Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Woe of Ephraim

"Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!" (Isaiah 28:1)

As in many other places, Ephraim here refers to the kingdom of northern Israel. Primarily, Isaiah's ministry was toward Judah; however, it was not confined solely to the southern kingdom. Here, the citizens of Israel are presented as drunkards who live for the revelry of the moment without any concern for God's Law. Amos' earlier denunciations of Israel's attitude parallel the point of Isaiah's rebuke.

Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph (Amos 6:3-6).

This particular rebuke was aimed at northern Israel; however, Judah shared in her sister's sins (Isaiah 22:13, Ezekiel 16:51-52).

"Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet: And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up." (Isaiah 28:2-4)

The Lord had reserved the fearful might of the Assyrians to deal with Ephraim's sin. As in Isaiah 8:7-8, the Assyrian is likened to a destroying flood that leaves nothing in its wake. Sargon would overcome Samaria and sweep away the fading flowers that adorned her crown of arrogance and sensuality.

The hasty fruit is literally the first ripe fig (Jeremiah 24:2, Hosea 9:10, Micah 7:1). This fruit was regarded as a delicacy. The Lord likened the Assyrian invasion of Israel to a man who eagerly devours the delicious and tender figs.

"In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, and for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate." (Isaiah 28:5-6)

There seems to be somewhat of a play on words in the text. Ephraim's crown of pride would fall from his head, and the glorious beauty of his fading flowers would be swept away by the Assyrians; yet, to the one who chose the fear of the LORD, God would prove to be a glorious crown that is capable of abiding any storm.

The residue certainly includes the survivors who responded to Hezekiah's Passover invitation (II Chronicles 30:11) but also has in view any and all of Israel's God-fearing population. Having a heart purified by faith in the righteousness of God, the redeemed man finds God's Spirit to be the greatest source of help in judgment. Also, the Lord, and not man, is the One Who gives the warrior his strength and enables him to meet and to defeat the enemy at the gates of the city.

In stark contrast to Samaria's sickly defenses, the Lord presents Himself as the ultimate Victor Who acts in behalf of those who turn to Him in faith. This passage has future significance as well. In principle, it describes Jesus Christ the King ruling by His Spirit of judgment and bringing redemption and victory to His saints (Isaiah 11:1-4).

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Seventh Trumpet (Part II)

"And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." 
(Revelation 11:16-18)

The word angry and the word wrath in verse 18 share the same root. The nations were wrathful but God's wrath overcomes every opponent. Because His wrath is righteous and holy, it cannot be defeated. This thought should be encouraging to God's people as they face fierce opposition here on earth.

The time of the dead's judgment seems to be in reference to the resurrection and judgment of the damned described in chapter 20. On the other hand, the prophets and saints of God look forward to a resurrection of life and reward. The angelic messenger told Daniel, "...Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days (Daniel 12:13)." Job declared by faith, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God (Job 19:26)." Although many of God's prophets died without any earthly possessions, their reward is by no means lost.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:13-16).

"And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." (Revelation 11:19)

The scene suggests that the Almighty is declaring the immutable and enduring nature of His Word. Before a world that is bent on casting off all divine authority, God opens the doors of His heavenly temple to reveal the fact that His authority remains on the throne. "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89)." The Lord Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away (Luke 21:33)." God's declarations have been recorded, and they will judge men at the last day.

The preservation of Scripture has been a debated topic. "Has God preserved every letter of His Word?" "Can the Bible be trusted?" The faithless questions go on. The resounding answer to such inquiries is, Yes. God has faithfully preserved His Word here on earth in the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus. In heaven it abides as well. The authority of such things will soon be realized. The enduring and conquering nature of the Scriptures should encourage Christians to study and apply the Bible now. Time still remains to read and to heed God's commands. Time still remains to allow the Scriptures to effect personal change; however, time is growing shorter.   

Friday, February 24, 2017

Israel's Regathering

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem." (Isaiah 27:12-13)

The verb behind beat off indicates the action of gleaning an olive tree (Deuteronomy 24:20) or threshing grain (Judges 6:11). In the last days, the Lord will carefully regather every individual olive of His tree (Isaiah 17:6) and bring each one back to his homeland. The Lord's concern for the individual restoration of each Jew is emphasized by the phrase one by one.

