Sunday, April 30, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation (Part III)

"Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures. The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan. And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound." 
(Isaiah 30:23-26)

These verses highlight the blessed nature of the kingdom. Christ's kingdom will bring not only spiritual blessing but also physical blessing. The "effect of righteousness (32:17)" will leave in its wake agricultural abundance. Drought and destructive heat will become a thing of the past. The rain needed to nourish the planted seeds will come at the proper time. The scarcity of pastureland will vanish. Christ's kingdom will be home not only to resurrected saints but also to human flesh and animals in abundance. Not even the necessary food of the cattle and the donkeys will be lacking. Each will eat pure, rich grain which has been harvested and processed.

Rivers refers to a channel or a canal. The picture is that of irrigation for the purposes of farming. Kingdom blessings will bring an abundance of water for irrigation as well as for consumption. Instead of being home to the idolatrous high places, each mountain and hill will be marked by watercourses, irrigation ditches and naturally occurring canals which have been carved out by the abundance of rain. The Lord says that these things will be realized "in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall." Such a pronouncement of judgment almost seems contrary to the peaceful scene painted in the text; however, the fall of God's enemies at the return of His Son will bring true peace to the world. To this point, the peace of the world has been shallow and temporary to say the least. Only the presence of Christ's authority can bring true peace. The genuine believer knows this to be true in his soul (John 14:27), and someday it will be true of his environment.

The lights of the heavens will also be affected by the joy of Jesus' physical reign on earth. Moonlight will be amplified to equal that of the sun, and the sun's brightness will be seven times greater than its current condition. It will not be used to scorch men as is seen in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 16:8); but instead, it will be used to bring needed light for growth and wellness. All things will reflect the inexpressible joy of the Lord's worship. Again, God clarifies the context of these prophecies by adding in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound. These promises are millennial. They are reserved for the time when God will bring spiritual life to the Jewish nation through repentant faith in Jesus the Messiah.

...Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:17-20).

Friday, April 28, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation (Part II)

"And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence." (Isaiah 30:20-22)

For Isaiah's countrymen, this bread and water of affliction represented the oppression of the Assyrians; but the representation need not stop there. The empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome were all used to afflict the disbelief of Israel. In rejection of Jesus' authority, Israel cried, "...His blood be on us, and on our children (Matthew 27:25)." Such rejection has brought about the continuation of this divine affliction.

Yet, the text promises a change in the future. Instead of rejecting the true prophets and teachers of God, Israel will acknowledge and appreciate them. The spiritual blindness will be lifted and the eyes and ears of the nation will be opened. The godly teacher who was once in the shamed minority will be exalted to a place of respect. Rather than reject godly counsel when straying from the path, the Jews will accept it. Humility and sincerity will replace pride and dissimulation. In the kingdom, this attitude will exist among the citizens of the world and not just among the Jews. The approach of the end times is bringing with it fewer and fewer genuine believers. Righteous counsel, even among professing believers, is steadily becoming less appreciated. For many, that voice which whispers in the straying ear, "Turn back to God" is more of a burden than a blessing. The advent of the kingdom will change these things. The earth will be full of God's knowledge, and the righteous man will no longer occupy such a scorned position.

The covering refers to the thin plates of precious metals used to overlay the images which were often made of wood. God's work through the Assyrians and Babylonians would serve to purge Israel of her idolatrous ways. This rebuke of idolatry clearly indicates that Hezekiah's reforms had not been accepted by many. Apparently, idolatry was still present; and after Hezekiah's death, Manasseh would lead the people back into the abominations of idolatry and child sacrifice. Josiah's reign would witness the last thrust toward purging the land of idolatry before the Babylonian invasion.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Israel's Reconciliation

"And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee." (Isaiah 30:18-19)

Once again, God's grace is emphasized as the last part of this chapter discloses Israel's restoration. The Lord is in no hurry. He knows what it will take to bring Israel to faith in the Messiah. With great patience and wisdom, the Lord is working all things toward the day when the world will worship before Him in truth. In that day, Jerusalem will be His prized city, and the Jewish nation will be raised to a position of prominence because of the Lord Jesus Christ. God is a God of judgment. He will not rest until the earth is filled with His judgment. Until that time, anyone may find a happy refuge under His gracious wing. Had Isaiah's audience repented and waited upon God while observing the heart and letter of His Law, they too would have found the blessedness mentioned in the text.

