Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Isaiah Post 19 - The Inheritance of the Shepherd and the Majesty of the LORD (chapter 40B)

This post continues in Isaiah chapter 40, since my last post only got through verse 9.

Picking up with verse 10, we are in a last days context.
Behold, the LORD God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.

Who is this Ruling Arm?  It is the Messiah, Yeshua, who isn't merely seated at the right hand of God, He is the arm of God.  There is but one throne in heaven.

God is One, but He manifests in different contexts.  The Hebrew word for one is echad- which means a plurality within a unity.  For example, a basket of fruit is a singular basket of fruit but contains many fruits.

God is spirit. Yeshua the Messiah is the physical manifestation of God Himself.  One of my favorite preachers uses the expression, "God Loves and Yeshua Does."  He is the action part of God.

And the Holy Spirit is the very breath, power, and presence of God. The Hebrew word for spirit,  ruach, means breath or wind. As believers, we get to have that very breath and power of God's spirit dwelling in us!

Ruach HaKodesh - Holy Breath of God
Verse 10 also tells us that His reward is with Him. What or who is His reward? We, the people of the nations, are His reward, His inheritance. We often think of our own rewards that we earn while on earth and that will be coming to us in the kingdom, but do we stop to consider the LORD’S reward? 
  • Hebrews 12:2 - Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross
  • Psalm 2:7-8 - He will receive the nations for His inheritance
  • Isaiah 19:25 - My people Assyria, Egypt, and Israel My inheritance
  • Matt 4:8-9 - Yeshua is offered the kingdoms of the world by the devil
  • Revelation 11:15 - All these kingdoms have become His
Verse 11 wraps up with a picture of a loving Shepherd who cares for His flock.

He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.

This can be compared to John 10 - the Messiah, our Good Shepherd.  This tender loving care is a reversal for Jerusalem, over whom Yeshua wept in Matthew 23:37.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  See! Your house is left to you desolate;  for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Even though desolation did follow in 70 AD, there remained a promise that someday Israel would say, "Baruch haba b'shem Adonai... " blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!

Interestingly, this Hebrew phrase is still used to describe the arrival of a Jewish bridegroom...

Isaiah goes on in chapter 40 to describe aspects of God’s greatness… the glory, majesty, and sovereignty of YHVH.

Verses 12-14 are filled with rhetorical questions, and of course, the answer is NO ONE!
  • Who has measured the waters?  (Think of the vastness of the oceans.)
  • Who has weighed the mountains?  (Have you ever picked up a single boulder?)
  • Who has taught the spirit of the LORD in the ways of knowledge, justice, and understanding?

Verses 15-17 go on to describe the smallness of the nations compared to God.  He is sovereign over them all.  Lebanon was famous for cedars.  Burning them all would not be a sufficient offering for our God.

And then verses 18-20 give us a comparison of idols to the Holy God.  Man has a tendency to create a likeness/idol, and then try to put God in a box or somehow capture His greatness.  

Also, a bold prophecy is about to unfold in an upcoming chapter of Isaiah, and idols cannot predict the future the way our God can.  He knows the beginning from the end.

Verses 21-26 provide a vivid description of God’s greatness and sovereignty.  This can be compared to Job 38, which itself is filled with rhetorical questions (and is actually a biblical science exam).
            Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Verse 22 mentions the sphere of the earth,  Isaiah knew the earth was round even back then.  (Maybe if people had read their bibles, America would have been discovered sooner?)

In verses 24-26, Isaiah also reiterates the idea that mankind is like grass, followed by the absolute majesty of God.  What a contrast.

I am reminded of this riddle:  What is greater than God, more evil than Satan, rich people want it, poor people have it, and if you eat it, you’ll die? 

The answer, of course, is NOTHING.

In the following verses beginning with 27, Israel questions God’s ways toward them.  Why was He not standing up for them?  What follows is an emphasis on God’s goodness and provision. 

Both names, Jacob and Israel used here, and refer to the same person.  His name was changed when Jacob made Elohim his God.  Jacob went through a time of wrestling with the LORD, and then when his name was changed to Israel, he was promised the covenant blessing.  Israel means both struggles with God and Prince of God.  Jacob wrestled with the LORD all night before he received the blessing, the name change, and the covenant blessing.

So in this section, we see the nation of Israel going through hardship.  Hardship strengthens and refines us.  Psalm 13 is a good example of this.  We need to keep the faith through hardship. 

Beginning in verse 28 through the end, Isaiah continues to describe the LORD's greatness and also His goodness.  Have you not known? is asked yet again. The repetition of this phrase is a Hebrew literary form of emphasis.