The channel of the river likely refers to the Euphrates River, while the stream of Egypt is probably synonymous with the Brook of Egypt or modern day Wadi El-Arish. This wadi forms a natural border between Israel and Egypt. The boundaries mentioned are the same ones which God described in His gift of the land to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 15:18). This land area is also the same as that which Israel inhabited during the reign of Solomon (I Kings 8:65). The Millennium will witness the restoration of the original land mass promised to Israel.

The great trumpet indicates God's signal to His elect. After Christ's return, the sounding of the trumpet will commence the gleaning work of God's angels as they are sent out to gather the saved from all nations.

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:30-31).

This regathering of God's people parallels the prophecies given in Isaiah 11:10-11. No longer driven out of her homeland by the enemy, a redeemed Israel will enjoy the true worship of her Messiah along with thousands of Gentile converts.

This entire chapter pictures the restorative nature of God's character. The Lord's holiness requires judgment against sin; however, even in the middle of His chastisement, the Lord's focus remains on the ultimate restoration of mankind. Christ's Church should have the same focus. Actions such as correction, admonition, separation and church discipline are proper and very necessary (Matthew 18:15-17, II Thessalonians 3:14); yet, the end goal is never the destruction of the soul being chastened but rather the complete restoration.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Seventh Trumpet

"And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven." (Revelation 11:11-13)

One of the most encouraging titles for God's Spirit is found in the opening verse. He is called the Spirit of life. Romans 8:2 uses the same title in its description of salvation. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Everything about God's Spirit exudes life. When the repentant sinner calls upon Christ in faith, the Spirit of life regenerates that person and makes him or her forever a child of God (Titus 3:5). When the believer chooses to yield to the Spirit's power rather than to his flesh, spiritual health and life are the results (Romans 8:13-14). Yes, everything about God's Spirit breeds life, and He rightly fills the Prince of life (Acts 3:15) Who gives eternal life to all who call upon Him in faith.

Unlike the temporary resurrection of the beast, these men will be raised to die no more. One can only imagine how abruptly the world's victorious joys will end when it witnesses such a terrifying and miraculous event. The sight of this resurrection and the fear of the events that follow will bring many to their knees in glorification of God's awesome power.

"The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:14-15)

The third woe is synonymous with the seventh trumpet (Revelation 8:13). This trumpet marks the termination of the world's powers and the advent of Christ's kingdom. A few plagues remain, but for all intents and purposes, the battle has been won. Even though the events of Revelation have yet to unfold, the Christian lives daily in the reality that His King has won the victory. Every kingdom, regardless of past, present or future opposition, is indeed the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Two Witnesses (Part III)

"And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will." (Revelation 11:5-6)

Evil times will call for harsh measures. Pain is often the only thing that the rebel understands. In light of this, the two witnesses will be given unusual power from God to gain people's attention as well as to ward off their bitter enemies who will care nothing for their godly admonitions.

"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth." (Revelation 11:7-10)

Because the text calls the antichrist and his kingdom the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit, some believe that the antichrist will be an individual that dies but is then resurrected by means of satanic power. If such is the case, his pseudo-resurrection will be short-lived. Satan's attempts to mimic the power and blessings of God always fall far short of the divine reality.

The city in which the two witnesses are killed is pictorially identified as Sodom and Egypt and the place where our Lord was crucified. Indisputably, these titles identify the city as Jerusalem. Apart from the righteousness of God, the holy city (Nehemiah 11:1) is no better off than Sodom and Egypt. The root sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that of pride (Ezekiel 16:49-50). From this was born the wickedness described in Genesis 19. Human pride and the resistance of God's authority expressed through faithlessness has always plagued the Jews; therefore, the Lord identifies Jerusalem as a spiritual Sodom. The Lord also used the term Egypt. In their hearts, God's people often turned back into Egypt (Acts 7:39), desiring its gods and its goods, its luxuries and its lifestyles. Because of this, the Holy Spirit names Jerusalem for that which has always been in her heart. Apart from true conversion, the most famous religious center is no better off than Sodom and Egypt.

