherd is an earthen vessel. It is one thing for a lump of clay to strive or contend with a lump of clay but quite another for a lump of clay to contend with a master potter! God allowed the defective vessel of Israel to be shattered by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 19:10-11); yet, He retained the power to make Him another vessel, one which would serve His purposes. The humble and weak pot is foolish to contend with the wisdom and skill of the potter who retains all power over the clay.

The second illustration reinforces the first. The child has no right or authority to question the product of his parents' union. Even so, mankind should not question the purposes of God in dealing with that which He has created. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel may have been tempted to doubt God's wisdom in allowing them to be a people. They may have doubted God's desire to restore them. Perhaps they could not believe that God would eventually deliver them from such a horrific event. God assuages such fears by assuring Israel that they are His sons. God will not forsake them.

In righteousness God raised up Cyrus the deliverer of the Jews. This righteousness is not in reference to that on the part of Cyrus but to that on the part of God. To fulfill one's promises is a righteous thing. To have compassion on the helpless is a righteous thing. God showed mercy upon helpless Israel and fulfilled His promise of restoration through Cyrus' decree. This was all done through God's righteousness.

Contrary to the normal ways of mankind, God would move Cyrus to permit the return of the Jews apart from any ransom being paid. In fact, the king funded many aspects of the work (Ezra 3:7, 6:1-5). History attests to the fact that Cyrus was more humane than most monarchs. Rather than force any one religion upon the provinces of his empire, he permitted the worship and customs of individual nations. He considered this to be a wise political move since man's religion is linked inseparably to his political loyalties. Cyrus' policies freed those who had been confined in and around Babylon. Early in his reign, the Jews were permitted to leave and to return home. Ezra 1:1-4 gives the account of Cyrus' decree concerning the Jews.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

It must be remembered that this was not the decree of a man converted to saving faith in the God of Israel, but rather it was the decree of a man who sought to pacify as many deities as possible. He spoke similarly of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon; therefore, one must not think that Cyrus was a true worshiper of the Lord.   

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Cyrus' Creator

"I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it." (Isaiah 45:5-8)

God protected Cyrus and guarded his path which led to the throne of world domination. The life of young Cyrus is clothed with mystery. Many accounts will never be verified this side of eternity; yet, one thing is certain, God protected this young man and gave him all the riches of the earth in preparation for the release of the Jews. Through the testimony of Israel's release, the world would be faced with the evidence that there is none like God.

By saying that the Lord creates evil, the text is not inferring that God approves of evil. This passage teaches that God is supreme over all things. He alone has the power to permit or to restrain the forces of darkness. When Israel incurred the wrath of God, the Lord permitted Satan to spiritually attack David thus resulting in Israel's punishment (II Samuel 24:1, I Chronicles 21:1). God is not threatened by wickedness. He has it under control, and He uses it for the accomplishment of His ultimate will.  

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Cyrus' Call

"Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me." (Isaiah 45:1-4)

The Lord names Cyrus His anointed or messiah. As an instrument in God's hand, Cyrus would liberate the Jewish captives of Babylon in 539 BC.

While God was preparing the Babylonians to bring punishment upon Judah, He was also preparing Judah's deliverer. As the grandson of the Median king Astyages, Cyrus came to the throne in 559 BC. His father, Cambyses I, married the daughter of Astyages. At the time, the country of Media ruled over the Persians, and Cambyses I was employed as a vassal king. Upon the death of his father, Cyrus took over the position as vassal king under Astyages; however, rebellion soon broke out, and Astyages sent his commander to attack Cyrus and his troops. Rather than carry out his orders, Astyages' general defected with much of his army and encouraged Cyrus to attack his own grandfather. This he did, marching against the capital of Ecbatana and seizing the Median throne in 550 BC.

Now king of the entire empire of the Medes and Persians which resided in the northern part of present day Iran, Cyrus soon commenced expanding his kingdom. God had promised to hold Cyrus' hand and to subdue nations before him. The Lord carried out this promise as Cyrus marched west and attacked the Lydians in Asia Minor (Anatolia). Croesus, the leader of the Lydians, was defeated and the Lydian empire along with its subjected provinces was added to the Persian kingdom.