A promise is given concerning God's favor toward the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Under the pressure of Sennacherib's threats, King Hezekiah cried to God for help, and God graciously answered. Undoubtedly, this event is in view. However, the future restoration of God's people is the main thrust of this prophecy. The gracious nature of God is highlighted toward the end of verse 19. The Lord strongly desires the restoration of both Jew and Gentile. Human pride and disbelief, not unconcern on God's part, keep people from obtaining deliverance.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part VI)

"For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill." (Isaiah 30:15-17)

Once again, amidst all the turmoil, uncertainty, fear and human preparation, the Lord with both simplicity and power reminds Israel where her true hope lies. Salvation comes not by human preparation but by confidence in the Strength of the Holy One of Israel. Adversity naturally encourages human nature to make preparations for its own deliverance; however, God encourages just the opposite. Rather than instantly turn to human strength in times of trouble, God encourages each person to stop and to seek first the help of his Redeemer. The Almighty graciously offered deliverance to Israel if she would but acknowledge Him by faith; however, she was not willing. Following the same principle, the Lord Jesus offers permanent deliverance to those who will, in faith, make Him their only Source of salvation; but like the stubborn Israelites, most people refuse to accept the humble simplicity of God-fearing faith.

Enamored with the war-chariots and prized horses of Egypt's armies, the people refused faith in Jehovah and chose the physical advantage of swift horses. Unfortunately, they did not remember Psalm 20:7. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." Because of Israel's choice, the Lord promised that the tables would be turned upon her. The prized horses of the Egyptians would be no match for the enemy. Through the power of God's Spirit, the Assyrian would be given the upper hand while Judah and her allies would be defeated.

When God's blessing rested upon Israel in the days of Joshua, the Lord promised that one Israelite would chase a thousand enemy soldiers (Joshua 23:10); however, Israel's rebellion had produced a situation directly opposite to what God had intended for her.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Preparation of the Vials (Part III)

"And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles." (Revelation 15:5-6)

Naos (naos) is the Greek word behind temple. This word often refers to the innermost portion of a temple. The Holy of Holies in the heavenly temple was opened, and from it came seven angelic messengers whose attire matches their mission. The white of their garments calls to remembrance the holiness of God. The golden girdles which bind together their clothes suggest value, determination and focus. They are prepared to carry out even the hardest of tasks. Pouring out such awful judgments is never pleasant, yet the wills of these messengers are aligned with the righteous desires of God. Mercy has been extended; God's fear has been refused; judgment day has come. The angels are not driven by faulty emotions but by the pure wisdom of God.

"And one of the four beasts gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled." (Revelation 15:7-8)

The Almighty is ascribed the trait of eternality. This world and the heavens that contain it will pass away (II Peter 3:10). Yet, God's nature, wisdom and salvation will continue. He is eternal, and He offers eternal life to the one who will simply trust the Lord Jesus Christ as His Savior.

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish...(John 10:28).

As the holy presence of God forbade the priests from entering Solomon's temple (I Chronicles 7:2), even so it is seen forbidding entrance to all until the administration of the seven plagues has been completed. The unmoveable presence of God indicates His determination in bringing about the end of these events. All possibility of entreaty has been taken away. The temple is seen as impassable, and God will not be swayed from His righteous course. The unalterable nature of such things calls to mind God's words to Jeremiah. "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth (Jeremiah 15:1)." Some things cannot be reversed. The kingdom of Christ seems so far away at times; however, when the proper hour for its advent arrives, no one will be able to stop it.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part V)

"Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit." (Isaiah 30:12-14)

The word is that which Isaiah had been speaking all along, not to mention the words of his contemporaries coupled with the words preserved in the Torah. In short, Judah had rejected the inerrant Word of God; and in doing so, she had rejected God Himself. As an alternative, the people were relying upon the wealth and power obtained through the oppression of others as well as their perverse decision to make alliances with the heathen nations. Such is a poor substitute for the everlasting deliverance offered by God.