An international holiday will follow on the heels of the righteous man's death. The text does not describe how so many people will view these dead bodies. Perhaps modern technology will enable such wide-scale participation. Regardless, the party will not last long. The vocal testimony of these men which went unheeded for three and one half years will lie silent for three and one half days before the awesome power of God is once more displayed.

It should be noted that the work of these men could not be stopped as long as God's will kept them in their purpose. However, once the Lord was ready for them to come home, the work ceased. The believer needs to be surrendered to the power and will of God. The work cannot be stopped nor can it be prolonged beyond what God desires. He knows best.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Israel's Chastisement

"Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him? In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind. By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up." (Isaiah 27:7-9)

To illustrate His intentions of preservation toward Israel, the Lord asks a series of rhetorical questions. In order to better understand verse seven, it would be helpful to insert names in the places of the personal pronouns. "Hath [God] smitten [Jacob], as [God] smote [the nations] that smote [Jacob]? or is [Jacob] slain according to the slaughter of [the nations] that are slain by [God]?" In other words, the Lord would, and will, bring Israel's enemies to an end, but He would not, and will not, completely destroy Israel. Jeremiah 46:28 compliments this truth.

Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.

Verse eight is very difficult to translate; however, it seems to be reinforcing the fact that God does not delight in punishing His people nor does He use chastisement for destruction but rather purging and ultimate healing.

The demonstrative pronoun this seems to be referring back to the chastisement of God mentioned previously. Through the Lord's merciful and planned correction of Israel, she will be delivered eventually. In speaking of Israel's future redemption, Paul quoted this verse in Romans 11:27.

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins (author's italics).

Israel's past enemies and those of the future Tribulation all share a common bond in that they have served, and will serve, to soften the hearts of the Jews. In the present day, God is using the witness of creation, the proclamation of Scripture and the provocation of the Gentile's salvation to lead His people to their Messiah (Romans 10:16-21).

The Lord continues His proclamation of the coming judgment upon Israel and condemns their groves and images (literally Asherah and incense altars). A new paragraph probably commences with the word when. From this point to the end of verse eleven, the emphasis seems to be on the punishment of Israel through the Assyrians and those nations which would come after. Israel's could not be healed until the idolatry was purged. Reconciliation cannot come until the offense has been dealt with. People are prone to believe that God will accept them and the sin they delight in; however, the sin must be removed before healing can occur. For the Christian, this means that God expects the forsaking of those things that displease Him and a return to the things that glorify Him. The believer who rejects this pattern will find himself under the chastening hand of God.

"Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof. When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour." (Isaiah 27:10-11)

Whether these verses refer to God's judgment against Israel's enemies or against the unrepentant of Israel's citizens, it is difficult to say. In principle, these verses could apply to both. There were many in Israel who would not listen; therefore, many would be slain by the coming enemy. Both the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions brought about the death of many who rejected the prophet's warnings. On the other hand, the Lord has made it clear that the powers of the heathen nations will be broken. The great and wicked city of Nineveh would not continue indefinitely. The year 612 BC would witness Nineveh's fall thus marking the end of Assyrian rule. Babylon would eventually become a place to pasture cows and other animals regardless of the human pride that adorned her construction. Whether Jew or Gentile, the unbelieving heart is ultimately a heart of no understanding, and its end is fearful.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Two Witnesses (Part II)

"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." (Revelation 11:3-4)

Even during this time of great evil, God will not be without His witnesses. Their ministry will last 1,260 days - the same number of days which comprise the antichrist's ultimate rebellion. Their attire denotes their attitude. The earth will be in a lamentable condition; therefore, their clothes will reflect a lamenting spirit. Many believers would do well to follow their heart-example. The modern day "church" is plagued by a spirit of pseudo-positivity. Little lamentation exists over sin, and anyone who does not board the ship of ecumenical pseudo-evangelism is immediately marooned on a desert island. God knows His own. Sometimes a spirit of lamentation is the only proper response to what is occurring.