Cyrus' attention was then turned upon the lowlands of Babylon. By this time, the Babylonians had become estranged from their king Nabonidus who spent more time away from Babylon than he did ruling it. Nabonidus' son, Belshazzar, presided over Babylon under his father who had offended many of Babylon's citizens including the priesthood by his disregard for major religious festivals. In 539 BC, the Babylonian army was defeated at Opis which resided along the Tigris River north of Babylon. The remaining troops fled to the highly fortified Babylon where Belshazzar carelessly resided according to the testimony of Daniel. While drinking himself drunk and blaspheming the God of Israel, Belshazzar was unaware that the Persians were redirecting the waters of the Euphrates River which ran through the city. By diverting some of the river into a nearby canal, the Persians were able to penetrate the city successfully through the main water gate. Daniel records, "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old (Daniel 5:30-31)." Darius the Mede ruled as king of Babylon under the hand of Cyrus to whom God gave the hidden riches of Babylon.

In all of this, the Almighty profited Cyrus' path; yet, the text plainly declares, "...Thou hast not known me."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part X)

"Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." (Isaiah 44:24-28)

Israel has great hope because she is kept under the watchful eye of the God Who can do anything. In the womb of a ninety-one year old Sarah, God formed Isaac. When it seemed as though Rebekah would be barren, God answered Isaac's prayer and formed Jacob (Israel); and none of these things should surprise the God-fearing man because the Lord made all things. He "stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22)." He spoke the word and the earth was brought into existence through the create powers of Christ. God is the One Who disrupts the signs of the fortune tellers, prognosticators and necromancers as seen in the book of Daniel. When Haman plotted against Israel and cast the Persian lot day by day in anticipation of Israel's annihilation, it was God that intervened and led Haman to his death and delivered Israel from Persia's armies. Furthermore, only God can turn evil wise men backward while guiding the humble wise men to the birthplace of His own Son (Matthew 2:1-11).

The Lord continues the display of His magnificence by foretelling, through Isaiah, of Cyrus' decree that the Jews should return and Jerusalem's temple should be rebuilt. He promises His people great deliverance and uses a play on words when He compares their future deliverance to that of the Exodus when God literally dried up the sea and made a way of deliverance. God's naming of Cyrus many years before his birth is just one more awesome display of His power. The mention of this future monarch sets the tone for the next chapter where the Lord reminds the world that even the most powerful king is nothing higher than a servant of the most High.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part IX)

"Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in 
Israel." (Isaiah 44:21-23)

Israel is reminded that she has played the fool in acting just like the man previously illustrated. She was also given the illustration to encourage her to beware of idolatry when in the land of her captivity.

Israel may forget God; but God will not forget Israel. His mercy has put her sins behind His back many times. This mercy was illustrated when the Babylonian exiles were permitted to return under Cyrus. The full thrust of this passage however is the cleansing of the nation through faith in the blood of Christ. Israel has forgotten and rejected her Messiah, but in the end He will permanently deliver her citizens from their sins. With an eye toward the nation's future redemption, God sends her an invitation and says, "Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee." The tense of the verb is perfect. Israel's future redemption is so certain that God says I have redeemed, not I will redeem. As the dark rainclouds are capable of hiding the sun's light, even so is Christ's blood capable of removing any trace of sin from the believer's account.

The joy and renewal which accompany the Lord's return will cause the earth to seem as though it sang for joy. Desert lands will become fruitful and well-watered. The Salt Sea will be healed of its infertility (Ezekiel 47). Predatory animals will be tamed (Isaiah 11:6-7) and warfare will be abolished (Isaiah 2:4) in the day when Jesus Christ reigns as Lord and King over all the earth.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part VIII)

"The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it." (Isaiah 44:12-14)

Two types of workers are presented. First, there is the artificer of iron. He utilizes the heat of the coals to soften, form and bind the various metals needed for his image. Strong as he may be, he eventually succumbs to the reality of human hunger and thirst. The fingerprints of his mortality adorn the object of his foolish worship.