He does not faint or grow weary!
We humans faint and grow weary, even strong youths, BUT…  not HIM!

This amazing chapter wraps up with verse 31:
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint

Those who wait... the Hebrew word kavah means to eagerly look for, hope, expect.  Literally, it means entwined together like a rope.   It is to be bound together with the LORD like a braided rope.  

 The Hebrew word for renew is chalaph; it means to change, to be changed, as in changing one’s clothing.  An example would be clothing ourselves with Messiah in Romans 13:14.

Because HE does not grow weary, if we are attached to Him, we are changed/renewed and will be strengthened and can soar like eagles.

May I just share some traits of Eagles?
  • They easily soar above all the problems of the earth
  • They will never surrender to the size and strength of their prey
  • They fly higher than other birds, up to 10,000 feet
  • They have long distance vision; they can see another eagle soaring 50 miles away
  • Eagles love the storm and will fly into it, using the wind of the storm to rise higher
  • Male and female eagles mate for life and are attentive to their children, the most among birds
  • The mother teaches its offspring to fly, putting them on her back and then dropping and catching them
  • They build their nest in high, safe places to protect their young
  • They will sit in absolute stillness on their nests
  • Around age 30, eagles retire, pluck off their feathers, knock off their own beaks, remove their talons, and undergo a 5 month metamorphosis, growing new body parts that give them another 30-40 years.  They “change their clothes,” so to speak and are renewed.

No wonder nations take the eagle as their emblem.

For the next post in this series on Isaiah, click here.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Isaiah Post 18 - New Beginnings (Chapter 40A)

Ahh, chapter 40.  Be still my heart.  It's SO GOOD!  Chapter 40 begins a fresh and exciting leg of the journey through Isaiah.

Verse 1 - “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.

May I just camp on this verse for a moment? 

Comfort:  In Hebrew, it is nachmu, nachmu.  This is a command.  It means to be sorry, to be moved to pity, to have compassion, to suffer grief.  It is repeated twice for emphasis.
"MY people says YOUR God."  Consider the pronouns.  Who is being spoken to and who is being spoken of?

Verse 2 tells us.  Speak comfort to Jerusalem and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

This is a command to those of us who are believers, regarding God’s chosen people.  The church has persecuted Jews since very early on, ever since the early church fathers began to teach Replacement Theology in the second century.  We have much to be sorry for, much to repent for, much compassion to show them.  Bridges must be rebuilt, and they ARE being rebuilt!

If we look more in depth at verse 2, it could be stated like this:  Speak comfort, or tenderly (literally – to the heart of)  to Jerusalem and cry out (proclaim) to her, that her warfare (tsava – same word used of IDF; tsavaot means armies – as in LORD of Sabaoth) is ended (fulfilled), that her iniquity is pardoned (accepted, paid off), for she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.

Double for her sins… is this fair? Did Israel really have to suffer so much?

Luke 12:48 says – For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.  Israel was given the covenants, the Word of God, and the very Messiah Himself.  (See Romans 9:4)

Yes, they have suffered greatly.  But it was the LORD Himself that caused their blindness for the sake of the rest of the world (Romans 11:7-8, which is right from Isaiah 29:10).  Great was their suffering, but great will be the glory in their redemption.  See Romans 11:12, 15. 

We are told not to boast against the cut-off natural branches, but the church has done just the opposite through the centuries.  See Romans 11:18.  In fact, just click here to go and read all of Romans 11.  We'll wait for you.

Rise up, church!  The time to comfort Israel is at hand.  Unfortunately, most will not do it.  If you are not excited about what God is doing through Israel, you probably don’t understand it.

Moving on, in verses 3-4 we see the first of  THREE VOICES in this section.   
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:“Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth

The ancient custom for traveling kings was to go out before them and even out the terrain, preparing the way for the king. I must pause here and mention that the last time I was in Jerusalem, it was during Donald Trump's visit.  His helicopter landed literally in the parking lot across from where I was staying.  The municipality of Jerusalem actually removed bushes and curbs to level out the lot!  So I guess it isn't just an ancient custom to smooth out the terrain for a visiting dignitary.

So who went before King Messiah to do this?  Time for some systematic theology!  (aka biblical gymnastics):

Malachi 3:1...
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the LORD of hosts.

And then Malachi 4:5-6...
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

And Luke 1:16-17...
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the LORD.”

Matthew 11:14 (speaking of John the Baptist)
And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.

I need to backup in Matthew 11 for a moment, to verse 12...
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

This is a poor Greek translation of Hebraic thought. And this unfortunate mistranslation has been used to justify violence by the church for centuries (the crusades, the inquisition, etc.)