The wording of verse four parallels that of Zechariah 4:11-14. At least in principle, the two anointed ones of Zechariah seem to be the same as the two witnesses presented here. In Zechariah's prophecy, the Lord made it plain that the oil which proceeded from the olive tree and lighted the candle was the Spirit of God Who would enable Zerubbabel and his associates to do the work before them.

...Behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof ... This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it (Zechariah 4:2-7).

The golden oil of God's Spirit enabled Zerubbabel, and the golden oil of His Spirit will enable the two witnesses. Whoever these witnesses of Revelation may or may not be, one thing is for certain, they are men empowered by none other but the Spirit of God. As this Spirit emptied His oil into the lamps of Zechariah and enabled the servants of God to do the impossible and to shine forth for Him, even so will He empty His oil into the lamps of the two witnesses thus empowering them to do the impossible. This same Spirit indwells every believer and therefore gives the needed power to accomplish the will of God in every dispensation. The Lord's Spirit has not been given only to Zerubbabel nor has He been reserved exclusively for the two witnesses; He has been given to every believer, and no task is too great for Him.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Leviathan's Punishment (Part II)

"Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me." (Isaiah 27:4-5)

The Lord does not feel threatened by His enemies. His rage is pure and holy, not the byproduct of some insecurity. The treacherous thorns of the Middle East were used as a defense against the oncoming foe and formed an obstacle to be overcome, but such tactics are useless against God. After receiving the interpretation of his dream by Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar attempted to set up a few "thorns" against God by making his ninety-foot tall statue. He soon learned that thorns do not prevail against God.

The verbs would go and would burn are cohortative in the Hebrew and express a strong desire on the part of the subject. These verbs could be translated let me or may I. The Lord is passionate about the subjugation of the wicked and the vindication of His holiness. Ultimately, the individual who resists the Lord's authority in his life will burn as a thorn in the fires of hell.

The or presents a hopeful contrast of thought. To resist the Lord is to incur damnation, but to embrace His authority is to gain salvation. The word behind strength means a place of safety or refuge. God's power and revenge are fearful; yet, the Lord is a God of love and compassion. The Lord is a place of refuge for the one who turns from his evil ways. By heeding the command to take hold of God's strength, the repentant sinner can escape death through faith in the righteousness of God - a righteousness which is secured through belief in Jesus Christ. The presentation of God's judgment and mercy in these verses parallels Joel's description of God's salvation invitation as He comes in the end times to punish the sin of mankind.

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered...(Joel 2:30-32).

The mockers of Isaiah's day would be burned as thorns along with their Egyptian allies, but the ones who made God, and not man, their hope would find redemption. Peace is not found in the resistance of God's authority but in the embrace of it.

"He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." (Isaiah 27:6)

As a nation, Israel has yet to experience the full impact of this promise. Christ's kingdom will provide the perfect environment for Israel to grow not only spiritually but also physically. At the present, the Jews which inhabit the various nations are not there because of blessing but rather because of punishment. In light of this, the large numbers of Jewish people scattered throughout the world cannot be considered the fulfillment of this promise. Through God's blessing, not His chastisement, the Jewish population will thrive in the millennial kingdom, and God's people will be found in every nation as well as their own.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Two Witnesses

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (Revelation 11:1-2)

The two witnesses will appear during a time when the antichrist has seized the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and has profaned it through the exaltation of himself as God. History has witnessed two temples in Jerusalem. The first was built by Solomon. Its destruction came about in 586 BC at the hands of the Babylonians. The second temple was constructed by the Jewish exiles who returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (book of Ezra). This structure was eventually expanded and beautified by Herod and the Jews during the reign of the Romans; however, in 70 AD, this temple was also destroyed in response to a Jewish rebellion against Rome (an event which Christ foretold in Matthew 24:2). The third temple has not yet been built. Many believe that its construction will commence shortly after the Rapture, but no one knows for certain. The fact that this temple will be built cannot be disputed by the reality of its presence in the book of Revelation and the reference of Paul to the antichrist's defilement of the holy place. At this point in time, the Jews do not have an official edifice which might be labeled as their temple; therefore, one must be built so that prophecy can be fulfilled.