The second man is an artificer of wood. Carving false gods out of wood is his specialty. He utilizes hammers, plumb-lines, levels and other carpentry tools to create a false god whose form resembles that of its creator. Again, his human weakness defiles every aspect of his work while he uses the merciful gifts of God to accomplish his blasphemous goal. The end result is a wooden image taken from God's creation and reared up in a house. The blindness of the artificer is conspicuous as he does not consider that the very rains which come down from heaven have been responsible for the growth of the trees used for his idolatry.

"Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Isaiah 44:15-20)

The Lord uses very plain language which requires little comment. How incredulous it is that a man would choose to worship the fuel which he has just used to feed his fire! The human heart will go to great depths in an attempt to escape God's authority. The participle behind feedeth means to pasture (as a sheep). Rather than enjoy both the physical and spiritual provision of the great Shepherd, the idolater chooses to let the stock of a tree be his shepherd. Literally, he chooses the ashes of his fire to be that which will feed and keep his soul.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part VII)

"They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together." (Isaiah 44:9-11)

A graven image is an idol which has been formed or carved. Attempting to replace God's authority with a controllable deity is a practice which has existed since the fall of mankind. God calls this practice emptiness and unreality (vanity), and Israel's leadership had plunged the nation headlong into it.

Delectable means desirable. Many of these idols had been adorned with precious metals and gems of every kind. They appeared attractive on the outside, but the principles for which they stood would lead an individual to hell. Their lifeless nature bore witness to their inability to preserve temporal life or to grant eternal life.

God reminds the idolatrous artificers that they are nothing more than mortal men. God challenges them to stand up unitedly against His authority, yet they will be destroyed. The Almighty is not intimidated by large numbers of rebellious people. The word behind fear means to dread or to be in a panic. It is often used in the context of religious awe. In the end, God's enemies will be in a complete panic in the face of the Lord's unimaginable power.

In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth (Isaiah 2:20-21).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part VI)

"One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any." (Isaiah 44:5-8)

A fulfilling relationship will replace empty religion when the Jews are awakened to the value of God's Sacrifice. A true servant's heart will replace the stony heart of rebellion as each man identifies with the high and holy LORD of Hosts. To subscribe means to write. True conversion will move each man to own the Lord and physically identify with Him rather than with false gods of any form. Through God's grace, the principles of these verses have been made accessible to the Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel. As will soon be seen, God did not exclude, even in Isaiah's day, the foreigner who sought to make God his own.

God reminds Israel that He is both King and Redeemer. He is both of these to all men but certainly to the nation which has been chosen of Him personally. These titles remind the reader that God possesses all authority and redemptive power. This fact is emphasized by the following statement, "I am the first, and I am the last." John reiterated this timeless truth when he penned the words which Christ spoke to him. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Revelation 22:13)." Such connections reinforce the harmony which exists between the Old and New Testaments. God has not changed. Man's carnality, not God's wisdom, has led him to create such a strong line of division between the Old and New Testaments.

The Lord emphasizes His supremacy by calling for one who is able to guide the affairs of man as God has. Who has done anything for God? He formed man. He guides the rise and fall of peoples and nations, and He alone will deliver Israel from herself and from her enemies.

God reminds Israel that she is an ideal witness of His lovingkindness because she has witnessed His redemptive power. A literal rendering of the Hebrew would read, "Is there a God beside Me? Yea, (there is) no Rock." God's desire is to be a sure rock to every man who is willing to acknowledge his sin and take hold of God's strength. Grasping the strength of the Rock is the only way to make peace with Him (Isaiah 27:5).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part V)

"Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses." (Isaiah 44:1-4)

Jesurun means upright one. The use of this term is interesting, especially when considering the idolatry with which Israel struggled throughout Isaiah's ministry. The same name is given to Israel in Deuteronomy 32:15 where Israel's departure from God is foretold. Israel has no uprightness or righteousness of her own; rather, she looks forward to God's righteousness which will be imparted to her at the commencement of the millennial kingdom. Because the nation has been chosen of God, the Lord refuses to forsake her; and He intends to redeem her. The spiritual awakening of the nation will be seen when God's Spirit is poured upon the Jews because of their belief in Jesus Christ. The spiritually thirsty ground will be well-watered by the fountain which will be opened to the house of David for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1). Through the salvation of the Jews and Gentiles in the Church age, one sees small illustrations of what God will do with Israel when the promises of these verses are completely fulfilled at Christ's second coming.

