Thursday, August 31, 2017

Isaiah Post 6 - Peace Beneath The Banner (Chapter 11B)

My last post took a peek at the awesome Branch of the Lord - our Messiah, who grew from the stump  of Yishai (Jesse) and was raised in Branchtown (Nazareth).

Chapter 11 continues beginning in verse 6, with a description of the kingdom of peace that is to come, with Messiah ruling as king.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.

For the third time in Isaiah, we see three pairs and then a seventh item.
Calf-young lion
And a little child shall lead them.

God uses this pattern of seven all throughout scripture to give us the idea of completeness.

Isaiah continues with more Messianic kingdom description:

The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

This truly will be a time of complete peace.  The lion will eat straw - in other words, the mighty lion will no longer be a carnivore.  So much for evolution!  This is going to happen in an instant.  And the baby will play by the cobra. Simply unimaginable in our day.

This coming kingdom will be far above anything that has ever existed before, and as we can see, it will extend into the animal kingdom.

Revelation 20 gives us additional insight into this coming kingdom.  Satan will be bound for 1000 years, and the saints will rule and reign during this time with King Messiah.  There are two reasons for the peaceful kingdom:  King Messiah on the throne, and satan disabled for a time.  

Oh, what a time it will be.  And the location?  This will be here on earth, centered in Jerusalem - not up on some cloud somewhere.  We Christians have this notion that it's all about dying and going to heaven.  Well, that's not what the Bible says.  God made this earth for US and it has always been His intention to dwell with us here.

In verse 10, Isaiah gives us a picture of the current era we live in... the age of the gospel going forth into all the earth. Listen to this:

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.

Now the Root of Jesse, the heir to David's throne, will now stand high so the world can see Him.  See how the stump has progressed?  It began with chaos, felled trees, and stark poverty.  Now, the shoot is raised as a banner to the world!

This root of David is also seen in Revelation 5:5

Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.

Going back to the banner for a minute...  It is much more than a waving flag that we sometimes see in worship dance groups, although they are very nice.

The Hebrew word for banner - nes -  means a standard, a signal, an ensign; a rallying point for a cause.  It is something that is lifted up for people to see.  The first time scripture uses this word is in Numbers 21, when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.  And of course, that is the context for our beloved John 3:16. Often, the two verses leading up to verse 16 are not mentioned:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:14-15)

Yeshua reiterates this thought in John 12:32:

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.

Isaiah is pointing to the cross as a focal point of human history. Do you see how Jewish the gospel is?

The banner of the Messiah is the rallying cause - the cause of salvation from our sin.  We are told that the Gentiles shall seek Him.  In the last 2000 years, the message of the cross has traversed the whole earth.

His rest (Hebrew menuach, for comfort) will be glorious!  His rest is coming soon, in the form of the Millenial Messianic kingdom.

Scripture warns that there are those who will not enter His rest.  We are warned in Psalm 95 and in the book of Hebrews not to harden our hearts against Him, for in doing so we shall not enter His rest. Hebrews 4 brings some more clarity to this rest:

For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:“So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’" although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 

The rest that is to come is clearly the seventh millenium of human history.  This is why Hebrews compares the rest to the seventh day of creation, and Revelation speaks of the 1000 year reign.  We are living toward the end the sixth millenium right now. 

Scripturally, we can easily reckon the following: 
  • Adam to Abraham - approximately 2000 years
  • Abraham to Messiah Yeshua - approximately 2000 years
  • Messiah to now - approximately 2000 years
This means that the coming kingdom of Messiah is just around the corner!  It is coming soon to a certain Middle Eastern country near (or not near) you!

I love how everything is connected! The Bible fits together like a perfect puzzle with no pieces missing.  Sometimes we just see a pile of pieces.  Sometimes we see a part of the picture.  We won’t see it in its fullness until the King returns.

God is creating a family for Himself out of people from all nations, tribes, tongues.  We are all family!  We might speak differently, worship differently, pray differently, but we have all rallied to the same banner of Salvation – Yeshua.

Continuing in Isaiah 11:11, we see the LORD reaching out His hand again the second time, gathering the remnant of His people from the ends of the earth.

Judea was dispersed twice, and neither dispersion had happened yet when Isaiah was speaking this prophecy. The Jews were sent to Babylon 100 years after Isaiah's prophecy, and 70 years later a remnant of them were regathered to the land so they could experience Messiah's first visit.