The context comes back to Isaiah 40:3-4, of one preparing the way.  We can look at Micah 2:12-13 to get more clarity:
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people. One who breaks open the way (peretz) will go up before them; they will break through the gate (peretz) and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.

The following was written by author Lois Tverberg:
In biblical times, the shepherd would lead the sheep around open land to graze all day. As the sun was going down, he would herd them into a pen made with boulders or into a cave closed with boulders. He himself would sleep in the gate or "be" the gate. In the morning, the sheep would be restless, hungry, bursting with energy and eager to get out to pasture.

Suddenly, one of the shepherd's helpers would "break open the way" by pushing aside a boulder in the fence. The sheep wouldn't just leave calmly - they would burst out in a stampede, breaking through the other boulders in their way. The shepherd would exit along with them and then they would follow the him out to pasture.

This is a great time for a Hebrew word study:  peretz.  In my Blue Letter Bible app, the definition of the word is this:  to break through or down or over, burst, breach.  

In Genesis 38:29, we see the same word used when Tamar named her baby Peretz (or Perez).  He broke through and was born before his brother Zerah, who had been poised to be born first and had a red thread tied to his hand by the midwife to prove it.

John the Baptist was the one who broke the way for the Messiah’s first coming. He was the voice in the wilderness!

However, in Isaiah 40 the prophecy continues. Verse 5 says this:
The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This is another example of near/far prophecy intertwined into the text, now referring to the Day of the LORD at His return.  The whole world will know it and see Him.
There are a few people who were blessed to see His glory one on one.
            Moses, from the cleft of the rock
            Isaiah, in his vision in chapter 6
            Daniel and Ezekiel in their visions
            Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration
            Saul in his vision on the way to Damascus
            John in his vision of Revelation.

His glorious return will be seen by the whole earth… as lightning flashes from one end of the heavens to the other. Matthew 24:27 confirms this:
For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Moving on in Isaiah, we now see the SECOND VOICE:
The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

This comparison of man to withering foliage is in direct contrast to the glory of the LORD in verse 5. We fade and wither, but the Word of our God stands forever.

This idea that we are like grass and fades away sounds discouraging. BUT FOR 1 Peter 1:22-25...
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
(quoting Isaiah 40)

The context is the gospel and the blood of Messiah which makes the corruptible grass and flower seeds into incorruptible seed!  We have an inheritance in Messiah that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

Yes, the word of the LORD endures forever. It is He Who spoke the world into existence.  John 1:1 is a paraphrase of Genesis 1:1...
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word WAS God. 

Back to Isaiah, we now see the THIRD VOICE of this section in verse 9.
O Zion,
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem,
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

Good tidings here is the Hebrew equivalent to gospel, which means good news.  What a lovely passage.  It was Zion and Jerusalem who brought the gospel to the world. Now the good news is coming back to them and will culminate in Jerusalem when the Messiah returns.  Soon.

For part 2 of chapter 40, click here.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Isaiah Post 17 - From Assyria to Babylon (Chapters 36-39)

We now see a major change of style and focus for Isaiah, as he switches to a more historical narrative in chapters 36-39.  Not only that, but after these chapters, the tone of Isaiah will change significantly.

So far, the context of the entire book of Isaiah has centered on the invasion of Assyria - the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the threat of Assyria to the southern kingdom of Judah.

Isaiah's narrative here parallels the historical detail found in 2 Kings 18 through 21.

Chapter 36 picks up as Sennacherib and the Assyrians were knocking on Jerusalem’s door. Back in Isaiah 8:8, it was prophesied that Assyria would sweep through the land of Judah, "up to the neck," which is Jerusalem.

King Sennacherib and his minions showed up outside of Jerusalem, and his men began to taunt the people of Jerusalem, speaking their threats in Hebrew in order to make the people afraid.  And indeed there was fear!  The chapter ends with Hezekiah's close advisors coming to him with the terrible report:

Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

Chapter 37 opens with Hezekiah's immediate reaction:

And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 

I love this.  He didn't run to his cellphone to text all his friends for advice.  He didn't put out a dramatic post on Facebook.  No, instead, he humbled himself and went straight to the LORD.  How many times have we ourselves done the former when trouble arises, instead of going straight to the Throne?

Listen to Hezekiah's words to the LORD.
Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone.”

Hezekiah wanted the world to know the power of his LORD!  And YHVH answered Hezekiah's prayer of faith in a mighty way.  It did not go well for Sennacherib.  Chapter 37 wraps up thusly:

Then the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. 