Belief in the merit of Christ's blood can take a hopelessly corrupt sinner and transform him into the upright one of God (Romans 8:1-4).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part IV)

"But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with 
thine iniquities." (Isaiah 43:22-24)

Israel's reproach is now brought to light. Although revivals took place in the nation, overall Israel had wandered from the love of God. Her spiritual renewals were often shallow and short-lived. Israel the servant had grown weary of her Master. The true heart of this reality may be seen in the closing prophecies of Malachi. The prophet quoted the words of priests who had come to detest God's service.

But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering...(Malachi 1:12-13).

God reminds the Israelites of their failure to bring the required offerings to the temple; yet, He points out the fact that He has not burdened them with such requirements. The offerings were to be born out of a heart for God. The strict adherence to them was not the most important thing but rather the heart behind them. Israel's redemption lie not in the endless blood of bulls and of goats but in the blood of the Messiah to Whom such offerings pointed. Should a righteous man be kept back from bringing the required offering due to the circumstances of life, it would not exclude him from fellowship with the Lord. This reality makes it clear that God never intended to burden His people with the sacrifices. Their purpose was to guide the sinner to the One Who would burden Himself with the sins of the world. The establishment of such a system was not for purposes of oppression but restoration and fellowship. In this, God could truly say, "I have not caused thee to serve with an offering."

The Hebrew word behind sweet cane means a reed or a stalk. It is found in the ingredients for the holy anointing oil mentioned in Exodus 30:23. Apparently, it was a reed-like plant harvested for its pleasing aroma. The exact identity is somewhat vague. The passage expresses sadness on the part of God Who has been shut out from the hearts of His people. Man's restoration and fellowship are of the utmost importance to the Lord, and such an attitude of grace from the Creator should incite the sinner to repentance for his estrangement from God (Romans 2:4).

The Lord had not made His people to serve with an offering and neither had He wearied them with incense; however, they had served God in the direct opposite manner. It is true that God is no man's servant; yet, in the sense of fellowship, Israel had pushed God out and taken advantage of His longsuffering character thus wearying Him with their iniquities. Divine grace adorns this entire passage. Why should the Creator of all bear so long with those who shun Him? The Lord is merciful. Yet, His patience has a limit, and Israel was not far from the coming judgment of Babylon when this prophecy was written.

The Christian should be careful not to take advantage of God's goodness in such a way. God has not wearied any believer with oppressive service, and no believer should repay the Lord with a wearisome life of carnality. Obedience to God's commands should flow out of a loving heart that desires fellowship with Christ Who has removed every burdensome weight of sin.

"I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified. Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me. Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches." (Isaiah 43:25-28)

The opening statement is emphatic. "I, I am He who blots out your transgressions." Israel had failed to keep the Law. She had failed in her heart toward God. As every man, she had fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The work of redemption rests entirely with the Lord. Christ, and not man, has the power to redeem. This declarative statement is a call to repentant faith in the righteousness of God. The statement is indisputably linked with the millennial redemption of the nation; yet, the principles of this statement are good for both Jew and Gentile in any dispensation. These verses aid in understanding how God had not burdened Israel with the sacrificial system. If redemption could be had through the works of the Law, salvation would be an uncertain and burdensome thing; however, because salvation is to be had by grace through faith, the Law which points man to that salvation is no longer seen as an unbearable weight placed upon the shoulders of inadequate and sinful humans.

For the purpose of emphasis, God's commands His people to remind Him of the evidence. Had He forgotten any facts which may result in their vindication? No. Had He promised to deliver them through His mercy and grace? Yes. The command is designed to incite thoughtfulness on the part of Israel. All which God has declared is true. He graciously encourages His people to draw nigh, consider the evidence and draw a righteous conclusion. If they would declare that God is just, men are evil and would flee to Him for deliverance, they would be justified.