The Lord likens Judah's precarious situation to a high city wall which develops a weak spot. The faulty portion of the wall cannot support the weight of the surrounding bricks and begins to buckle out. Once the buckling bricks are pushed outward too far, they let loose without warning. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to be within danger's reach will be crushed by the falling debris. Such was Judah's decision to flee to Egypt for aid. Ezekiel gave a similar illustration concerning the false prophecies which encouraged Judah to resist the authority of the Babylonian Empire.

Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter: Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it ... Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered morter, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it; To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 13:10-11, 15-16).

The wall, which represented the expectations of Judah's alliances, would be so thoroughly shattered that not one piece of debris would be useful for even the most menial task.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part IV)

"Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." (Isaiah 30:8-11)

As a testimony to future generations, God commands Isaiah to inscribe His words on a table or tablet (probably of stone) and to write them in a book. God would not simply overlook the rebellion of Judah, it would forever be recorded. Wrong decisions do not simply disappear; God keeps perfect records of judgment for those who refuse to repent and to trust Him. Through Jeremiah, the Lord portrayed the serious and lasting effect of sin. "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars (Jeremiah 17:1)." Apart from repentant faith in the Messiah, the sins of every individual are preserved in perfect records. Only faith in the righteous blood of Christ can wipe away the condemning testimony of a person's rebellion (Romans 8:33-34).

One can say that he loves and serves God, but the truth is found in His obedience or disobedience to Scripture. Even if Judah's citizens had verbally acknowledge the righteous nature of Isaiah's prophecies, they were liars and rebels in God's eyes because they were not putting feet to the acknowledgment. Perhaps they were like many people today who sit under the teaching of Scripture and nod in acknowledgment to what is said, yet go out the doors of the church and do just as they think best.

Beginning in verse 10, the Lord interprets the heart's desire of Judah's people. They did not mind prophets so long as those prophets spoke in favor of their ungodly desires. People want to be religiously encouraged, but they do not want to be sanctified. They want to have their ears tickled with the things that lift them up. Most people want prophecies that encourage fleshly behavior while minimizing holiness. The same heart is seen today in most religious circles. People resent preaching and teaching that promotes separation and the fear of God. The list of sins that are truly offensive to God seems to be getting more and more narrow. The average church is very accepting of most things that God clearly condemns.

Perhaps with a tone of irony, Isaiah says, "Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." Whether or not Judah's people were actually saying this, they were living it. Their rejection of Isaiah's warnings followed by their march down into Egypt clearly demonstrated what they thought about God's care and counsel. The actions always disclose the heart behind the words.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Preparation of the Seven Vials (Part II)

"And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." (Revelation 15:3-4)

John used a present active verb to describe the singing. They are singing the song. As John watched and listened, he could hear the beautiful melody of praise to the LORD. Moses' song is likely in reference to the one found in Exodus 15:1-19. Both songs praise the power, holiness and goodness of God. Moses' song says, "The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation... ." A literal translation would read, "He is become for me salvation." The Lamb of God is made salvation for the man, woman or child who will place humble faith in His Person. He is the King of saints Who has bought His saints with His own blood.

The word for judgments in verse 4 means righteous requirements or deeds. The same word is used in Romans 8:4 where it has been translated as righteousness (of the law).

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).

The fearful judgments of God which will be made manifest at His coming are the same judgments which have been satisfied in the believer's soul through simple faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Nothing remains to condemn the saint, because God's righteous judgments have been fulfilled by Christ Whose merit has fulfilled the Law in the Christian. With this understanding, it is no wonder that the saint can rejoice at the coming judgments of God! To be under the worthy shadow of the spotless Lamb is to be free of all condemnation (Romans 8:1-4).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part III)

"The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them. For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still." (Isaiah 30:6-7)

Grieved by the foolish decision of his people, Isaiah pictures the burden of the beasts used to carry the royal riches with which Egypt's aid would be purchased. The trains of donkeys and camels which carry these heavy burdens are pictured as making their way down into Egypt where the home of the lion and poisonous viper may be found.