The troops just... died.  No swords, no skirmishes - just the mighty hand of the LORD.  Sennacherib just slunk back to his lair, where he was murdered by his own sons.  The threat of Assyria against Jerusalem faded into the annals of history.

Assyria's demise

Soon after the defeat of Assyria, chapter 38 tells us that Hezekiah became sick and was dying.  More details are outlined in 2 Kings 20.  Weeping bitter tears, Hezekiah asked for a longer life, and YHVH granted him 15 more years.  Can you imagine knowing when you will die?  What would you do with the days or years remaining to you?

It is interesting to note that when Hezekiah died 15 years later, his son Manasseh ascended to the throne at age 12.  So at the time that Hezekiah had been ill, he had no heir to the throne.  The LORD had to relent so that the line of King David would continue according to the Davidic Covenant recorded in 2 Samuel 7.  I believe Hezekiah was being tested for his faith when he was ill, and he passed the test.  Kind of like when Moses passed the test in the wilderness when the LORD declared He would wipe out the Israelites and start over with Moses.  Moses knew the covenant promises.

But just like King David, King Hezekiah was not perfect, as chapter 39 demonstrates.  Assyria was gone, but now we see Babylon entering the stage for Act 2.  Hezekiah proudly showed all his treasures to the Babylonian envoy.

Oops.  Pride again.

Isaiah told Hezekiah that all of it would be carried off to Babylon someday, but not in Hezekiah’s lifetime.  Hezekiah 's reply is surprising:

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”

How strange that he didn’t show any remorse for what he did and what his descendants were going to face.

It is significant that the focus of the book of Isaiah switches from Assyria to Babylon in this section.  As I wrote in my first post on this book, I believe there is a strong parallel of Isaiah to the entire Bible itself.   We have just covered 39 chapters, just like the first part of our Bible is made up of 39 books.  

Chapters 40 through 66 have a distinctively different tone, yet they complete the whole book.  In the same way, the 27 books of the New Covenant scriptures have a radically different tone, and yet they complete the Book.

To begin the next section, click here.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Isaiah Post 16 - Desolation and Restoration (chapters 33-35)

Chapter 33 opens up with a warning.   Outside the walls of Jerusalem, Sennacherib and the Assyrian plunderers waited, and YHVH warned that they themselves will be plundered. 

Verse two moves to a picture inside the city.  We read a plea to the Lord for His graciousness... "Please be our arm of YESHUA" (salvation).  The people stopped looking at the enemy and looked to YHVH.  They looked to the future, to what the LORD would do for them.  Verse 6 also contains the name of the Savior - Yeshua.  I love how His name is peppered throughout the Hebrew scriptures.  The Arm of the LORD, Yeshua, is fighting for us.

And in verse 3, we see a snapshot of the ultimate future battle when Yeshua went to His execution:
At the noise of the tumult the people shall flee;
When You lift Yourself up, the nations shall be scattered

The LORD lifted HIMSELF up. This is confirmed in John 10:17-18, when Yeshua says,
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Many have been accused of killing the Messiah throughout history, especially the Jews, but we see here that it was an act of the perfect will of the Father - His intention all along.

The LORD always has the kingdom in sight when He stretches out His mighty arm.

In verse 8, we see a warning to a certain traveling man who has broken the covenant.  What covenant?  The Abrahamic covenant.  Sennacherib was coming against the land, and it will not go well for him.

In verses 10-16, Isaiah shows us that the LORD moves mightily.  Again He lifts Himself up.  The sinners and hypocrites in Zion are afraid.  They realize the power and might of the Lord who judges with fire.  But the righteous do not have to be afraid of the fiery judgment.

In verses 17-24, the righteous will see the majesty of the king and the beauty of the land of Zion.  Look at the beautiful promise in verse 20 (and since this hasn't happened yet, it is a promise of thing to come):
Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home,
A tabernacle that will not be taken down;
Not one of its stakes will ever be removed,
Nor will any of its cords be broken.

The chapter wraps up with forgiven iniquities for the inhabitants of Zion.  How glorious!

Chapter 34 shifts gears once again.  We see a warning to the nations to come, hear, and heed the word!  The fury of the Lord is against the nations.

Verse 4 gives us a clue about the nature of the last days.  The heavens will be dissolved; rolled up as a scroll.  In Revelation 6, we see this repeated in the context of the breaking of the sixth seal of the scroll, as the LORD wraps up human history in a dramatic way.  Isaiah continues with a very colorful description of bloodshed and mayhem in Edom (a metaphor for the surrounding nations.  Edom had been the land of Esau.  Today, it is a common Jewish idiom to refer to non-Jews as Edomites.)