At some point during the Tribulation, the antichrist will force his way into the Jewish temple, put an end to Jewish worship and defile the Holy of Holies through his very presence. He will demand that all worship him, and him only. II Thessalonians 2:3-4 describes this event.

...And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

The word behind temple refers to the innermost part of the temple. Just as his forerunner (Antiochus Epiphanes - Daniel 11:30-31), the antichrist will invade the most holy place of the temple and bring about its defilement. Daniel 9:27 clearly indicates that this event will take place midway through the Great Tribulation. The Lord Jesus Christ also prophesied of the antichrist's rebellion against God when He said ...

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains (Matthew 24:15-16).

As context will soon declare, the forty-two months is calculated using the prophetic 360-day calendar. This means that the antichrist's defilement of the temple and the holy city will last 1,260 days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Leviathan's Punishment

"In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." (Isaiah 27:1)

The context of the Millennium's commencement seems to go on as indicated by the phrase in that day which continues the previous chapter's thought. The exact identity of the sea monster known only as leviathan remains a mystery. This creature is first mentioned in Job where he is used as an illustration of God's magnificent power. Psalm 74 and 104 also reference him in passing. While leviathan's actual existence cannot be disputed, his appearance in this passage seems to be symbolic of Satan and his earthly kingdoms. Ezekiel 29:3 calls Pharaoh the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers. Satan is behind the world's kingdoms and its rulers; therefore, the title of leviathan certainly has reference to him either directly or indirectly.

Because Israel was looking consistently to Egypt for aid against the Assyrians and Babylonians, this passage would have been relevant to them in a near sense. Egypt was never a source of significant help to Israel, and this truth would only grow stronger with time as God continued to remove Egypt's power. With that said, the future destruction of the world's kingdoms and the master behind those kingdoms cannot be dismissed. The Lord's ultimate victory against the dragon of the sea will pave the way for His rule in the millennial Jerusalem. The Almighty's matchless power is portrayed by a severe, great and strong sword which knows no rival. The enemy's helplessness before such magnificence is illustrated beautifully by Revelation 20:1-3 where Satan is rendered powerless before the angel who consigns him to his millennial prison.

And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up... .

"In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." (Isaiah 27:2-3)

This song is toward God's chosen people - the Jews. Israel's enemies are destined for complete destruction, but Israel is destined for complete redemption. As in Isaiah 5:1-7, God likens Jacob's descendants to a valuable grapevine. The word behind red wine means delight or desire. Down through the ages, the Lord has faithfully cared for this vineyard even though it has rejected His salvation. In the last day, the blindness will be removed, and the Jews will realize that the love of Christ has been that which has kept and watered all along. This same jealous love is that which keeps every Christian as well, whether Jew or Gentile.   

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Judah's Expectation (Part IV)

"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." (Isaiah 26:19-21)

This passage presents some of the clearest Old Testament teaching on the subject of the resurrection. Isaiah looked for the day when he would be reunited with his body to walk the Kingdom in a resurrected state. Daniel also prophesied of such things when he wrote, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)." The Lord Jesus drew upon these prophecies and principles when he admonished the people by saying, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29)."

The principle of resurrection is the main focus of this passage rather than one specific resurrection. The New Testament saints will be reunited with their bodies at the Rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18); and the Old Testament saints will be raised to enter the Kingdom of the Father along with the saints who have died in the Tribulation (Daniel 12:13, Revelation 20:1-6). All of God's people have a hope as sure and fresh as the life-giving dew which collects on garden herbs, but the state of the wicked is characterized by dryness and death (Psalm 68:6). This hope is made possible through the Messiah's victory over death. When Christ rose from the dead, He "led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Ephesians 4:8)." Christ's resurrection power applies to both the Old and New Testament dispensations.

The Lord likens His chastening of Israel to but a moment in comparison to the eternity of blessings which await her. Israel has been under God's wrath for many years, yet this is nothing compared to the great mercies that will gather her (Isaiah 54:7). The little moment of indignation presented in the text may be in reference somewhat to the fierce attack of Satan against the Jews in the Great Tribulation. During this time, God will provide a place in the wilderness for Israel to hide herself until the indignation is past (Revelation 12:1-6). Shortly after this assault of Satan against the Jews, the Lord Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with His saints and execute judgment upon His enemies at the famed Battle of Armageddon.