The second dispersion took place in 70 AD, and the Jews were not just sent to Babylon but all over the world.  We are now living in the days of this great re-gathering...  so that they can experience Messiah's second visit.

In verse 12 Isaiah punctuates this thought.

He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.

How exciting to be living in the days when Isaiah's words are being fulfilled.  Most of historic Christianity did not get to experience the regathering of Israel that we are seeing today.  Indeed, most of them believed it would never happen, so they replaced Israel with themselves - the church - as God's new chosen people.


We in the nations who have cast our eyes on the Banner of Messiah ARE part of His chosen.  But we are in addition to - and not instead of - His original chosen people, who will soon know Him too!  We will truly be One New Man in Messiah, reigning and ruling with Him, under His banner of peace, in the city of peace - Jerusalem.

Find the next post here.

If you would like to start at the beginning of Isaiah, click here.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Isaiah Post 5 - The Branch of the Lord (Chapters 10-11A)

Welcome back to this walk through Isaiah.  If you have missed any of the previous posts, you can start at the very beginning by clicking here.  All posts are numerically ordered.  You can also click on the Isaiah label toward the lower right of this page to view all the posts.

Chapter 10 opens with a continuation from chapter 9, of judgment against the house of Israel.  Throughout scripture, judgment always begins with the household of faith.  In this section, the LORD's hand continues to be stretched out against Israel in judgment, as it was in chapter 9.

However, beginning in verse 5, the LORD rebukes Assyria, who was raised up by God as an instrument of judgment.  Assyria does so gleefully, arrogantly, with the king thinking it is in his own power.  

Indeed, verse 12 highlights the passage, saying:

Therefore it shall come to pass, when the LORD has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”

Following the judgment of Assyria, LORD now turns to the remnant of Israel with promises.  Even though the Assyrians were a fierce and terrible people - probably the original terrorists - the remnant of Israel is encouraged not to be afraid.

The end of chapter 10 uses trees, branches, and boughs to insert a picture into the prophecy.

Behold, the Lord,
The Lord of hosts,
Will lop off the bough with terror;
Those of high stature will be hewn down,
And the haughty will be humbled.
He will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron,
And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.

Isaiah has a lot to say about trees and branches.  We see here a picture of major tree demolition.  As I have said in previous posts, both Assyria and Rome cut down many, many trees when they conquered the land of Israel.  This act of tree demolition will decimate a land and cause desolation.  I am no scientist, but I know that trees make land thrive.  They provide oxygen and shade. They stabilize the soil, prevent erosion, enhance the land's capacity to store water, and moderate air and soil temperatures.

Today you can visit Israel and see the millions and millions of trees that have been planted since the 1800s.  I have had the honor of planting numerous trees in Israel.

Anyway, I digress.  This prophecy about trees is directed toward the surrounding nations that have come against Israel.  You do not want to be included in this indictment of the nations that come against Israel.

Chapter 11 switches gears but maintains the theme of trees. Just look at verse 1:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Yishai (Jesse), and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

This verse is exciting and full of meaning, and was alluded to in post 3, on Chapter 6.  Let's unpack a few highlights.
  • Rod - The word means a twig, a rod, a shoot.  It is what comes out of a stump that has been hacked down and left for dead.  Some day this shoot would grow and bear fruit.
  • Yishai - This name of King David's father means I possess.  His name has a far-reaching fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.  (Don't know what that is?  See Genesis 15 and 17)
  • Branch - the Hebrew word netzer, the origin of the name of the town of Nazareth - Branch Town - the town where the Messiah grew up and began His ministry.  
Even today, Jews refer to Christians as notzrim -  a reference to those following the One of Nazareth.  This is even carried into the Arab world.  Perhaps you've seen this symbol that has been painted onto houses of Arabic believers. It is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew letter nun or the English N.  It stands for the Arabic word nasrani, which also originates from Nazareth.

The house of King David had fallen into poverty when the kingly line was severed and taken into Babylon. Even upon the return of the Jews to Israel, the house of King David eventually had to flee from the area of Bethlehem (meaning:  House of Bread).  They resettled in the Galilee area which they named Nazareth, to keep the prophecy alive. 

