Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Servant-Savior (Part VI)

"The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed." (Isaiah 50:5-7)

Unlike the natural man who fails, the Lord Jesus did not neglect any aspect of the Father's will. Christ's ministry was, as His character, impeccable. So much was the case, that Jesus could say with boldness and honesty, "...The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him (John 8:29)."

Out of love for helpless sinners, the Lord gave His physical body to the abuses of His persecutors. The sins of mankind, not any fault or weakness on the part of Jesus, placed the Savior in this position; yet He endured because His compassions determined that He would be "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8)." In the Gospels, the Holy Spirit did not record the account of Christ having his facial hair pulled off, so this passage provides some extra insight into the physical pain and humiliation experienced by the sinless Son of God. Apparently, pulling out one's beard was not an uncommon form of punishment by the Jews since this same behavior is seen in the book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:25). In the Israelites' culture, spitting in one's face was considered to be the apex of contempt. Despite theses atrocities, Jesus "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)."

The last verse presents a beautiful contrast to the Savior's humiliation and sacrifice. True, He is the Servant-Savior; yet, He is also the conquering King. The humiliation and pain of the cross was followed by unimaginable glory. The word for confounded means humiliated. A difference exists between humiliation of person and humiliation of purpose. In person, Christ temporarily underwent shame and humiliation, but in purpose, He knew none. In pure faith, the Lord's face was set as a flint against the mockery and disdain of His enemies. As the enemy cursed Him and said, "He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him... ," Christ confessed, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee (Psalm 22:8, 22)."

The perfect balance of submission and victory displayed in the life of the Savior provides excellent guidance for the Christian. Performing all things in charity does not mean living a life of weakness and defeat. Submission and humility must dominate every aspect of the believer's life; yet, in these things true victory is experienced as faith finds strength in the sure dominance of Christ's everlasting kingdom.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Another one finished!

It's always an exciting time for me when hours of study and effort appear in printed form!  The commentary on Revelation is complete and the link is presented below.  The book is available in paperback and e-form.  I am very grateful to my wife for the hours of editing and formatting that she put into this work.  Praise the Lord for the study of His Word.  Revelation is not just a compilation of difficult and unclear passages.  It's a letter to literal churches, and the book is filled with practical application for us today!

to purchase the commentary on Revelation, click here.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Servant-Savior (Part V)

"Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away." (Isaiah 50:1)

The Mosaic Law gave room for a man to divorce his wife due to some moral impurity (Deuteronomy 24:1). Using this example, the Lord challenges Israel to consider her situation. God had not distanced Himself from Israel; Israel had distanced herself from God. She was, as Hosea prophesied, the harlot who had sold herself in spite of the love shown to her by a faithful husband (Hosea 3:1-3). God is making it clear that He has not permanently put aside His chosen people (Romans 11:1). An official bill of divorcement did not exist then, and it does not exist now. The Lord is not the instigator of broken relationships; He is focused on the restoration of relationships (Genesis 3:8-9). When a rift exists between God and an individual, the fault is always with the individual.

"Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering. The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." (Isaiah 50:2-4)

The wherefore is asking a question. God is saying, "Why is it, when I came, there was no man? Why is it, when I called, there was no one to answer?" Such a sought-after people should have been ready to hear and to obey; but instead, they were rebellious. Principally speaking, the Christian should be ready to hear and to obey because he is without excuse having the indwelling Holy Spirit and the written Word of God.

God reminds His readers that He is well able to save the one who trusts Him. In the Hebrew text, the phrase shortened at all is emphatic. In no way is God incapacitated and unable to overcome. The word for deliver carries with it the idea of snatching away. Effortlessly, God snatches the trusting soul out of the mouth of his predator; but the wicked are left to experience the results of their faithlessness.