The identity of the first father is unclear. Is God referencing Abraham? Jacob? The elders of Israel in general? One thing is certain, all men are sinners. Abraham was not flawless. Jacob had great struggles with God. Categorically, Israel's leadership failed. Israel needed repentance and faith in God's righteousness, because she, as her first father, had sinned. For this cause, God brought affliction on the nation and through the Babylonians, destroyed the sanctuary of Solomon.

In contrast to the flawless Messiah, failing Israel is presented as the servant who has missed the mark yet is not unloved nor forgotten by He Who will bring about her complete restoration.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part III)

"Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships. I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King. Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow." (Isaiah 43:14-17)

At this point in Isaiah's ministry, Assyria and not Babylon was the world power; yet, God uses the past tense to describe what He was going to do to the Babylonians through Cyrus the Persian. Israel's deliverance from the seventy years of captivity in Babylon was so certain that Isaiah spoke of it as if it were passed already. The Chaldeans are presented as being in ships. This is likely because Babylon was located on the Euphrates River which was used for the transport of commerce coming from the Persian Gulf.

Israel's Holy One and King reminds them of what He did to Pharaoh. He alone destroyed the monarch and his army but not before making Israel a path through the Red Sea.

And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses (Exodus 14:28-31).

As Egypt's power was quenched that day by the sea, even so would Babylon's power be quenched by God's hand through Persia.

"Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise." (Isaiah 43:18-21)

Israel is commanded not to live in the past. God had used the nations to punish her, and He would use the future power of Babylon for the same purpose, but deliverance would and will come. Even though the exile into Babylon had been fraught with many heartaches, Israel would return to her homeland with joy. Isaiah's gaze seems to lift somewhat to the millennial redemption of Israel as he describes the fruitful transformation of the landscape. The joys of Israel's redemption in the kingdom of Christ will be a new thing. The new covenant which has been sealed by the blood of Christ has made this new thing possible. The Messiah's quenching of Israel's spiritual thirst will be complimented by the quenching of Israel's physical thirst when streams and pools occupy the now barren desert sands.

The praise of God will be the result of Israel's redemption as well as that of the world's nations. Salvation should result in praise. God redeemed Israel for the purpose of showing His praise to all. They failed in this mission, but in the kingdom, they will faithfully execute it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Revelation's Conclusion (Part II)

"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." (Revelation 22:14-16)

Few people would use verse 14 as an evangelistic tool; yet, it is just that. True conversion and a changed life are so closely related that God speaks of His redeemed as the ones who are doing His commandments (II Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15-16). Having been regenerated and translated from darkness into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13), the Christian is marked by His respect for the Scriptures and his desire to obey them. If such is not the case among professing Christianity, then "let God be true, but every man a liar (Romans 3:4)."

The word behind right is the Greek word exousia which means authority. The same word is found in John 1:12 which says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power (literally authority) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:.. ." The Savior has graciously given the repentant sinner the authority to obtain eternal life through the merit of Christ's righteous blood. The security of such a position is immediately contrasted with the plight of the damned. They are marked by the behavior which pours from their unregenerate hearts. Even the man who would consider himself moral and respectable finds his place in this list, because all men share the same wicked heart. The grace and restraining power of God are the only reasons that each and every person is not as evil as he or she could be.

Declaring the genuineness of this Book, Christ places His personal stamp upon its authorship. Only those who love and make a lie would want to doubt the beauty and value of Revelation's place in the canon.

The Lord is that everlasting Root promised to David by God (II Samuel 7:16). As the brightness of a morning star is clearly seen on the horizon, even so will the brightness of Christ's salvation shine through the millennial kingdom and on into eternity.

"...His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:14)."