So why is this warning given?  Verse 8 tells us that it is the LORD's vengeance, recompense for the cause of Zion,  In other words, it’s payback time against the nations that broke the everlasting covenant – the Abrahamic covenant. Today, many nations are breaking that covenant as they come against Israel.

Click here for an example of how the UN comes against Israel.

Verse 10 is a picture of Edom's total destruction by burning pitch.
It shall not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke shall ascend forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
No one shall pass through it forever and ever.

Can I just interject here?  We see the same kind of language used in Jude 1:7, 2 Peter 2:6, and Revelation 14:11.

(Jude) as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

(2 Peter) and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly

(Revelation) And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.

Much of what the church believes about God’s judgment is rooted in Greek-Roman thought… constant burning fires that never go out.  But in reality, this way of speaking is by Jewish idiom.  We have a picture of complete and total destruction.  The ascending smoke can be likened to an extinguished candle... we don't see the smoke until the flame is put out.

The picture of total desolation for Edom continues for the rest of the chapter.  The wild animals are a vivid metaphor of judgment and desolation.  It will become a habitation of jackals, owls, hawks, wild goats, and snakes, as well as thorns, nettles, and brambles; while its princes and nobles will be gone.  

Moving on to chapter 35, we have another shift.  Verse 1 tells us that the desert will bloom. This is happening now in the land of Israel!

 In 1867 Mark Twain called the holy land a vast wasteland in his book, Innocents Abroad. This was right before the waves of Jewish immigrants began returning to the land, at which time they began draining the swamps and planting trees and fields.

Continuing on, the next two verses appear to give encouragement to the survivors of the holocaust.
Strengthen the weak hands,
And make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are fearful-hearted,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
With the recompense of God;
He will come and save you.”

Holocaust survivors arrive in Israel

Verses 5 and 6 are Messianic, and we see near/far prophecy again.  Some of these miracles took place during the first advent of Yeshua - the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and so on.  But this time, there will be streams in the desert.  Our Living Water will truly return and bring life from the dead!  The thorny land and the habitations of jackals will become grass, reeds, and rushes.

This jives with Romans 11:15.  Paul says,
For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 

In other words, the rejection of the gospel by the nation of Israel brought life to the rest of the world.  But when they are saved as a nation, watch out!  Life from the dead!  I believe that there will be more people saved at that time that there have been since Yeshua ascended to heaven.

Chapter 35 ends with a beautiful picture of restoration of the land of Israel and its people.  We know this is still to come because most of this has not yet been fulfilled:
A highway shall be there, and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for others.
Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
Shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;
It shall not be found there.
But the redeemed shall walk there,
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

To continue this journey, click here.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Isaiah Post 15 - Egypt, Assyria, Judgment, Restoration (chapters 30-32)

Chapter 30 opens with the context of Judah putting their trust in Egypt in order to fight off Assyria.  But the LORD had already set them free from Egypt once before.  Isaiah tells us in verse 7 that it will all come to nothing.  The LORD calls Egypt Rahab-Hem-Shebeth, meaning Rahab sits idle.  Rahab means proud, strength.  The name is used metaphorically of Egypt.  The strength of Egypt will not help the Israelites in their fight against Assyria.

Isaiah continues in verses 12-17 with a further warning to Israel for relying on Egypt.  The proverbial pottery will be broken beyond repair.  They will scatter in fear.

But Isaiah does not stop there. The LORD will be merciful. Verse 19 highlights a beautiful section of God's promises to Israel:
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem;
You shall weep no more.
He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
When He hears it, He will answer you.

Broken pottery makes a beautiful mosaic
Hopefully you have your Bible open to the chapter that we are studying.  Read the encouraging words to the Israelites that go all the way through verse 26.

Changing gears in verse 27, Isaiah prophesies a grave warning to Assyria for the rest of the chapter.  Verse 33 wraps up the prophecy using the word Tophet, which is another name for the valley in Jerusalem where rubbish was burned and children were sacrificed to Molech.  This valley, also called Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, or Gehenna in Greek, was a nasty place, a place of judgment and total destruction.  Assyria would be destroyed through God’s judgment.

Isaiah opens chapter 31 with yet another warning for relying on Egypt.  When you see this kind of repetition, you can be assured that the LORD means business.  Isaiah speaks of trusting in chariots and horses, in the same way we are challenged in Psalm 20:7 - Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Isaiah continues in verses 4-5 with two metaphors for YHVH – a roaring Lion and like birds flying about – defending Jerusalem. He will deliver it, and passing over, He will preserve it.  The word used here is the Hebrew word for Passover, when the Lord YHVH miraculously delivered the Israelites from Egypt.