God paints a very gloomy picture of this endeavor. The burdens are heavy for the animals. The riches with which God has blessed His people are being squandered on the heathen. The journey is long and dangerous. Lions and snakes plague the path, and once the ambassadors reach Egypt, what will they find? - a people eager to take their riches yet unable to deliver Israel from her oppressors. Although Egypt (Ethiopia) would come to fight with King Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:9), she would be defeated.

Isaiah reiterates the theme of the message which he has been preaching all along. He reminds Israel that her true strength is found not in running about seeking alliances but in quietly waiting upon the salvation of God. Israel's true strength would be found in sitting still and waiting for true deliverance from the One Who has been called in Scripture, The Strength of Israel (I Samuel 15:29).

Friday, April 14, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance (Part II)

"Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes. They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach." (Isaiah 30:3-5)

Ultimately, the alliance with Egypt would fail. In vain, Hezekiah's ambassadors would carry the riches of Israel into a country which would once again prove to be a failure.

The city of Hanes is mentioned only here, and its exact location remains a mystery. Zoan was a treasure city which had been built seven years after the ancient city of Hebron in southern Israel. Located very near the Mediterranean Sea on the eastern side of the Nile Delta, Zoan would have been one of the first major cities reached by the Israelite ambassadors.

Archeological evidence has well established the fact that Hebrew slave labor was used to build the city of Zoan. How foolish for God's people to seek help from the very nation which once enslaved them. Never has God oppressed or enslaved anyone, yet man in his rebellion will always turn his back on God's righteous requirements and set his face toward the thing that pleases his flesh, even when that thing proves to be his oppressor.

It was in the very fields surrounding the city of Zoan that God showed the magnificence of His power when He delivered Israel from Egyptian oppression. "Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan ... How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan (Psalm 78:12, 43)." In the very fields where God had showed His awesome power, Hezekiah's ambassadors sat down to discuss terms of a coalition.

The Israelites' failure can easily be seen by most, yet the tendency exists to overlook the same type of behavior in one's own life. Often times, in the very place where God once magnified His greatness through the deliverance of His saints, His people forget the sufficient simplicity of His power and seek help from a different source.

At this point, Egypt's failure to deliver Israel had not materialized; however, Pharaoh's defeat was so sure that Isaiah speaks in the present tense as though such things had already happened.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Preparation of the Vials

"And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God." (Revelation 15:1)

The sign John saw was magnificent because it will usher in the destruction of the wicked and the advent of Christ's righteous kingdom. God does not passively sit by while the world grows worse and worse. His wrath against man's sin is real and deep. Soon it will be poured out completely, and the wickedness of man will be subjugated and the nation of Israel delivered.

The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel (Joel 3:16).

"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." (Revelation 15:2)

The saints of Christ are pictured as having received absolute victory through the Victor. The believer's triumph through Christ is real (Romans 8:37). The saints overcame the beast. Through Christ's authority, they defeated the authority of evil. They overcame the image of the beast. Through Christ's authority, they defeated illegitimate worship. They overcame the mark of the beast. Through Christ's authority, they conquered association with the world and its godless philosophies. They overcame the number of the beast. Through Christ's authority, they were victorious over the insufficiency and failure of the world's kingdoms. In summary, through Christ's blood, the saint is graciously accepted into a family whose Father knows no rival.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The First Woe of the Egyptian Alliance

"Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!" 
(Isaiah 30:1-2)

At this point, Isaiah had been prophesying to Judah for many years. They were well aware of God's feelings toward foreign alliances. Politically, things were heating up. Assyria's invasion was not far away. Hezekiah and his counselors decided that it was time to enlist the aid of a nation more powerful than their own. Therefore, bypassing the counsel of God's prophet they made their way down into Egypt to discuss terms of a coalition.

The Lord does not soften the presentation of His displeasure. He calls Judah's citizens rebellious children. Hezekiah and his officers knew what God's thoughts were on the matter, so they avoided His counsel and did as they thought best. Although the Scriptures present many positive things concerning King Hezekiah, they also unbiasedly present his mistakes so that the reader can avoid the same faulty behavior. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (I Corinthians 10:11-12)."

