Sunday, October 29, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part X)

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

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

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part IX)

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part VIII)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part VII)

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part VI)

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part V)

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part IV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part III)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Revelation's Conclusion (Part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Israel the Servant (Part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Revelation's Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Israel the Servant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Description of the New Jerusalem (Part IV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Messiah the Servant (Part IV)

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

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

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

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

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

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