A little history:  This flight took place at the time of the Maccabees in 165 BC. Even the Greeks knew that the Messiah had to be born to the House of David in Bethlehem. It was a very dangerous place for a kingly family. The New Covenant also shows us just how dangerous Bethlehem was for the line of David, when King Herod murdered all the baby boys at the time of Yeshua. 

 The prophetic connection of Yeshua to both Bethlehem (House of Bread) in the southern kingdom and Nazareth (Branch Town) in the northern kingdom identifies Him with both houses of Israel.

Yeshua was born into a very poor family.  We know this because His parents sacrificed doves at the Temple instead of a lamb at His presentation in Luke 2.  This was allowed for poor families according to Leviticus 12:8.  Yeshua came the same way David’s family did – in poverty.  A stump.  Pride and pomp isn’t the way of our God.  Humility is.

Matthew 2:23 says He would fulfill what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.  The One from Branch Town.

In John 1:46, Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  He was under the fig tree when Jesus called him, which is a euphemism for studying the Messianic prophecies.  Nathaniel was probably looking for One from Bethlehem, not Nazareth.  (This little section deserves its own blog post... someday).

Jeremiah 23 gives us even more insight as to Who this Branch is in verses 5 and 6:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:

The Branch is YHVH.  Yeshua is the Branch.  They are One.  (These are fun verses to share with the Jehovah's Witnesses.)

Back in Isaiah, he continues in verse 2, and gives us another prophetic picture of the One who was to come from this stump.

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Here we see another glimpse of the menorah, the seven-branched lampstand of the LORD.  The oil of the lampstand represents the Holy Spirit.  All seven branches of the menorah are represented here.

 This is the fullness of our Messiah – Spirit (Ruach) times seven. 

We also see this theme in the New Covenant.  In John 3:34 – John describes Yeshua  as having the fullness of the Spirit, without limit.
Twice in Revelation, we see the seven spirits of God in Revelation (chapters 3 and 5).  As I have said before, seven is the Biblical number of completeness.  (I've probably said it seventy times seven).

This is the One that will reign on David’s throne forever. 

This is the same spirit that WE are indwelt with!  We have a menorah to shine. Don’t hide it under a basket.  We are branches of the Branch.

Click here to continue to my next post on the book of Isaiah.

To start at the beginning, click here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Isaiah Post 4 - This Will Be a Sign to You (Chapters 7-9)

In my previous post, I wrote about how Isaiah had a magnificent vision and was made ready for his prophetic ministry to the kings of Judah.  He went from unclean to ready to serve in the blink of an eye (or from the burn of a fiery coal).

We now look at chapter 7.  The context is that the northern kingdom of Israel was plotting with Syria to join forces to come against Judah, in order to fight off the Assyrians.  

Ahaz was scared, as were the people.

Isaiah took his son to meet with Ahaz.  The name of Isaiah's son was She'ar Yashub (which means a remnant shall return).  It is important to note the presence of Isaiah’s son here.  We will come back to this.

Isaiah told Ahaz not to be afraid.  Isaiah also told Ahaz that the northern kingdom of Israel would fall within 65 years.

This prophecy was a promise to the entire house of David. The northern kingdom wanted to conquer the southern kingdom of Judah and kill off the line of King David.  But the plan of God cannot be stopped no matter who you align yourself with.

Ahaz had no faith; he was an idolator.  The LORD Himself told Ahaz to ask for a sign, and Ahaz gave lip service to the law and refused to do it in verse 12. However, when God commands a thing, it is probably best to obey Him.

What follows is the famous messianic prophecy in verse 14.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. 

This was not just a sign to Ahaz, but to the entire House of David, because the word you that was used is plural (if there were a Southern American Translation, it would say y'all).  Also, the word for behold is a futuristic word in the Hebrew grammar.

This promise is messianic because of the Davidic covenant given by the LORD to David in 2 Samuel 7.  You can go read the context, but the promise culminates in verse 16: 

 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.

Immanuel means God with us.  The Seed of David will someday come and dwell with man and rule a peaceful kingdom.

So who is or was this Seed of David?  In 70 AD - 40 years after Yeshua - the temple was destroyed, along with all the geneology records. Today there is no way to prove the Davidic lineage of anyone claiming to be the messiah, so He had to come before those records were destroyed. If you read Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3, you can find His whole lineage back to King David through both His mother (Luke) and His adopted father (Matthew).