The last verse may be applied in a near sense to Isaiah himself and in a fuller sense to the Messiah. As Christ was able to speak the proper words at the proper time, even so had God enabled Isaiah to speak what was appropriate for the occasion. The disobedient ear rejects God's words as burdensome things; but the righteous man receives them as cool water is received by an exhausted laborer. Morning by morning speaks of God's daily supply. Each day, the power to continue the Lord's work was renewed for Isaiah. Applying the words to Christ Himself, the true Servant was in constant communion with His Master as He flawlessly fulfilled His will here on earth.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Servant-Savior (Part IV)

"Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me." (Isaiah 49:22-23)

When Isaiah wrote this, numerous Gentile kings had already molested the nation. Nebuchadnezzar would soon come and lay Jerusalem waste thus beginning officially "the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24)." In 70 AD, the nation would once again be brought to its knees as the Roman general Titus utterly destroyed Jerusalem. Yet, for all this, God promises a change in the future. In the kingdom, Israel will not be the ruled but the ruler. Under the headship of her Messiah, she will be the chief nation of the world. This does not mean that the nations will be abused by Israel as they have abused her. The chief Shepherd is not an abuser but a healer. It means that the world's peoples will no longer be permitted to take lightly God's established order and plan. Instead, the Lord's covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fully honored and the Lord will become the head of all as the nations serve Him (Psalm 2).

"Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob." (Isaiah 49:24-26)

Again, the Spirit asks a rhetorical question. Is it normal for a strong nation to let its captives go free without ransom? Of course not. Yet, God promises to release Israel. Her sin had made her a lawful captive, and it continues to keep her in bonds; but the Lord promises to bring deliverance from the sin and its bondage.

The violence of the enemy's overthrow calls to mind the devastation of the world's armies at the Battle of Armageddon. The Servant-Savior came in peace at His first coming, but His second advent will witness His righteous indignation as He comes to vindicate His righteousness, liberate His chosen people and establish His rightful place on this earth as Savior and King.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Servant-Savior (Part III)

"Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee." (Isaiah 49:13-17)

God continues to describe the blessedness of Israel's reinstatement. In the midst of the nation's conflict, her discouragement shows as she sighs, "...My Lord has forgotten me." God's reply is very reassuring, and it transcends any weakness so often found in human loyalty. The Lord asks a rhetorical question. He draws the reader's attention to the dedication of a mother to her children. The bond between a mother and her young is extremely strong, yet it is not flawless. If exposed to the proper pressures, even a mother is capable of turning her back on her babies, even to the point of cannibalism (II Kings 6:29). God's faithfulness knows no limits. He is not capable of failure toward His loved ones. God does not promise to remember Israel simply as a mother remembers her young but rather as a faultless God remembers His creation. This reality gives increased validity to His promise of Israel's restoration.

"Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth. For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?" (Isaiah 49:18-21)

Jerusalem will see an influx of the world's inhabitants during the millennial reign of Christ. Thousands upon thousands will be gathered to Jerusalem to "worship the King, the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 14:16)." In that future day, Israel's population will grow extensively. Various periods in history have witnessed an increase in Israel's population and prosperity but the context of this promise is definitely millennial. Redeemed by the blood of her Messiah, the nation will finally be awakened to God's gracious keeping. The presence of physical life will be amazing, but the presence of spiritual life in the nation will be a far greater miracle.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Servant-Savior (Part II)

"Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places." (Isaiah 49:7-9)

Israel, and not Jesus, is spoken of in the opening verse. Rebellion had led the nation into a life of servitude, and this stigma has followed the Jews to this very day. Exiled, persecuted and internationally despised, the Jewish nation is rightly termed a servant of rulers. However, her situation will change rapidly when the Messiah's return liberates the nation from unbelief and restores it to its rightful place under the headship of the Holy One of Israel.

The last two verses speak of Christ's redemptive ministry. Though separated by centuries, both His first and second comings are in view. Protected by the Father, the Son escaped the premature attacks of His enemies and went on to fulfill the work of man's redemption. Because His blood is the only thing by which sin can be cleansed, Jesus shed it on the cross thus giving Himself as a covenant for the people. As Christ said at the last supper, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:20)." The result of Calvary's work is the release of those who are held captive by sin. Men do not understand how desperate they are. Blinded by a deceptive heart and the lies of a world ruled by Satan, most people do not see themselves as a captive; yet the text speaks of lost men as prisoners held in a dark dungeon. To the one who is willing to acknowledge his wretched state and turn to the Messiah, freedom from sin and its consequences is promised.