Undoubtedly, the pressure felt by Hezekiah and his people was great. Yet, this was no reason to leave the path of simple faith and to start seeking help from the world. In times of intense pressure, the believer should draw closer to God's counsel, not distance himself from it.

This same type of rebellion seems to be very common among people today. After having received knowledge of God's thoughts on a particular matter from the study and preaching of the Bible, they avoid those who would steer them toward faith in God's provision and make a course toward help from the world. Hezekiah's failure in this area should be an object lesson for every believer.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Woe of Ariel (Part VI)

"For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought. Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine." (Isaiah 29:20-24)

God cut off the wicked in the days of the prophets. He deals in the same manner today, and He will deal thus with His enemies at His return. It seems that most of the world just watches for iniquity, waiting for that next opportunity to cause pain and trouble for someone. These things were commonplace in Isaiah's day, and Jeremiah witnessed the same. The gate was the judgment place of the city. Anyone who tried to be honest in their dealings or come to the defense of the abused was quickly targeted. God saw it all. Corrupt judges and corrupt officers are well within God's punitive reach. The world will certainly be a different place when such people are removed from positions of judgment.

These things stood as a shame to Israel as they should with any nation, but God's righteousness will someday wipe away the shame of the Jews. Rather than being bereaved of her citizens, Israel will become very fruitful under God's hand of blessing. Isaiah would later say ...

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 49:21)?

Erred means to wander. The ones who once wandered from God in their hearts will someday seek Him with the whole heart. To murmur means to whisper with the idea of complaint and rebellion. Rather than exercise a heart of rebellious complaining, God's people will be thirsty for His doctrine. Murmuring comes easy to the flesh, but God's Spirit wants to fill the believer with praise and biblical understanding. The Lord's redeemed, whether Jew or Gentile, should be practicing a heart of delight in God's truth, because they are destined for a kingdom where these things will abound.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Lamb of Mount Zion (Part III)

"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped." (Revelation 14:14-16)

Undeniably, the One Who is pictured as sitting on the cloud is Jesus Christ the Lord. The Lamb's authority is being displayed. An angelic messenger appears from the temple with a message from the Father. The time has come for the armies of the earth to be destroyed in the infamous Battle of Armageddon. The following chapters will shed more light on the specifics of the battle, but its commencement is seen here. With a stroke of authority that sets in motion the events to follow, the Lord thrusts His reaping instrument into the earth. Christ is not reaping the souls of His redeemed nor is He reaping the good deeds of His saints. He is reaping the wickedness of the earth's inhabitants. Man's sin has come to the full, and the time of its retribution has come. The Father has given the Son full authority to reap and subdue the earth (Psalm 2); therefore, this picture is not positive for those who are outside of Christ.

"And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." 
(Revelation 14:17-20)

After having received permission from the Son Who has thrust in His sickle, the angelic servant plunges his own sickle into the earth and gathers its evil fruit. The grapes are pictured as the fruit of man's deeds. Talk is worth only so much. The consistent actions of a person stand as an undeniable witness as to what he or she believes. "...By their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew 7:20)."

The evil fruits of man's deeds are then thrown into the large winepress of God's wrath. When the nations of earth gather themselves together to destroy the Jews, God's fury will be great. Concerning that day, the Lord has said,

Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle ... Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle (Zechariah 14:1-3).

The stench of death issues forth from man's evil deeds as the blood pours from the winepress. Nothing good comes of sin whether it is committed by the lost or the saved. The fruit of sin is always death. Whether the blood is figurative or literal, one cannot say for certain. Regardless, it openly portrays the absolute defeat of God's enemies at the final battle. If this blood is literal, the length presented in the text is equal to approximately 180 miles or a square with four sides equal to 13.5 miles each. The picture presented seems to be that of a sea of blood which is the result of the physical death of Christ's enemies. This final battle will be like none the world has ever seen.

People tend to put God on their timetable. They get comfortable in their rebellion because they see no immediate retribution, but God has promised a day of vengeance that will terrify even the most hardened rebel. Christ's day of victory is coming. Patient faith in His power is needed.

And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 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: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God (Ecclesiastes 8:10-13).