Today, the Jewish rabbis will argue that the word used in verse 14 for virgin, almah, means a young maiden.  But virginity is assumed.  Almah is used 7 times in the Hebrew scriptures, and it is always an unmarried virgin. It wouldn't be much of a sign - an unmarried woman pregnant. But a virgin pregnancy... now that would be a sign!  THE virgin, which refers back to the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

Immanuel will crush the devil’s head. And He began this work when He came the first time, taking on the sin of the world by His death and resurrection.  And He will finish the job when He returns as the mighty Lion of Judah.

Isaiah 7:16 switched gears and spoke to Ahaz about a current child. Isaiah pointed to his boy who was with him, little She'ar Yashub, who was just under bar mitzvah age. Isaiah told Ahaz, before THIS child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good (a reference to his upcoming bar mitzvah, when he would be reckoned as an adult with adult understanding), the land that Azah was dreading would be foresaken.

And indeed, within three years of that time, the alliance between Syria and the northern kingdom was gone.

The remainder of chapter 7 prophesies that Assyria would try to come against Judah but would not succeed. The northern kingdom of Israel would fall to Assyria, but the kingdom of Judah would stand (at least for the time being).

In chapter 8, the prophecy regarding Assyria continues. 

The LORD is again going to use a son of Isaiah as a sign.  Isaiah and his wife conceived another son and named him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning speed the spoil, hasten the booty.  Probably not something you are going to find in a name-your-baby book.

The promise is this:  before Isaiah's second son would even be able to talk, the northern kingdom of Israel will fall.  And shortly afterward, the northern kingdom fell, in 722 BC.

(Later in this chapter, verse 18 to be exact, we are told that Isaiah and his children would be used as signs and wonders in Israel)

Isaiah then warned Judah that Assyria would pass through Judah - up to the neck, which means as far as Jerusalem - and there would be much fear.  But twice Isaiah assured Judah that God is with us – Immanuel! In verse 12 Isaiah warns against worrying about conspiracies.  (That would be great advice for today as well).  And in verse 13, he says, trust in the LORD and fear Him only.  Jerusalem will not fall this time. 

I love verse 14, which introduces the Messiah as our Rock.  He will be both a sanctuary (for those who know Him) and a rock of offense (for those who don't).  

This prophecy is directed to both houses of Israel - the northern AND the southern kingdoms.  At the time of Yeshua, there were remnants of all 12 tribes living in Judea. Many of the faithful had fled the northern kingdom and came south at the time of the Assyrian invasion. Otherwise, how could they stumble over the Messiah if the northern tribes were completely wiped out?

About five years ago (golly, was it that long ago??), I wrote a post about our Messiah the Rock.  You can read it here if you'd like.
The remainder of chapter 8 highlights the doom and darkness that will prevail at that time.

BUT, chapter 9!  (Did I mention yet how the book of Isaiah is FILLED with contrasts?)

The gloom will not remain.  Hallelujah!

Verse 1 sets the stage:  the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – this is talking about ancient trade routes.  Galilee was a major crossroads in the world of business.

The prophecy continues with this lovely promise:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. 

We know Who grew up in that area and Who did most of His ministry there. But in case there is any doubt, verse 6 gives us a picture of Him:

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In this one verse, we see an occurrance of near/far prophecy.  He would be born (His first coming), and He will govern (His second coming).

And those names!  Three of the terms used in this verse are used only of the LORD.  Wonderful, God, and Everlasting.  The other three words can be used of man.  And the final term is Prince of Peace, which is a reference to the One who will set up His kingdom in Jerusalem someday and rule in SHALOM.

  • Wonderful – pele – wonder, marvel, extraordinary, a hard to understand thing. Only used of God. 
  • Counselor – ya-atz – to counsel, determine, devise, guide, purpose 
  • Mighty God – El gibbor – strong and mighty God 
  • Everlasting Father – ad av – connects Yeshua as God eternal (only God is eternal) 
And finally,
  • Prince of Peace – Sar shalom – chieftain, head of completeness, soundness. Wraps it up. 

These seven terms make a beautiful picture of completeness.

Speaking of light in the darkness...

Verse 7 wraps up this section beautifully with a picture of His reign on earth.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

The abundance of His government and peace, throne of David - the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant -  established with judgment and justice. It WILL happen someday soon!