What follows is a plea and a promise.  The LORD beseeches His people to return to Him, and He promises that idols will be thrown away.

The chapter wraps up with the LORD's promise that Assyria will fall, but not from the strength of man.

And eventually 185,000 Assyrians dropped dead outside the walls of Jerusalem by the hand of YHVH.  Their bodies would have been burned in Tophet/Gehenna.  Not a single Jewish sword was raised against them.

As the scripture says, His fire is indeed in Zion and his furnace is in Jerusalem.  Hebrew writing frequently uses double synonyms to emphasize a point.  Gehenna is a perfect picture of His holy judgment.

Moving on, chapter 32 is a colorful study in contrasts.

We begin with a civics lesson in verses 1-4:  the king and princes will rule in righteousness and the people will listen.  This is also a messianic picture of the coming kingdom.  A king ruling in righteousness is music to a Middle Eastern ear, a land whose history has been riddled with conflict since its inception.

This righteous kingdom of peace has been the national hope of Israel, and it will happen soon when the Messiah comes to reign.

In verses 5-7, Isaiah warns fools and schemers against their sin.  

What follows that is a warning against complacency, particularly warning women, in verses 9-11.  We see judgment on those who just sit there.  We can't just sit there!  The LORD wants us to rise up and be involved in His plan!

Following the warning, the passage switches gears again (are you dizzy yet?).   The spirit will be poured out from on high, and the land will bloom!  The thorns and briers in the forsaken land will be reversed!  YHVH is merciful; the judgment is not forever.

The restoration is always connected to the land, which is why the land was part of the everlasting Abrahamic covenant.  They are inseparable!  And as YHVH is wrapping up His plan for human history, we can see the land of Israel coming to life, after sitting there for nearly 2000 years of wilderness wasteland.

See all the green? 
Fun fact:  Since 1901, over 240 million trees have been planted in Israel

The remainder of the chapter is a beautiful prophecy of what is to come for the land and its people:
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
And righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,

Though hail comes down on the forest,
And the city is brought low in humiliation.
Blessed are you who sow beside all waters,
Who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey.

I have added a highlight to verse 18, because it is such a wonderful promise.The word for dwellings is mishkan – the word used for the tabernacle in the wilderness.  It was the place where YHVH dwelt with man, and He will dwell with us again!  Mishkan comes from the same root word as shekinah – which means YHVH's manifest presence.

Click here for chapters 33-35 of Isaiah.

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Isaiah Post 14 - Jerusalem Warned then Promised (Chapters 28-29)

Brace yourself for another of Isaiah's famous roller coaster rides.  We are going to fly through two chapters today.

Chapters 28-33 are a series of sermons that Isaiah preached about town, and each one begins with “woe.” This word means the opposite of blessed. In the Hebrew, it is pronounced hoy, meaning Ah!  Alas!  O! Oy vey! Or in the Scandanavian vernacular I was raised with - uff da!

What follows in chapter 28 is a grave warning to Ephraim (the northern Kingdom) and Jerusalem.

There are numerous references to drunkards and intoxication. The Northern kingdom had fallen into grave alcohol abuse.  Even the priests and prophets were prone to it.  Verse 8 tells us there was filthiness and vomit on the tables.  I believe this to be both literal and figurative in the context.

In verses 9-10, Isaiah speaks to the people in words that we are probably familiar with:  Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.  These people were not heeding the word of God and Isaiah was speaking to them like little children - those just weaned from the breast.

Speaking of biblical precepts:  One of the best ways to study God’s word is to compare scripture to scripture, assembling it like a puzzle.  Commentaries and opinions are fine to read, but ultimately we must come back to God’s word.  Systematic theology considers the whole word, not just proof texts. And we must consider the full counsel of scripture, and move beyond babes needing milk.

The repetition of precept on precept in verse 13 suggests that the Word of the Lord had become burdensome to the people who simply did not want to listen. 

In verses 14-15, Isaiah rebukes the leaders in Jerusalem, who made a covenant with death.  They had placed their trust in something besides God.  We see here the use of near/far prophecy. There is an immediate application to Assyria, and an allusion to a future agreement with the antichrist and beast system of the last days.  Daniel 9:28 hints at the agreement that Israel will someday make with the destructive prince who is to come.

Isaiah switches gears again in verse 16, where he speaks of the cornerstone:
Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.

The stone, our Messiah, will deliver some of them from the covenant with death.

Isaiah continues in verse 17, letting us know that God in justice and righteousness will allow tribulation, which refines us.  God allows trials and tribulations to draw us back near to Him.

And in verse 18, we learn that the covenant with death will be annulled.  The evil one will turn on them.  Many won’t survive.

Again, this is near/far/far prophecy.  It happened in part when Babylon took Jerusalem in 586 BC, when Rome took Jerusalem in 70 AD, and will happen in the near future when antichrist defiles the temple before the Day of the Lord.

Chapter 28 wraps up with a picture of plowing and preparing the soil for seed.  Plowing is painful, but the plowing does not go on forever.  And we again see the term pele yo-etz - wonderful counselor, a term reserved only for the LORD.  He is marvelous in ALL His ways, even if they do not make sense to us at the time.

Chapter 29 opens up with a reference to Ariel – a symbolic name for Jerusalem.  Ariel means Lion of God.

What follows is more near/far prophecy on Jerusalem’s destruction.  To date, Jerusalem has been fully destroyed  twice, and in part at least 40 times.

But yet… verses 5-6 give an immediate prophecy that was fulfilled in Hezekiah’s time when Sennacherib’s men came against Jerusalem, and 185,000 died outside the walls of some plague.  Further details of this miraculous event are recorded in 2 Kings 19.

Verses 7-8 give a more far-reaching prophecy to nations that come against Israel… even today.   Zechariah 12:2-4 tells us that Jerusalem will be a cup of drunkenness and a heavy stone for all peoples who come against her.

Isaiah continues in verses 9-12, with a warning to the people of Judah regarding their blindness. Verse 13 tells us why: 
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men

Their worship of the LORD at that time was based on merely human rules they had been taught. Yeshua quoted this verse in Matthew 15. He was rebuking the leaders who put great burdens on the people with their interpretations of the Torah, but their hearts were hard.  They were not motivated by love for God.

I believe we can all be guilty of this.  Leadership makes the rules and we follow them sometimes without question, in spite of what the scriptures might say.

So because the people are only honoring the LORD with their lips but not their hearts, He moves into action mode.  In verse 14, the Hebrew word pele (pronounced PAY lay, meaning wonder) shows up again... three times!  As I have said before, pele is a word that can only be attributed to the LORD.  And three times!  It is the ultimate emphasis.

The verse is basically saying, therefore, I will again do pele with this people, with pele upon pele!!  This can only be a foretelling of the Messiah's arrival.

In his usual fashion, Isaiah switches gears again in verses 15-16, warning those who deny God, saying the potter did not make me. Today we have this same problem in the world, and it is known as the theory of evolution.

But just wait! In spite of the current state of spiritual blindness, wonders are coming – the deaf will hear, the blind will see, as the next few verses tell us.  The meek will find joy, the poor shall exult in the Holy one of Israel!  Of course, the Messiah will fulfill all of this.

The ruthless and scoffers will come to nothing and cease. 

The chapter ends on a high note:  another prophecy of the restoration of Jacob, an end to Israel's shame.
Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
“Jacob shall not now be ashamed,
Nor shall his face now grow pale;
But when he sees his children,
The work of My hands, in his midst,
They will hallow My name,
And hallow the Holy One of Jacob,
And fear the God of Israel.
These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding,
And those who complained will learn doctrine.”

For more roller coaster fun, click here for the next post.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Isaiah Post 13 - Mini Apocalypse (Chapters 24-27)

This section of Isaiah is sometimes known by scholars as a mini book of Revelation.

Verse 1 jumps right in...  Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants.

The earth is laid waste and the wrath of God is poured out. In Revelation, we see the wrath of God poured out when we read of the trumpets and bowl judgments.

Verse 2 lets us know that pretty much everybody is affected:  both servants and masters, business people, borrowers, lenders, and religious people.

Why is this happening?  Why does the earth languish and fade away under the wrath of God?

Verse 5 tells us why:
 The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, 
Because they have transgressed the laws, 
Changed the ordinance, 
Broken the everlasting covenant.

Verse 6 warns of what is to come, and it isn't pretty.
Therefore the curse has devoured the earth,
And those who dwell in it are desolate.
Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned,
And few men are left.

So the curse will devour the earth, because the everlasting covenant was broken.  What is this referring to?

Of the seven covenants between God and man in the scripture, there is only one which is everlasting and also promises a curse if not heeded- the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 12, 15, and 17.

If you are not familiar with these seven covenants, you can click here for a refresher.

While introducing the Abrahamic covenant, YHVH says to Abraham in Genesis 12:3,  I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

 It is very important to note that there are two different words used in this verse for curse.