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Woe of Ariel (Part V)

"Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 29:17-19)

The tone of the chapter changes as Isaiah looks forward to Israel's deliverance. In small ways, these prophecies have been fulfilled during the various times of Israel's spiritual awakenings; however, as with so many other prophecies the main fulfillment will come at the advent of the millennial kingdom.

The cedars of Lebanon which were once subject to the axes of the enemy (Isaiah 14:8) will once again fill the forests of northern Syria. The coming of Christ's kingdom will bring a renewal to the earth and its vegetation. Lebanon will return to its former glory and the fields will no longer be dry and barren but instead they will be as fruitful as a forest. This same wording is also found 32:15-16.

Converted to faith in Christ and washed from their sins, the Jews will hear the Scriptures and will understand them. The saved of all nations will be there as well, hearing and delighting in the commandments of God. Spiritual darkness will be chased away by the One Who is the Light. The meek are those whose faith rests solely in God. They have recognized their need for the righteousness of the Lord, and the grateful humility of there spirits bears witness to the Object of their faith.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:3-5)

One of Isaiah's favorite titles for God appears at the end as a reminder of God's faultless character. The Holy One cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The kingdom seems so far away at times but its coming has been promised by the God Who has never broken His Word.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Lamb of Mount Zion (Part II)

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Revelation 14:6-7)

The Lamb's gospel shines like a ray of hope in the middle of all the darkness. The angel is seen flying in the mid-heaven between the earth and the clouds. His message is for all the earth. He is not sent to a select few people, but rather he is sent to all. His gospel is telling. He starts with the words, Fear God. His message is not new and neither has it been reserved for the end times dispensation. His message is that which God has preached from the very beginning. Faith in Christ is not found apart from a genuine fear of God's holiness. Man is wicked. God is holy. This reality should incite healthy fear into the sinner's heart. This fear is intended to drive a man or woman to faith in the only Sacrifice which is capable of removing sin - Jesus Christ.

Time would fail to trace every verse which discusses the fear of the Lord; however, it would serve the believer well to see that this concept is found in both the New and Old Testaments. Abraham, who is often called the father of faith, stands as a hallmark to the simple concept of faith in the promise of God. God said it; Abraham believed it, and God counted that belief to Abraham for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). In Genesis 22:12, the Lord equated Abraham's faithful obedience to the fear of the Lord. In recounting this event, the Holy Spirit called Abraham's godly fear faith (Hebrews 11:17). The fear of the Lord and saving faith cannot be separated. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." Obviously, God is not commanding salvation by simply having the emotion of fear coupled with law-keeping. He is calling men to repentance and faith in the Person of Christ. To flee to Christ is to keep the most important commandment (I John 3:23), and this salvation experience will result in a desire to practically keep God's commandments in this life. Genuine faith in Christ is birthed out of an understanding of the fear of the Lord; otherwise, a person simply makes an empty profession while still holding on to his or her sin.

In his last hours, the thief on the cross approached Christ through the fear of the Lord and found salvation by his simple faith in Christ's person. He said to his blaspheming companion, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss (Luke 23:40-41)." With a repentant heart, he then asked Jesus, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom (Luke 23:42)." The thief's God-fearing faith was richly rewarded when Jesus replied, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)." The thief recognized that he was a sinner and that Christ was sinless. He realized that there was a penalty for his sin, and this drove him to a healthy fear of God. However, he did not stop there but went on to approach God in faith asking forgiveness. God answered his prayer.

In the New Testament, the Church is often admonished to fear God and to live a life that is characterized by this godly reverence. Peter said, "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king (I Peter 2:17)." Paul commanded, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1)." In the book of Hebrews, he gave a similar commandment ...

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28).

Many more examples exist; however, these should suffice the reader whose heart is open to such a concept. In light of the evidence as to the importance of the fear of the Lord, why should it be thought odd that the angel would open his gospel call with this message? How is his preaching different from that which God's prophets and apostles have preached from the very beginning until now?

"And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:8-11)

More will be said concerning Babylon in chapters 17 and 18. Suffice it to say that this second angel is pronouncing the fall of false religion and its destructive fruits.