Isaiah continues in his typical fashion, using a major contrast for the rest of chapter 9.

The Lord sent a word against Jacob, and it has fallen on Israel.
All the people will know— Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria—
Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:
“The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones;
The sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.”

This prophecy in verses 8-10 against the northern kingdom may sound familiar to some of us who remember 9/11.  We will rebuild!  We will rebuild, and come back even stronger!

But so many of our leaders, who spoke the last phrase of this prophecy over and over again, lifted it out of context!  Or did they?  What a display of human arrogance and self-sufficiency!  The context leaves no doubt - this is a picture of leaders trusting in their own strength and not trusting in the Lord. 

Sadly, the chapter continues with warnings of the coming destruction. Verse 16 says,

For the leaders of this people cause them to err,
And those who are led by them are destroyed.

Will our country heed this warning?  Are we being given a sign, even right now?  The word for sign (Hebrew ot) that is used in Isaiah is also used on the fourth day of creation, when God created the sun, moon, and stars for signs, seasons (appointed times), days, and years.

Here is the crazy thing.  All this talk of light, darkness, and signs...  I am sitting here writing this just as the solar eclipse of 2017 is hitting the west coast of the United States.  By the time I hit the "post" button, there will be literally seven minutes to total eclipse in Salem, Oregon.

I believe that this eclipse, which is ushering in first day of Elul and the 40 days of repentance prior to Yom Kippur, is a call for repentance for our nation.  Oh Lord, that You would send revival to our nation!

Click here for next post.

If you would like to start at the beginning of Isaiah, click here.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Isaiah post 3 - I See The Lord (Chapter 6)

My previous post focused on the first five chapters of Isaiah, which ended with a song to his Well-Beloved - YHVH - who is the creator of the vineyard in the song.

All of this leads up to Isaiah's famous vision in chapter 6.  It starts out like this:

In the year King Uzziah died 

King Uzziah died in 740 BC.  He was 16 when he became king and ruled for 52 years.  He started out well, but then he slipped toward the end.  He burned incense in the temple even though he was warned not to, and he ended up with leprosy for the rest of his life.   The lesson:  God is Holy.

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that the word Lord is not capitalized, which means it is NOT the name YHVH here.  It is the Hebrew word Adonai, which means lord or master.  Who is Isaiah seeing?  John 12:40-41 connects this passage with Yeshua.  No one has ever seen God, who is Spirit.  But Yeshua is the physical manifestation of the spirit of God.

The passage continues:

Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  

This is the only place in the Word where seraphim is used as an angelic being.  Normally the word cherubim is used.  It is interesting to note that seraphim means burning ones, or snakes.  The devil had probably been one of the seraphim and then lost his wings when he rebelled against God.  Perhaps that is why he shows up as a slithering snake in the garden.

And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

This time the word YHVH is used.  All through the Hebrew scriptures, if you see LORD in capital letters, you can know that it is the actual name of God being used there.  Yahweh, Jehovah, Yehovah... there are many pronunciations today because His Holy Name has been hidden for so long.

Also, the word holy, kadosh, is used three times.  When you see something in scripture repeated three times, it is the ultimate emphasis.

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

That's quite a vision.  Isaiah was cut to the core by it. 

So I said:
“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah saw his own uncleanness and could not worship. He was horrified at himself and also his people, and was afraid because of the Lord’s absolute holiness.

Isaiah is representing a nation that is supposed to be holy and worship God, but they also are unclean, as we saw in chapters 1 through 5.

So what is the solution?  It is provided by the LORD Himself.

He sent one of the seraphim to Isaiah, who took away Isaiah's iniquity by fire; a live coal to the lips.

Verse 8 is simply amazing.  Following the removal of Isaiah's iniquity, the Lord posed this question.

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Do you see how quickly one can be transformed by the Lord?  This is the power of the Gospel.  Isaiah went from "I am filthy" to "Pick me, pick me!"

Chapter 6 continues, and shows the assignment that Isaiah is given.  He will go to people who are hard of heart and who will not heed his message.  Isaiah then asks in verse 11,

Then I said, “Lord, how long?”

Isaiah sees the land desolate and the people scattered. The Lord replied to his question with a near/far prophecy that was fulfilled with the captivity to Babylon and also the future destruction by Rome. (It is interesting to note that Rome was being founded around this time of Isaiah starting his ministry.)

