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.

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