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:17-19)

The Spirit of God is at work in the world. He is actively dealing with people, encouraging them toward simple faith in the merit of Jesus Christ. In this present dispensation, the Church as part of Christ's bride also has an active part. It is to be complimenting the work of the Spirit by giving the vocal invitation of, Come. The judgment throne of God is fast approaching. Time is running short. In every corner of the world, the Spirit and His people are at work giving the tender and simple invitation. The Holy Ghost encourages the one who hears His call not to turn a deaf ear but rather to say, Come. The idea is I will come. The command is a third person form. It is a strong desire on the part of God, but its fulfillment is somewhat uncertain because the will of the person being called plays a large part. The invitation is free, but it will not be forced upon any. Only those who recognize their spiritual thirst will make a move toward the fountain of life.

The simplicity of this closing command to men is conspicuous. Salvation is not difficult. It involves a recognition of one's own sin and his need for a righteous Deliverer. It involves a simple change of authority - a change which most people refuse to make. The fear of the Lord, repentance and faith in Christ are all summarized here by a command which anyone can understand - Come.

On the heels of this gracious invitation follows a grim warning. No one is to corrupt the Words of God, especially those of this closing prophecy. The warning echoes that of both Deuteronomy and Proverbs.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you (Deuteronomy 4:2).

Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Proverbs 30:6).

The last part of the warning declares removal from the Holy City if any should remove the words of this book. This is not a loss of salvation because why would any true believer maliciously edit the holy Scriptures? The very Word through which a believer is born will not become the object of his disdain to the point of purposefully rewriting it! Likely, this is speaking of the unregenerate who would rewrite the Scriptures through evil desires. Many false cults do this. The Jehovah's Witnesses have gone so far as to rewrite portions of the Greek New Testament in order to support their doctrine. To such, God promises to remove the possibility of salvation. A few passages seem to indicate that everyone's name first appears in the book of life but is then removed according to belief or disbelief in Christ (Exodus 32:33, Psalm 69:28, Revelation 3:5). Concerning the one who rejects God's salvation, the Psalmist wrote, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous (Psalm 69:28)." The believer cannot lose his salvation; therefore, this passage must be referring to the one who purposefully alters the Scriptures as a manifestation of his wicked heart. It is a dire warning. Only the Lord knows the number of people who have cut themselves out of God's book through purposeful rejection of His truth.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part II)

"Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth." (Isaiah 43:8-9)

The Lord is establishing His authority as Almighty God. He alone has control over the past, present and future. The Lord again challenges man's idols. They cannot predict the future and neither can they orchestrate world events. They are lifeless. God encourages the nations of the earth to consider His deity and to confess humbly that His words are truth.

"Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?" (Isaiah 43:10-13)

Here, the Lord reminds Israel that she is still His elected servant. This position, regardless of sinful failure, cannot be forfeited. As a nation, Israel must undergo the results of disbelief, but in the end she shall be restored to her position as the servant-nation of Jehovah.

In refuting Israel's idolatry, God gives a very simple reminder. Before Him, there was no other. The book of Genesis does not begin with, "In the beginning, God was created." It begins by saying, "In the beginning God created." In keeping with the Hebrew behind the English verb, God created something out of nothing. In Him, all things find their beginning.

As the only Creator, God holds the right to be the only Savior. When Israel left Egypt, God was her only God. He overthrew Pharaoh and his army. He delivered the Canaanites into Israel's hand. When there were no foreign gods in their midst, the Lord wrought for them a great deliverance; therefore, the Jews are ideal witnesses of God's saving power.

The Hebrew word behind let means to turn aside, turn or bring back. No one is capable of changing what God has determined shall be. Even the wicked who fight against God are being used as pawns on a chess board.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Revelation's Conclusion

"And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand." (Revelation 22:6-10)

The written Word shares with the living Word the same characteristics of truth and faithfulness (3:14, 19:11, 21:5). To question the integrity and authority of the preserved Scriptures as found in the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Textus Receptus is to question the integrity and authority of God Himself. Once again, the Lord places His stamp of approval upon that which has been written as a rebuke to the unbelieving men who seek continually to discredit this Book.

God reminds the reader that His return is near. This original utterance of these words took place approximately 2,000 years ago. His return is closer now than it was then. A thousand years seems like an eternity to frail men, but to God it is nothing but a day (II Peter 3:8). Prior to the Great Flood, a thousand years was the life-expectancy of one man. Christ's kingdom will come at any time. Repentant faith in His Person is the sole means by which an individual is prepared to be a kingdom citizen.