It is not all doom and gloom, however.  There will be a Holy seed, a stump left in the land. 

The stump symbolizes Israel. There has always been a remnant of Jews left in the land.

The stump is  also a picture of the Messiah, both His first and second comings. He is the seed of the woman foretold in Genesis 3:15. Israel is symbolized by the stump because it must sprout before Messiah returns.

It is noteworthy to mention that both Assyrians and Rome cut down the trees, which devastated the land. Both times though, there were many stumps left in the land. 

Time goes by. Stumps lay dormant, then they shoot out a branch.

The prophetic stump “sprouted” when the Jews returned from Babylon, the temple was rebuilt, and eventually the Messiah came for His first visit.  The scattering happened again in 70 AD, and the stump is "sprouting" again today, getting ready for His second visit.  The Jews are being regathered to the land, and there is much talk of rebuilding the temple, amidst much opposition.

The stump represents the Abrahamic covenant.  Throughout history, many have tried to uproot this stump but have been unsuccessful.  God made a promise to Abraham that is everlasting.  The covenant, found in Genesis 12, 15,and 17, includes the promise of the Land (Israel), the seed (Messiah) and the blessing (Salvation).

Stay tuned for some really cool prophecy in my next post!

Click here for the next post.

If you would like to start at the beginning of Isaiah, click here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Isaiah post 2 - Shema! (Chapters 1-5)

As I work my way through Isaiah, I am not going to record every single verse, but only highlights. I recommend reading along in your Bible.

Right off the bat in chapter one, Isaiah sets the stage for the entire book.  Verse one gives us a context of who this prophecy is for and what it is about, and then in verse 2, Isaiah says shema!
Hey everyone!  Hear what I have to say.  Pay attention!

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For the Lord has spoken!

Israel knows that word shema. It is the first word in their statement of faith, which begins in Deuteronomy 6:4 - Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

What follows in Isaiah is a description of how Israel has sinned and has provoked the Holy One. It isn't a pretty picture. Verse 6 gives us a little foreshadow of what the suffering servant had to atone for in Isaiah 53:

From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it,
But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores;
They have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment.

Isaiah continues, and in verse 9, you will see the promise of a future remnant. There is always a remnant. God is faithful to keep His promises.

Verses 10-15 tell us the heart of the matter. Their celebrations had become an abomination to the Lord, because of where their hearts were. They were observing all the commanded holy days, but their hands were covered with blood. They were being compared to Sodom and Gomorrah.

God was being mocked. Just like He is today in our culture.

What follows is the solution, in verses 16-19.
Clean up your act.  Repent.  Turn away from the unholy and your sins will be washed away.  

God appeals because He loves us.  Your heart is precious.  You can give it to God or give it away.

Verse 18 bears a special look because it is well-known:  Come, let us reason together… it actually means let us settle the matter.  The foundation of the book is the Messiah and His atoning work, which is why we see the analogy of blood here.

The remainder of chapter one tells us that obedience brings blessing.  But there are also warnings!  Disobedience brings curses and judgments. God will refine them and purge the dross (which will then cause some to repent and return to blessing).  There will be restoration and redemption for the righteous, but destruction for the unrepentant.

Moving on to chapter 2, Isaiah jumps ahead 2700 years and we have a glimpse of the future millenial kingdom!  This is what we see:
  • God's holy mountain will be established (on the Temple Mount)
  • All the nations will come to it
  • The nations will no longer curse Israel but will actually want to be there
  • The Messiah will rule from there, and the Law will go forth from there
  • He will judge between the nations
  • Swords will be beaten into to plowshares - a time of peace and prosperity

None of this has happened yet, which is why we know it is still future prophecy.  Will these things happen soon?  I hope so!

The remainder of the chapter describes what a time it will be when the Messiah comes.  
  • Arrogant man will be humbled
  • People will be hiding in caves and rocks in terror (see Revelation 6:15)
    • This is repeated three times, in verses 10, 19, and 21.  When something is emphasized three times in scripture, it means PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION.
  • Everything proud and lofty (not just man) will be brought low
    • Again, this is repeated three times - in verses 11, 12, and 17.
  • The LORD alone will be exalted in that day
  • He will shake the earth mightily
  • Idols will be cast off
  • It will be GLORIOUS!
Continuing in Isaiah, chapter 3 is a tough warning to Israel and Judah.  God's pattern is always first to the Jew and then to the nations.  (Romans 1:16).  This warning is painful to read, because history has shown that this judgment happened again and again. Verse 9 highlights Sodom again:
And they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it.
Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves.
(See politically incorrect photo above)

People became apostate and fell into desolation, except for the remnant of the faithful. God in His mercy always leaves a remnant.