  • Arar – curse.  
  • Qalal – lightly esteem, treat as unimportant, scorn
The NET (New English Translation) clearly differentiates the two words: I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse

Nations coming against Israel will be cursed.  The land is a key component to the Abrahamic Covenant.  People and nations want to take it away… that tiny little sliver of land that God gave to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in an everlasting covenant.  For more details, you can read Genesis 15 and 17.  You can also read Genesis 26:3 and Genesis 28 where you will see that the covenant promised to Abraham was passed down to Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel).

The nations will try to take away the land.  They are still trying today.  See what one of King David's chief musicians, Asaph, wrote thousands of years ago in Psalm 83. It starts out like this:

Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

The psalm continues, calling for a curse on all those who oppose Israel.

While you might think it is mean-spirited of the psalmist to do this, it comes straight from YHVH.  See Joel 3:1-2 and Zechariah 12:3.

Satan is hard at work deceiving people against Israel, both inside and outside of the church, in the media, in the universities, in the UN, and in the hearts of people.

Why?  The return of Yeshua is inseparable from the land of the Abrahamic covenant.  According to the scriptures, the Jews had to return to the Promised land before He would come back.  And when Yeshua returns, satan knows he is toast.

Rev 12:12 tells us, Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

A few verses later, verse 17 shows us exactly who satan's targets are:  Jews and Christians. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.  

I believe that the holocaust was a manifestation of satan's rising panic, knowing that his time was growing ever shorter.  Perhaps he noted the great numbers of Jews returning to the land starting in the late 1800s, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Anyway, start esteeming Israel if you don't do so now.  It’s important.

Back to Isaiah 24:  In the midst of destruction, we see praise happening in verses 14-15.  I am reminded of Revelation 7:  even though there is about to be great wrath being poured out on earth, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation bow before the Lamb in worship.

Chapter 24 wraps up with the kings of the earth, along with the host of demons, punished and thrown in the pit.  The LORD of hosts will then reign on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Chapter 25 begins with the exaltation of YHVH, and Isaiah includes the Hebrew term pele yo-etz - meaning wonderful counselor from chapter 9.  What follows is a beautiful prophecy of restoration!  Isaiah gives us a picture of the start of the millennial kingdom. 
Someday we will be praising Him in person.  We will praise Him for destroying enemies.  We will be feasting in His presence, and He will remove the veil of sorrow that has covered the nations. 

In verse 8, we see death swallowed up forever, and every tear will be wiped away, which is repeated in Revelation 21:4.

Also, the rebuke of His people will be wiped away.  This is great news! Israel has been hated since they became a nation while in Egypt.  The hatred actually goes even further back to Hagar and Sarah.  Satan hates what God loves.

I love verse 9:
And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation

In chapter 26, we see a song of salvation, sung in the land of Judah.  They will trust in Him!  Some highlights from this chapter:

  • Verse 12 – Lord, you will establish peace for us.  You have done all our works in us.
  • Verse 17 – A woman in childbirth (see Revelation 12:1-2)
  • Verse 19 – A picture of the future resurrection, which we know will happen at His return 
    • Your dead shall live!
    • Their dead bodies, they shall arise!
    • Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust!
    • In Revelation 20, we see the first and second resurrections; the earth shall cast out the dead.  You can read 1 Corinthians 15 for a collaborating view on the resurrection, as well as Daniel 12:2.
  • Verses 21-22 –  God's people are supernaturally protected while the rest of the earth is being punished. (See Revelation 3:10, where the congregation at Philadelphia is promised protection within a sphere of danger)
Isaiah wraps up this mini-apocalypse with chapter 27.  In the first verse, he mentions the destruction of leviathan, that twisted and fleeing serpent.  Leviathan is transliterated from the Hebrew, but it means a beast.  I believe it is a metaphor for the satanic beast empire of the last days, which also meets its demise by the mighty hand of the LORD.


The next section speaks of another vineyard.  Remember chapter 5 and the vineyard with the wild grapes and the thorns?  Here we have a reversal.  We see another reference to the root, Israel, blossoming and budding, and filling the face of the world with fruit. 

I don’t think we can even imagine the restoration and abundance that is coming to fill the earth when Yeshua returns. Rev 22:2 tells us, In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Isaiah continues in verses 7-9 with a theme parallel to Romans 11.  Israel is judged, but then saved.

This entire section is wrapped up with this awesome foretelling of the coming kingdom in verse 13:
So it shall be in that day:
The great trumpet will be blown;
They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria,
And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt,
And shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

I can hardly wait.

For the next post in the Isaiah series, click here.

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