The text clearly teaches that those who receive the mark cannot go back. They are forever damned. Likely, their hearts are warped beyond the point of no return (Hebrews 6:4-8). They are implacable or irreconcilable as taught in Romans 1:31. They have blasphemed and resisted the very One capable of leading them to repentance (the Holy Spirit); therefore, how could their end be different (Mark 3:29)?

The liberal and the false teacher present hell in a much more favorable light, or they simply deny its existence altogether. The text does not hide the reality of its torment. Hell is a real place with real pain. Christians must be faithful to declare the Bible's warnings against this very real place of eternal damnation. The denial of hell is birthed out of an apostate spirit.

"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Revelation 14:12-13)

The patience of the saint pays off. To reject faith in God is to accept a life that finds security in the sword (Revelation 13:10). Every individual trusts in one of two things. He either trusts in God's deliverance, or he trusts in his own. No other option exists. The saint rejects the world's idea of deliverance and waits for God's. His patience will pay dividends. The reality of this principle will be amplified in the troublesome environment of the end times. In full victory, God's redeemed are safe by His side while God's enemies are being tormented in hell.

At any point, to die in the Lord is a blessed thing. However, the tribulation saint who dies is described as especially blessed because he has been removed from the wicked earth and will soon see the triumphant kingdom of Christ.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Woe of Ariel (Part IV)

"Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?" (Isaiah 29:13-16)

The opening verse is applied to both Isaiah's audience and the Pharisees of Jesus' day. The foundational principles of scriptural prophecy never change; therefore, they may be applied at any point in time. With this in mind, Jesus said to His audience ...

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (15:7-9).

The Jews of Isaiah's day were not unlike most religious people who make mention of God and give him some honor with the mouth, but the Scriptures are not their authority.

The Lord would see to it that Israel's counselors gave foolish advice. Their constant push for an alliance with Egypt and other heathen nations would be their demise. Man can be incredibly foolish. The ungodly mind is capable of thinking that God cannot see certain works. As long as the a show of godliness and goodwill is made, the people of Judah believed that no one, not even God, would know the difference. Thousands of false teachers behave the same way today. They have convinced themselves that their secret sins are hidden from both God and man. However, all evil is eventually exposed. "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14)."

The phrase your turning of things upside down literally means your perversity. God would take Judah's perverse situation and the consequences of it and use it all to form her and to mold her. While Isaiah's audience was busy making alliances and plans apart from God, they did not realize that they were as helpless as clay pots in the hands of the potter. Jeremiah gave a similar illustration.

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 18:3-6).

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Woe of Ariel (Part III)

"Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned." (Isaiah 29:9-12)

Isaiah's countrymen were drunken with the most dangerous type of wine - the wine of spiritual blindness. Their abuse of physical wine was a manifestation of their spiritual condition. The Lord commands His people to tarry and be amazed. Their condition should have incited terror, not apathy. Because of disbelief in the Word of the Lord, God had removed from them the ability to perceive and heed His warnings. They had brought this situation upon themselves. God is ever willing to open the eyes of the one who will hear, but He will not indefinitely carry the one who rejects Him and His doctrine.

Every vision had become nonsense to them. Isaiah's warnings could not be understood, and the visions of his contemporaries such as Amos, Hosea and Micah also meant little to them. No matter where Isaiah's audience turned, they would not find the ability to comprehend and to apply the message. The Lord illustrates this truth by presenting a group of people who are trying to understand the words of a certain book which has been sealed shut. The royal seal cannot be broken and so the educated man is not even able to crack open the book in an effort to read its contents. The uneducated man does not even have the ability to read and so he is of no help either. On ever side, hopelessness abounds. This is a frightening place to be. Continual rejection brings severe consequences.

This same type of spiritual blindness continues to haunt Israel as a nation. To this very day she is blind to the righteousness of God as displayed in the Person of her Messiah. However, the Lord will someday lift the veil from the eyes of the Jews and "all Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26)."

But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away (II Corinthians 3:14-16).

It must be remembered that this national condition of disbelief did not nor does it not prevent any individual from coming to Christ by personal choice. Even in the apostate days of Jeremiah, a few God-fearing individuals existed (Jeremiah 38:7-9), and many just like Paul stand as proof that God is still seeking and saving Jewish souls.