Overwhelmed once again by the amazing vision, John (as most people would do) fell down to worship at the angel's feet. Being a genuine messenger of light, the angel quickly dispels the worship of anyone or anything but God. False messengers are quickly discerned by what they do with the glory and honor which belongs only to God.

John is commanded to make known this prophecy. These are the last days of the last days. This book should be prayerfully studied for the purposes of understanding and personal application. It should not be rejected for being too difficult to apply and neither should it be used for fantastical material to fuel speculation at a shallow prophecy conference. It must be received in God-fearing faith. The time is at hand. The deep and difficult things of Revelation should not prevent the application of the plain and simple things.

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Revelation 22:11-13)

The word behind unjust means to do wrong or to do harm. The unregenerate declare their spiritual condition through their continual actions. Causing harm to others is a hallmark trait of the Christ-less soul. The soul that is outside of Christ is also considered filthy or defiled. A man does not have to be especially evil to be considered filthy or defiled. He simply has to be outside of God's righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Regardless of the truth that is presented, some individuals will never change. Such people will not be accepted into the kingdom. Those who refuse to be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb will be handed over to the consequences of what they truly love.

On the other hand, the righteous have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Because of conversion through faith in His name, they are righteous and holy. This righteousness and holiness is not intrinsic but imparted. It is given by God's grace through the channel of simple faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, it cannot be withdrawn. Through eternity, the humble man will live in the positive consequences of his obedient choices.

As Paul said, "...The Lord knoweth them that are his...(II Timothy 2:19)." Upon His return, the Messiah will reward His servants with a welcome into the kingdom, and He will punish the unholy with eternal separation in hell (Matthew 25:34, 41).

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Israel the Servant

"But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee." (Isaiah 43:1-3)

The next two chapters focus on Israel the servant. Unlike Messiah, Israel has failed God; yet, the Lord loves her greatly. He has chosen her to be His servant and His lovingkindness will keep her from complete destruction, and it will deliver her in the end. God uses the prophetic present. He has redeemed. He has called. Israel's deliverance is sure; therefore, it is presented as complete.

The waters and the fires are symbolic of tribulation. Psalm 66 uses the same language in describing the millennial restoration of Israel.

For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place (Psalm 66:10-12).

As in Psalm 66, Isaiah's focus is on Israel's complete deliverance at the Lord's return. The return of the Jews to their homeland in 539 BC was only a foretaste of Israel's complete renewal in the kingdom of the Messiah. God's position as the one and only Savior is prominent in these passages. The righteousness of God which has long been rejected of the Jews will someday be that to which they humbly flee for deliverance.

In bringing Israel out of Egypt, the Lord destroyed the land through the ten plagues. The Egyptians themselves said to Pharaoh, "...Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed (Exodus 10:7)?" In this, God gave Egypt as a ransom for His people. Also, in punishing Israel through the Assyrians and Babylonians, Egypt and Ethiopia (Cush) suffered great losses, because both Assyria and Babylon campaigned in the south. After the release of the exiled Jews under Cyrus, the Persian king Cambyses invaded Egypt sometime in 526 BC. Also, in the days of the tribulation, God has declared that the antichrist will attack Egypt and inflict damage.

He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps (Daniel 11:42-43).

When God used Nebuchadnezzar to invade Jerusalem and subsequently besiege Tyre, He used Egypt as payment for the Babylonian king's efforts (Ezekiel 29:18-19). When God speaks of giving the southern empire as a ransom for His people, it is unlikely that He is speaking of any one specific event but rather has all of history in view. God's eye is upon His people who will someday be purified through the righteousness of Christ, but His eye is against Israel's enemies.

The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead (Proverbs 11:8).

"Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." (Isaiah 43:4-7)

Israel is precious to God not because of her uprightness. As every nation, Israel is wicked apart from God's healing power. The Lord loves her for His own sake. Her covenant of faith was made with Abraham and the Lord has promised to give her the inheritance in the end. God's mercies, not Israel's faithfulness, is the focus of the text.