The Lord's second return is also in view. Israel's full joy of redemption will be found when she is brought to salvation after being delivered from the near destruction brought about by the Great Tribulation.

"They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim." (Isaiah 49:10-12)

The joy of the millennial kingdom is obvious in these verses. Jesus said, "...Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11)." Sinim may be the outer reaches of China. Sin is the modern day Hebrew word for the nation of China. Regardless, the farthest point of the inhabited world is the idea being presented. The Messiah's salvation has touched and will touch every part of the earth. The result in the Millennium will be the regathering of the Jews to their homeland. Thousands upon thousands will flee the countries of their exile to inherit their rightful place in a land which has been resurrected by the righteousness of God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Servant-Savior

"Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." 
(Isaiah 49:1-3)

As a welcoming contrast to the servants presented previously, the Savior-Servant now appears. Like bookends, Jesus' ministry opens and closes this section concerning the LORD'S servants. In a near sense, many of these things could be applied to Isaiah's life, yet beyond the limited application to Isaiah's ministry, one finds the Lord Jesus Christ to Whom belongs the full spirit of these words.

The coasts of the Gentiles are commanded to hearken. God has not overlooked the salvation of those beyond Israel's borders. Before the physical birth of Jesus, God the Father mentioned His Son Who would make a way of redemption for every man. The sharp sword of the Savior's mouth is indicative of the Word which proceeded from His heart. Christ did not speak from a heart of sinful flesh. His sinless lips were filled with the Scriptures which are "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword (Hebrews 4:12)." The believer is commanded to follow this same example when the Spirit says, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God...(I Peter 4:11)." The polished arrow-shaft represents that which has been straightened and made smooth for war. It reflects accuracy, value and power. As an arrow which strikes its mark, the Lord Jesus Christ victoriously accomplished His ministry of redemption, and now He awaits the day of final victory.

The last verse can be confusing at first glance. In context, Christ and not the nation of Israel is the focus of these prophecies; therefore, as the One Who embodies the full meaning of Israel's future relationship with God, it appears as though the Spirit labels the Messiah as Israel. Paul used similar language when he spoke of those who come to Christ through the covenant of faith. He calls them, "The Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)."

"Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isaiah 49:4-6)

Likely wearied by the overall rejection of his audience, Isaiah bemoans the apparent uselessness of his efforts; and in so doing, he echoes the lamentations of the Man of sorrows Whose ministry of love would go unheeded by the nation of Israel and by the world. Notwithstanding, Isaiah's strength was not spent in vain anymore than that of the Savior; because "the battle is the LORD'S (I Samuel 17:47)", and in the end His will shall be accomplished. Men may scorn works of sacrifice and grace; they may reject offers of mercy and calls to repentance. People may pass over that which truly matters in pursuit of that which is useless. In the middle of human sin, failure, hypocrisy and rejection, it would be easy to think that one's sacrifice and service to others on behalf of God were vanity; however, the final judgment is the Lord's, and not one detail whether righteous or unrighteous will escape His attention.

The Lord clearly reveals the Agent by Whom He will bring men back to Himself. Jesus Christ, not the works of the Law, is the means by which men find spiritual healing. The Lord's first coming was met by national rejection, but the will of God was His strength. The Lord promises to use the Son to restore not only the Israelites but also the Gentile nations. Upon their rejection by the Jews, Paul and Barnabas quoted these verses and began a ministry focused on the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47).

Sunday, December 10, 2017

God's Deferment (Part II)

"Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me. Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness 
as the waves of the sea: Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me." (Isaiah 48:16-19)

Isaiah had not spoken his prophecies in secret. Sent by the LORD and His Spirit, the prophet proclaimed openly his message which was available to the entire nation. But the application would not seem to stop here. As the Spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10), the Lord Jesus Christ is pictured through Isaiah's life. The unity of the Godhead is presented as Jesus Christ is sent by the Father and empowered by the Spirit. In perfect harmony, the Trinity is seen in the Messiah's ministry as He comes to accomplish man's redemption.

Lest any should accuse the Lord of desiring the destruction of Israel, the Spirit interjects a strong wish on the behalf of God. The Law was not given to oppress but to liberate. Through it, the failure of mankind is put on display while the righteousness and sufficiency of God is emphasized (Romans 3:19-26). Had Israel responded in faith to God's Law, she would have found redemption. Then, her peace would have been as a river because a true relationship with God would have been found through faith in the Lamb of God. Also, as the waves of the sea, her righteousness would have been plenteous as she walked in the imputed righteousness of God, producing the fruits of His righteous Spirit. However, as so many people, the Israelites saw God's commandments not as a schoolmaster of life but as an oppressive burden or as that which offers life to the religious law-keeper. This faithless and prideful approach to the Law of God left the nation spiritually destitute and robbed of divine blessing.

"Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob. And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the 
wicked." (Isaiah 48:20-22)

With an eye toward the future liberation of the Jewish captives, the Lord commands His people to flee Babylon - an event which came to pass through the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4). Here, the Lord expresses a desire for all His people to leave Babylon, but the Scriptures declare that relatively few Jews left. Approximately 50,000 Jews returned during the first wave of exiles. It is highly probable that many more Jews were living in the east at the time. Familiarity, wealth and temporal security had captured the affections of the covenant people whose rightful place was the promised land. When all of the Jews should have fled Babylon with the "voice of singing," only a fraction of them obeyed.

God prepares the hearts of the people for the escape from Babylonian exile by reminding them of His providence in the wilderness. In the flight out of Egypt, the people were not destroyed by thirst because God opened the rock through the hand of Moses and gave drink (Exodus 17:6). This truth would serve to give them the needed assurance that God would meet their needs in their prospective flight from Babylon.

The passage closes with a divine reminder that the faithless wicked will not find peace because they have rejected the authority and security of the Creator. The former and future promises of comfort and deliverance will not help the man who refuses to make the Lord his Rock. In mercy, the Holy One of Israel commands the future release of His people from the fallen servant of Babylon, but such things would not and will not profit the unconverted soul.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

God's Deferment

"For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another." (Isaiah 48:9-11)

God's grace adorns His promise to withhold the full brunt of His anger. The national presence of Israel today bears witness to the weight of this promise. Because God's nature is one of mercy and kindness, He has not given mankind what he deserves; but rather, through Christ has made a way of escape from the wrath of God toward sin (I John 2:1-2). Someday, Israel as a nation will be fully restored through the cleansing work of Christ. When this event takes place, the Lord will receive the praise of His creation as they consider His longsuffering character.

The Lord declares that Israel has been chosen in a furnace of affliction. Not in wellbeing and acceptance has Israel been chosen but in turmoil and fear. This fact magnifies the faithfulness of God and His refusal to do away with Israel as a people and nation. It also emphasizes the fact that salvation is an act of God and not man. Man chooses to accept but God's Spirit works in the heart, convicts, draws, enlightens and regenerates. When Israel stands clean before her Savior in the Kingdom, only the Lord will be credited for her survival and conversion.

"Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together. All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous." (Isaiah 48:12-15)

This is now the third time that God has declared His omniscience as the beginning and the end (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6). The language parallels Revelation 1:8. God says, "I am He (which is)," "I am the first (which was)" and "I also am the last (which is to come)." Jacob was the name of the nation's father prior to his confrontation with the Lord at Peniel; and Israel was the name given him of God when he clung, in great need, to his Creator. "Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial (Hosea 12:4-5)." As the man who had his name changed by God, Israel needed to cling to the Lord in dependence.

On the heels of declaring His majesty as the Creator of all, the Lord promises deliverance from the oppression and captivity of Babylon - a captivity which was yet future to the nation when these words were penned. Babylon the blind servant was no match for the God of the universe. The Lord's love rests upon Israel even though she has proven to share the same wicked heart as every other man. His faithfulness delivered her from Babylon in 539 BC; it has delivered her from every other foe from then until now; and it will preserve her from complete destruction and usher her into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Israel's Treachery (Part II)

"I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them. Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them. They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them. Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb." (Isaiah 48:5-8)

God asks with a tone of amazement, "Will not ye declare it?" How could anyone hold back from making known the wonderful works of God which have been so "evidently set forth (Galatians 3:1)?" Many of Isaiah's prophecies had come to pass and many more were soon to be fulfilled. Only a rebel who chose to be consciously ignorant of God's works could fail to be a herald of His righteousness.

Positively identifying the new things is somewhat difficult; however, God is quite possibly referring to the many messianic prophecies which are soon to follow. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ pictured so clearly. Indeed, the schoolmaster of the Law points the way to His righteousness; and the "patterns of things in the heavens (Hebrews 9:23)" contained in the earthly tabernacle and its rituals paint a picture of Hm; but here Isaiah introduces Him personally as the sacrificial Man Who died for man. Certainly in this sense, the things from now and forward in Isaiah's prophecies are new.

The Holy Spirit emphasizes the spiritual blindness and deafness of Israel; and they are not alone. Blinded by self-righteousness and rebellion, each and every man's flesh passes over the supremacy of God and the righteousness of Christ as found in the Law of God. Without doubt, apart from Jesus' cleansing blood, every individual is a transgressor. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12)."

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Israel's Treachery

"Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness. For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name. I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;" (Isaiah 48:1-4)

The waters of Judah would seem to indicate tribulation. Those who had survived and would survive the many troubles of war and captivity are encouraged to listen and to consider their spiritual condition. The Israelites were notorious for combining the worship of Jehovah with the worship of idols. In this, they swore by God's name and made mention of Him; but all was insincere. Through Jeremiah, God sharply rebuked Israel for her mixed worship.

Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 7:8-11).

Unlike the truly converted remnant of Isaiah 10:20, these did not lean upon God in truth but rather trusted in the false securities of lineage and position. The Jews of John's day exhibited the same heart toward God when they said within themselves, "...We have Abraham to our father (Luke 3:8)."

The former things are likely those prophecies which had been fulfilled up to this point - prophecies such as the invasion and defeat of Sennacherib. God told His people beforehand, and completed the work with rapidity; because He knew of man's tendency to discredit, in his mind, the presence of God's hand in personal and national affairs. It is possible for a man's forehead to be made strong against evil (Ezekiel 3:8), but here the context is entirely negative. The Jews followed the rebellious whims of their own hearts and refused to acknowledge God's authority. Every man is haunted by these same tendencies.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Babylon's End (Part II)

"For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know. Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it. Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee." (Isaiah 47:10-15)

In context, Babylon's wisdom is that which pertained to her sorcery and ability to conquer. She was a grand city which excelled in architecture and trade; however, this wisdom was, as James said, "earthly, sensual, devilish...(James 3:15)." Babylon's worldly wisdom had served to cement her prideful position and make her insensitive to the goad of human conscience. Her self-exaltation echoes that of Lucifer when he said, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Isaiah 14:14)." However, as God spoke to Lucifer, even so spoke He to Babylon. "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell...(Isaiah 14:15)."

With irony, the Lord challenges Babylon to exercise her hellish powers and fight against His divine wrath. Of course, such an endeavor is useless. Her sorcerers would be destroyed so completely that none would be found. All the witchcraft would cease, and Babylon would come face to face with the reality that she was nothing more than a servant in the hands of her Creator. The merchants who traveled the trade routes from the east and west and who came by way of the Persian Gulf to the south would no longer visit Babylon. Death's silence was destined to creep over the ancient center of idolatry.

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).