Shortly after the Lord's subjugation of the world's armies, the resurrection of the Old Testament and Tribulation saints will become a reality, and, in full submission to the overpowering work of Christ, the earth will cast out her dead.

As Isaiah penned these truths, Israel continued to lean upon Egypt and to make preparations against Assyria. All these efforts would prove to be useless. Israel's hope, as well as the hope of every man, does not rest in human effort, but in patient waiting upon God - a God Whose very character is one of total redemption.   

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Judah's Expectation (Part III)

"Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth. LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them. Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD. We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen." (Isaiah 26:15-18)

Looking forward to Israel's fruitfulness in the Kingdom, Isaiah glorifies God for His increase of Israel's citizens. The Great Tribulation will be take the lives of many Jews, but the millennial kingdom will bring both physical and spiritual life for Israel.

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited (Isaiah 54:1-3).

Israel's sins have removed her into the four corners of the earth; yet, even in these remote places, God's ears are open to the prayers of the repentant sinner. The Lord promised Israel,

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee (Deuteronomy 30:1-3).

Isaiah likens Israel's attempts to deliver herself from her enemies as a birth which results in nothing being born. In rebellion against God, the Jews had experienced all the pains of childbirth yet without the reward of the final product. What woman, in her right mind, would desire the pain of bearing without receiving the joy of having a child at the end? Yet, spiritually, such was and is the case with Israel. Human logic and effort bring great pains yet no lasting reward to make the pain worthwhile. Isaiah openly acknowledges that Israel's efforts had not even served to put down the enemy. The inhabitants of the world went on unaffected. Israel's many alliances with the heathen as well as her own national preparations of war had all proven to be useless in the end.

In the spiritual realm, such is the case with Israel's self-righteous religion. She has experienced great pain in her soul apart from the lasting peace that comes from dependency upon the Messiah's righteousness. These verses present an undying principle. Working for deliverance apart from God results in pain without reward.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Judah's Expectation (Part II)

"Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD. LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them." (Isaiah 26:10-11)

Verse ten makes it clear that many people choose evil in spite of being faced with a good example. Even in the millennial kingdom, an environment saturated with God's holy influence, there will be those who reject His authority and power. The Lord said, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still...(Revelation 22:11)." Some people simple refuse to be brought to repentance by the goodness of God (Romans 2:4). However, the text continues and makes it clear that even these hardened individuals will understand their folly in the end and will be made to bow before the supremacy of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:10-11).

The humble believer need not be dragged down by the rejection of those around him. Ecclesiastes 8:12 provides great encouragement through this promise...

Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him.

"LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us. O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish." (Isaiah 26:12-14)

Once more, the Scriptures express God's gracious intentions toward Israel. The Lord said through Jeremiah, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11)." The phrase our works in us could be translated our works for us. Perhaps Isaiah is praising God for salvation. Man's works fall short of God's standard and bring only death; but when God performs the work of salvation for man, full deliverance is the result.

Many heathen nations have had the dominion over Israel. To this day, she is vexed with the political and religious attacks of her neighbors. Since the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, Israel's independence has been more of a fantasy than a full reality. The advent of Jesus' kingdom will change this forever.

By way of application, every believer was once the servant of the flesh and of the devil (Romans 6:17-18, II Timothy 2:26); but through faith in Christ, the saint has witnessed the destruction of his flesh's power and has passed from being a child of the devil to a child of God (Romans 6:6).

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Judah's Expectation

"For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust. The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy. The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just." (Isaiah 26:5-7)

The same language was seen earlier in 25:12. The Lord is reiterating the fact that man's pride and rebellion are not forever. Babylon's time was relatively short. Rome's pride continued the longest of the world's kingdoms yet also met its end. Even the future glory of the antichrist's Babylon will meet a miserable end. The peasant who is despised by the arrogant rich will eventually become the inheritor of the pompous man's wealth. History bears witness to this reality through records of peasants inhabiting the ruins of Babylon after the fall of Alexander the Great.