Chapter 4 breaks out with repentance, which often follows judgment for those who allow God to soften their hearts. What follows is verse 2, our first introduction to the Branch!

In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious;
And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing
For those of Israel who have escaped.

What or who is this beautiful and glorious Branch of the LORD?  If you keep reading in chapter 4, you will see that this branch is linked to the cleansing and healing of the daughters of Zion.  We are going to see this Branch again soon - in chapter 11.  Chapter 4 ends with a strong picture of the coming kingdom, and mentions the tabernacle - a picture of God dwelling with us!  These temporary dwellings are built by Jews every fall during the seventh biblical feast of Sukkot - Tabernacles - which celebrates God dwelling with man.  The wedding chuppah is based on this dwelling.  And of course, the chuppah represents the bride and groom beginning their lives together, dwelling together in love.
An Israeli wedding under a chuppah

Chapter 5 opens with a song:

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes

This is a reference to the Song of Solomon.  Dodi means my beloved.  The vineyard is the house of Judah and Israel, and its owner is the LORD of hosts.  The LORD prepared the soil, removed the stones (Israel is very rocky), and planted the choicest vines.  But something went wrong.  The lush vineyard produced wild grapes.  The Hebrew word for wild is beushim - meaning stinking or worthless things.

What went wrong is that God did all these amazing things for Israel, but they fell into sin and idolatry.  This account of the vineyard is further developed in Matthew 21, in the parable of the wicked vinedressers.  When Yeshua was speaking to the Pharisees, they were most certainly thinking back to this account in Isaiah 5 and knew Yeshua was referring to them.  They were not happy about it.

Isaiah 5 continues, and verses 20-21 say

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!

It sounds a lot like today, doesn't it?  The understanding of righteousness has been lost in today's culture.  There are agendas out there that promote abortion, homosexual marriage, evolution, and all manner of anti-biblical things. Truth tellers are called hateful bigots.

Therefore, the chapter continues, the vineyard will fall into grave disrepair.  Foreign nations will roar in like a lion and take their prey.  Darkness and sorrow will abound.  

I hate to end on a sour note.  But this is where chapter five leaves us.  It seems like all is lost.  But stay tuned, because our merciful God is not done yet!

Click here for next post.

To start at the beginning of this series on Isaiah, click here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Isaiah post 1 - The Word Within The Word (Intro)

I haven't really posted in the last few months because I have been busy teaching an overview of the book of Isaiah in my Sunday school class.  What I thought I could do in 12 weeks ended up taking 20, because there is just so much there!

And even in 20 weeks, it still remained an overview.  Much of the book of Isaiah remains below the surface for me, and I look forward to mining for more gold in the future.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to share that overview here, along with many insights that I gained while preparing the classes.  Today's post is an introduction to the book of Isaiah.

If you are stranded on the proverbial desert island and can only choose one book of the Bible to have with you, I highly recommend Isaiah.  The book is like a mini-Bible, an overview of God's plan for the world.  Just like the rest of the scriptures, this book is Yeshua-focused.  It all points to our Redeemer.

It is 66 chapters long (the Bible is 66 books long).  The tone of Isaiah changes significantly after the first 39 chapters.  (The Hebrew scriptures, aka the "old testament" have 39 books).  This change of tone has even led some scholars to surmise that the second part of Isaiah was written by someone else.

All through the book, we can see the recurring themes of sin, judgment, repentance, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.

There is judgment declared to Israel and to the nations.  The term "Holy One of Israel" is used 26 times in Isaiah, and only 6 more times in the rest of the Hebrew scriptures.  Just like today, judgment begins with the household of God.

Isaiah is the second-most quoted book in the New Covenant, behind the Psalms.

Isaiah is filled with near/far prophecy.  That is, prophecies that were about to be fulfilled in the near future, as well as prophecies that will be fulfilled thousands of years from the time of writing.  By the time we get to the end of Isaiah, we will clearly see that we are seeing those prophecies come to fulfillment in our day.