The Lord commands her not to fear. The man who makes God's Son his Savior and hope need fear nothing. At Christ's return, Israel's citizens will be gathered out of every nation and returned to their rightful place according to Isaiah 66:20. Israel's rejection of her Messiah has caused her citizens to be scattered literally throughout the entire known world; however, the acceptance of her Messiah will cause her to be regathered. The Babylonian invasion was on the horizon when Isaiah penned these words. The God-fearing among Isaiah's countrymen could find hope in God's faithfulness regardless of man's failure.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Description of the New Jerusalem (Part IV)

"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22:1-5)

Similarly, Ezekiel spoke of a clear river that will proceed from under the threshold of the millennial temple.

Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar (Ezekiel 47:1).

The river of Ezekiel's vision will last only through the millennial reign of Christ, but the river described here is eternal. Certainly, the rivers of both visions reflect the waters of eternal life which the Lord Jesus will give to anyone who comes to him for salvation. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "...Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14)."

Ezekiel's vision also spoke of trees lining the temple river.

And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine (Ezekiel 47:12).

In both instances, the pure waters of the river give birth to trees which possess the same life-giving qualities. In all these things, the ability of God to impart eternal life to all who ask is pictured. The river and its vegetation may have other purposes, but they certainly stand as a witness to the eternal which God alone possesses.

Unlike the millennial kingdom which will witness the rebellion of man at the end, the eternal state will not be plagued, in any way, by sin. Only the redeemed will walk there. They will see the Lord in all His glory and their faith shall finally be made sight (I Peter 1:9). These saints rejected the temporary and damning mark of the beast in exchange for the eternal and liberating mark of the Almighty.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Messiah the Servant (Part IV)

"Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable." (Isaiah 42:18-21)

The Holy Spirit's focus shifts from that of Messiah the flawless Servant to that of Israel the failure servant. The Lord just commented on the foolishness of idolatry, and within the same vein of thought, He now comments on the failure of a people whose main mission was to shine His light into a lost world.

How could a close servant of the true God be so blind? Indeed, the worst blindness is caused by rejecting the brightest light. How could the servant who had sat under the very oracles of God become so deaf? The root behind perfect shares the same root as the Hebrew expression shalom. Shalom, in its basic sense, expresses the idea of complete peace. The full expression of shalom is found in having a right relationship with God. Israel was perfect or complete in the sense of having received all that was needed for spiritual success. They were miraculously delivered from Egyptian bondage. They were given the Law of God on Mount Sinai. The sacrificial system pointed the way to the Messiah. Canaan fell before them. Under Joshua and David, the entire nation had experienced the peace that comes through obedience. Truly, they lacked nothing needed for their peace and perfection except a changed heart. Israel had seen and heard many things, but "the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it (Hebrews 4:2)."

Disgusted with the failure and self-righteousness of Israel, the Holy Spirit declares that God is pleased only with the righteousness of His Messiah-Servant. The heart of this passage is heard in God's words to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. "...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him (Matthew 17:5)." Through His sinless ministry, Christ would magnify and honor the very Law of God which acted as a schoolmaster to point men to Himself (Galatians 3:24). Christ Himself said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Matthew 5:17)."

"But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law. Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet 
he laid it not to heart." (Isaiah 42:22-25)

Israel's defeat and captivity were never part of God's desire for His people. Their destruction down through the years has been the result of disbelief and rejection, not of divine appointment. Assyria's scourge was aimed at bringing the nation to its knees in repentance. Nebuchadnezzar's merciless destruction of Jerusalem was intended to open the rebellious eyes of the Jews, yet none saw these chastisements for what they were. After Jerusalem's destruction, the Jewish survivors took Jeremiah into Egypt where the exiles continued their idolatry. When Jeremiah denounced their sin, they replied, "...We will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven...(Jeremiah 44:17)." Jeremiah explained that the cause of their destruction was due to their idolatry, but they rejected his warnings even after being overcome by the Chaldeans. All men, Jew and Gentile, are foolish and rebellious by nature. Hope and healing come only through the faithful ministry of God's unfailing Servant.