Only the upright man who has found his righteousness in God will enter the kingdom and prosper (Matthew 25:31-46). Psalm 37:22 compliments this passage. "For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off."

"Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:8-9)

Regardless of what comes, the righteous man has but one recourse - to wait upon God through the patient keeping of His commandments. Isaiah and his righteous friends would face many hardships; yet, their resolve would continue unchanged.

Both soul and spirit are united for a complete dependency upon God. The night likely represents the dark days brought on by the sins of the nation. Through it all, the godly man's soul seeks the Lord. The root word behind early carries with it the idea of dawn. The main focus is not the time of day but rather the great priority which must be present in putting the need for God before all else. When this need is understood and appreciated, early morning time with God is often a direct result.

In contrast to the world's philosophy, the presence of God's Law brings the knowledge and peace of righteousness. Even a lost man may apply the moral principles of God's Word to his life and experience some measure of happiness; and when the Scriptures are consistently applied by the saved man, the result is only made better. In the Kingdom of Christ, every nation's citizens will be positively impacted by the hearing and application of God's judgments.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Judah's Song

"In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:" 
(Isaiah 26:1-4)

In the day of Israel's redemption, a new song of praise will be sung in the kingdom. All four verses comprise this song. Jerusalem will no longer be subject to the enemy's jurisdiction; instead, Jesus Christ will be her center of government. Psalm 48 and 118 parallel the theme of this passage.

The Lord invites every God-fearing nation to enter into Jerusalem for the purpose of worship. Whether Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference. Peter said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him (Acts 10:34-35)." Zechariah also predicted many nations coming to millennial Jerusalem for the purpose of praise (Zechariah 14:16).

Verses three and four are well known and may be considered a condensed version of the gospel. Secure is the individual who turns from disbelief to complete faith in the promises of God. Faith in Jesus brings peace of mind. In Ephesians 6:17, salvation's assurance is presented as the helmet which protects the mind from fear and doubt.

The title of LORD JEHOVAH is the same Hebrew name used for God in 12:2. The high and holy name of hwhy hy occupies the verses of both kingdom songs. In JEHOVAH is strength not simply for today or for tomorrow but for eternity. The Lord Jesus is a rock and fortress that will not fail. Faith in His Person will bring the afflicted soul into everlasting peace and strength.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The LORD'S Salvation (Part II)

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it." (Isaiah 25:8)

In his defense of the resurrection, Paul quoted the first part of this verse.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (I Corinthians 15:54).

Through faith in Christ's sacrifice, death has been defeated; and at the end of the Millennium, the Lord will consign death permanently to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).  The Jews as a nation will be filled with the joy of this truth when their conversion becomes a reality.  As of now, the veil of blindness still covers their eyes (II Corinthians 3:15); but this will change someday.

Liberated from a Christ-less philosophy, Israel will be exalted to a position of world dominance under the leadership of Jesus the Messiah.  Instead of being hated, Israel will be feared and respected.  This is the position she hoped to achieve at the first coming of Christ; however, she sought the position not by faith, but by pride (Amos 5:18, Malachi 3:1-2).  Only through humility and submission to the righteousness of Christ can she obtain such a standing.  

The language of this verse parallels that of Revelation 21:4 and seems to have not only the Millennium but also the eternal state in view.  The events of the world are hurrying the believer along to a time when all evil will be punished and every follower of Christ will be comforted permanently.

"And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:9)

In verse one, the Lord was claimed in the singular sense; but now He is claimed in the plural.  At His first coming, the Lord Jesus was nationally rejected; but at His second coming He will be nationally accepted.  The horrifying events of the Great Tribulation will play a significant part in humbling the Jews and bringing them to a place of simple faith in Christ (Daniel 12:7).

The Hebrew word behind salvation is that from which Jesus is derived.  Instead of looking upon God's Son through faithless eyes of disdain, Israel will look upon Jesus (God's salvation) through humble eyes of faith and finally appreciate the joys of God's Salvation.  On his deathbed, Jacob prophesied of these things when He said concerning Israel, "I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD (Genesis 49:18)."

"For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill. And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands. And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust." (Isaiah 25:10-12)

As a longstanding enemy of Israel, Moab is warned of her impending doom. This prophecy may be in compliment to what was given in chapters fifteen and sixteen as well as that found in Jeremiah 48 and Ezekiel 25, or it may have a farther fulfillment in view. Portions of Scripture such as Isaiah 11:14 and Daniel 11:41 seem to indicate some form of Moab's revival in the last days before Christ's return. This passage here may be more focused on Moab's future subjugation. Regardless, this is a promise from the Holy One of Israel that man's pride, whether Israel's or that of another nation, will be destroyed.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The LORD'S Salvation

"And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations." (Isaiah 25:6-7)

The remaining verses focus on the Millennium. The future reign of Christ will witness a time of mass conversion for the nations as well as the national conversion of Israel.

The language is picturesque. Through the description of a hearty banquet, the Lord is illustrating the spiritual wellness that will characterize millions of believers. Lees are particles of yeast left over from the fermentation process. Wine that is aged on its lees is richer and fuller in body and flavor. Fat things full of marrow represent rich and fulfilling foods. In Christ's kingdom, the days of spiritual leanness will be gone. The man who trusts in the righteousness of Christ will no longer be in the minority. Instead, the knowledge of God will be abundant as neighbor invites neighbor to go and worship Christ in His holy temple.

Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).

The Lord promised to remove the spiritual blindness from millions of people. In a partial sense, this has been fulfilled in the Church age through the dissemination of the gospel. The light of Christ's good news has penetrated many a dark heart and destroyed the veil of spiritual ignorance. As the Lord illustrated in His parable of the wedding feast, God's grace is currently reaching out to those who were not originally invited to attend His table (Matthew 22:1-14). However, the full fulfillment awaits the dawn of the millennial kingdom.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The LORD'S Strength (Part II)

"For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee." (Isaiah 25:2-3)

Isaiah may be looking into the future and seeing the destruction of Babylon. Through the Persians, Greeks and years of neglect, God would eventually bring the strength of Babylon's munitions down to the ground.

Isaiah may also be referring generally to the powers of the Gentile nations. Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome would all govern and oppress God's people; yet, ultimately God overcomes Israel's oppressors. In Christ's kingdom, the strong cities of the terrible (literally awe-inspiring) nations will fear God and worship at His feet. A taste of these yet future events has been given through God's subjugation of Israel's past enemies.

"For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low." (Isaiah 25:4-5)

The word behind strength means a place or means of safety. God takes interest in the oppressed and comes to their aid. The poor man who has few physical possessions may rejoice in that God Almighty is his place of refuge. This passage has more than just the physically poor man in mind. The true benefactor of God's strength, is the man who is humble in spirit - the one who is willing to acknowledge his need before God. Jesus declared this to be so when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)."

The storm is in reference to a downpour while the heat presents the contrasting thought of an oppressive summer day. Whether it be the early and latter rains or the fierce heat of the summer Syrian sun, God is a sufficient refuge for those who will trust in Him.

Isaiah refers to Israel's enemies as the terrible ones and likens their attacks against her as the rain that beats against the wall of a house. When Sennacherib would come as a rainstorm against Jerusalem, God would be her safety. When the Babylonians would come and remove Israel, God would be her safety. In Judah's exile under the government of the Persian Empire, God would be her safety. Regardless of where the Jewish people might find themselves, God would be their place of refuge. This word of encouragement would have been particularly beneficial for the godly of Isaiah's day. They would not have to fear the coming judgments because the Lord would be their safety through it all.

Any believer of any age may claim the principles of this promise. The Lord is a rock of safety for all who will trust Him. The context refers primarily to Israel, but God does not turn away anyone who comes to Him in faith. "But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble (Psalm 37:39)."

Isaiah continues to illustrate God's rebuke of Israel's enemies through the word picture of shadows cast by the clouds. The sun's heat can be so unbearable at times and yet even a small shadow can provide great relief. As shade breaks the power of summer heat, God will break the power of those who will not serve Him.