Who is Isaiah?

Isaiah was born at a Crossroads in human history, around 800 BC. The first Olympic games were being held in the Greek empire, which was flourishing.  The eventual empire of Rome was in its very beginning stages.

Isaiah was the son of an aristocrat, related to kings and brought up in the Royal Court. He was high society. He married later in life, and he labored for 60 years giving the word of God as it came to him.

During the 60 years, kings came and went. Four kings of the southern kingdom of Judah were on the throne during his life and he brought the word of the Lord to each one of them. These kings were Uzziah, Yotam, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.

Isaiah died at the age of 120 not of old age or sickness. It is said that he was murdered, sawn in pieces during the days of wicked King Manasseh, son of Hezekiah. In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11:37, when it says sawn asunder, it is probably a reference to the prophet Isaiah.

The meaning of Isaiah's name is God is Salvation.  His name comes from the same root word as Yeshua the Messiah, Whose name means Salvation.

Setting the Stage

The setting/context of Isaiah opens with the imminent judgment of the northern kingdom of Israel, who having fallen into deep idolatry, is about to be conquered by the evil Assyrians.  

The nation of Israel had split into two kingdoms under Solomon's son Rehoboam.

Isaiah's famous vision in chapter 6 happened in 740 BC, the year king Uzziah died.  Chapters 1-5 of Isaiah set the stage for this vision.  My next post will look more closely at these five chapters.  Stay tuned!

Click here for next post

Monday, August 14, 2017

Heretic, heretic...

I know; it's been a long time since I have posted.  And I have a lot of things floating around in my head that I'd like to get down in writing, especially since I have been teaching an overview of the book of Isaiah.  There is so much there, it's like a mini-Bible all in one.  Those thoughts on Isaiah will be coming soon.

Today, I want to share about something that I learned a few weeks ago - what the word heresy really means.  I was blown away.

To set the stage, here is a little humorous video to get us started:
Emo Phillips and Faith

In the New Testament, the Greek word is hairesis.  It occurs nine times in the New Testament.  I was always under the impression that it means false teacher.  Not so, grasshopper!  Here is the definition from my trusty Blue Letter Bible app.

Outline of biblical usage:

  1. Act of taking, capture:  e.g. storming a city
  2. choosing, choice
  3. that which is chosen
  4. a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party) [can you say denomination?]
  5. dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims

Strong's Definitions

A choice, i.e. (specially) a party or (abstractly) disunion: - heresy (which is the Greek word itself), sect.

In the New King James version, the word is translated as sect in Acts 5:17 (Sadducees), Acts 15:5 (Pharisees), Acts 24:5 (Nazarenes - ahem, that's us), Acts 24:14 (followers of the Way, double ahem), Acts 26:5 (Pharisees again), Acts 28:22 (us again).  I encourage you to read through these scriptures so you can get a feel for how exactly the word is used.

In 1 Corinthians 11:19, the NKJV uses the phrase factions among you.

In Galatians 5:20, the word is used among a whole list of undesirable traits, such as idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, wrath, etc.

Finally, the word is used in 2 Peter 2:1. This is the context with which we are probably most familiar because in this passage it mentions false teachers:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

But if we study the word, both by definition and all other contexts in which it appears, we can see that heresy does not mean false teacher at all, but one who divides and causes disunity.

It seems that you can have either correct or incorrect theology and still be a heretic, if you use the information to stir up division, disunity, and dissention (or perhaps create a new denomination?).

And who of us has perfect understanding of biblical truth? I would humbly say none of us. The Bible is so filled with jewels and gems of truth and wisdom, it takes a whole lifetime of reading and studying to really dig below the surface. And we will never find them all in one lifetime. Isn't that awesome of the Lord, to continue to bless us with jewels of truth all our lives?

Perhaps this is why one of the most fervent prayers of Yeshua, in John 17, was that His followers be one, just as He and His Father are One. Also, 1 John 4 speaks of the love we are to have for our brothers (and sisters) in the faith. Nowhere does it say only love them if their doctrine is spot on.

Psalm 133 gives us a vivid picture on what God thinks of unity:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is 
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head, 

Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.

It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.

Snow-capped Mount Hermon in Israel

Let us not forget the two greatest commandments.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself.