Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Isaiah Post 43 - Wrath and Return (Chapters 63-64)

Chapter 63 opens up describing the Mighty return of the Lord, coming to vanquish His enemies.  He is no longer the Lamb, but the Lion!

Who is this who comes from Edom 
With dyed garments from Bozrah 
This One who is glorious in His apparel, 
Traveling in the greatness of His strength?— 
“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
Why is Your apparel red, 
And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

Whew, what a picture.  Where is Edom?  Today, it is the nation of Jordan, to the east of the Holy Land.  And why Bozrah?  Bozrah was place of war and desolation.  Both Edom and Bozrah are mentioned in the very colorful chapter of Jeremiah 49.  These places are symbolic of the last days enemies of the LORD.

So who is this, the verse asks, and why is He here? The passage continues:

“I have trodden the winepress alone, 
And from the peoples no one was with Me.
For I have trodden them in My anger, 
And trampled them in My fury;
Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, 
And I have stained all My robes.

Ew.  Not a pretty picture.  There is violence and wrath happening here.  Have you ever seen a treading of a winepress?  But, the passage says, He speaks and acts in righteousness.

Verse 4 continues:
 For the day of vengeance is in My heart, 
And the year of My redeemed has come.
This is a repetition of Isaiah 61:2B - the part that Yeshua did NOT read in Nazareth during His first visit.

The wrath of the LORD continues in verses 5-6:
I looked, but there was no one to help, 
And I wondered that there was no one to uphold;
Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; 
And My own fury, it sustained Me.
I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, 
Made them drunk in My fury,
And brought down their strength to the earth.

In our congregations today, we sing a lot about the love of God.  And it's true, God is love.  However, I don't hear too many songs sung about His wrath.  But the wrath of God is a Biblical truth; one we should face.

The chapter then changes gears and leads us into more familiar ground, at least in the sense of today's worship music:

I will mention the lovingkindness of the LORD, 
And the praises of the LORD,
According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, 
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, 
According to the multitude of His lovingkindness 

The word used twice in the above passage - translated lovingkindness - is chesed.  It means His all-encompassing mercy.

For He said, “Surely they are My people
Children who will not lie.” 
So He became their Savior.
In all their affliction He was afflicted, 
And the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; 
And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.

What is not as familiar to the church today from this section is how God feels about Israel.  We like to take these verses for ourselves alone, and dismiss the context.  However, in the following verses, we tend to do the opposite and attribute them to Israel alone.  We have here a brief history lesson, showing a continuing cycle of rebellion and return.

But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; 
So He turned Himself against them as an enemy,
And He fought against them.
Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying:
“Where is He who brought them up out of the sea 
With the shepherd of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,
Who led them by the right hand of Moses,
With His glorious arm, 
Dividing the water before them
To make for Himself an everlasting name,
Who led them through the deep, 
As a horse in the wilderness, 
That they might not stumble?”
As a beast goes down into the valley, 
And the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest,
So You lead Your people, 
To make Yourself a glorious name.

What is the LORD's major purpose, according to these verses?  To make for Himself an everlasting, glorious name!  

Verses 15-19 give us a clear picture of  of His people yearning for Him, and longing for repentance and righteousness:

Look down from heaven, 
And see from Your habitation, holy and glorious.
Where are Your zeal and Your strength, 
The yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me?
Are they restrained?
Doubtless You are our Father, 
Though Abraham was ignorant of us, 
And Israel does not acknowledge us.
You, O LORD, are our Father; 
Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name. 
O LORD, why have You made us stray from Your ways, 
And hardened our heart from Your fear?
Return for Your servants’ sake, 
The tribes of Your inheritance.
Your holy people have possessed it but a little while; 
Our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary.
We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled,
Those who were never called by Your name.

This plea leads into the very strong language of chapter 64:

Oh, that You would rend the heavens! 
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence—
As fire burns brushwood,
As fire causes water to boil—

To make Your name known to Your adversaries, 
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!

In this section, fire is repeated twice for emphasis, and fire represents judgment.  The rainbow was a promise that the earth would not be destroyed by water again, but fire is another story.  Fire will play a significant role when the LORD returns.

The end of chapter 63 was a plea for the LORD to "look down," and in chapter 64, the plea changes to "Come down!"

The LORD's return will be a fearful event for His enemies.

Verse 3 says,
When You did awesome things for which we did not look, 
You came down, 
The mountains shook at Your presence.  

Yeshua did awesome things at His first visit, and they were not seeking those awesome things; specifically, dying for their sins.  Verse 4 continues:

For since the beginning of the world 
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, 
Who acts for the one who waits for Him. 
Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 2:9, in the context that if Israel’s leaders had known Him, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory.

Isaiah continues:
You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, 
Who remembers You in Your ways.
And then, the theme changes in the middle of the verse.  First, the bad news.

You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue; 
And we need to be saved.
But we are all like an unclean thing, 
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; 
(The Hebrew is very colorful here; filthy rags is a nice way of saying menstrual rags)
We all fade as a leaf, 
And our iniquities, like the wind, 
Have taken us away.
And there is no one who calls on Your name, 
Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us, 
And have consumed us because of our iniquities.

So, can a sinner be saved? It looks impossible.  But thankfully, Isaiah continues:

But now, O LORD, You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter; 
And all we are the work of Your hand.  

A good father cannot reject His children.  Can a sinner be saved? The answer is yes!  The Father will provide a way for His children to be saved.

Isaiah continues, pleading with the Father:
Do not be furious, O LORD, 
Nor remember iniquity forever; 
Indeed, please look—we all are Your people!
Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
Our holy and beautiful temple, 
Where our fathers praised You, Is burned up with fire;
And all our pleasant things are laid waste.
Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O LORD?
Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?

The tone of this plea reminds me of the repentant Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  And we know what happened… the Father ran to his son!

Israel has a good, good Father, and so do we.  Have you been away from the Father?  If so, He is waiting for you.

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To start this series from the beginning, click here.

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