Archive for August, 2016

Isaiah 25

Isaiah 25 has the prophet praising God.  He’s finished giving a series of judgments that God has determined and now changes focus to God’s goodness.  “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure”. Knowing that the Lord – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God revealed in and by Jesus Christ – is our God makes us want to praise Him. And this is a choice.  The words “I will” makes that clear.  Praising God is something we choose to do!

The reality is that all people will eventually praise God.  Scripture tells us ‘every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’.  It will be something all will do.  “Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you”.  Strong or weak, nice or ruthless, God is God of all and everyone will eventually come to that understanding.  What’s the foundation of that praise going to be?  For some, it will be God’s power and strength and the way He shows His sovereignty.

But to some, it will be because of His love.  “For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down”.  God is a God of love.  He protects the weak and is a stronghold for the poor.  We need to be sure we don’t take God for granted when His character and goodness flows to us.

Isaiah paints a picture of what God’s ultimate outcome for us will be.  “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken”.  As Christ Followers, when we move from this life to eternal life with God, we’re going to have a pretty good gig.  Death will be done, and God will take away our tears and make us pure by removing our sin through the blood of our Savior.  He’s already prepared the way.  Great things are ahead for those of us who walk with Jesus!

Isaiah 24

Isaiah 24 has the prophet declaring His judgment and punishment on us all.  “Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants”.  That’s a pretty broad brush that Isaiah paints with here.  If you’re taking up space, you fit the target.  He makes it clear that no one escapes as he gets into more detail.  “And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor”.

People aren’t getting away from God’s punishment.  It will affect all of us.  We’ll all stand before Him and have to give account, and we’re going to come up short in our ability to justify our choices.  “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant”.  We’re going to have a problem trying to convince God that our failure to obey His laws, statutes and covenant isn’t as big a deal as He believes it to be.

In God’s eyes, there is a standard and that standard is perfect obedience to Him.  We are all going to come up short when we stand before Him.  If we have walked as a Christ Follower, our defense will be Jesus, not our own actions.  While Jesus doesn’t make us perfect in any manner, His blood shed on the cross does cover our sin and will allow God to be satisfied with our holiness and righteousness and gain us entry into eternity with Him in heaven.  If we don’t have any way to get our sin covered, we’ll stand before God and be denied entry into heaven.  There is no middle ground, no ‘almost good enough’ place to go.

God reigns, and in that day He’ll do the punishing.  He sits on the throne of this universe in absolute and complete control.  He is the judge and jury when it comes to eternity.  Jesus will be there representing on our behalf if we have put our faith and trust in Him.  But otherwise, we’ll be alone and not able to defend the sinful choices we’ve made one the years.  “On that day the Lord will punish”.  He’s not just judge and jury, He’s also the sentence and the punisher.  He will do what He purposes and we’ll merely be on the receiving end!

Isaiah 23

Isaiah 23 has the focus coming on Tyre and the judgment headed their way.  To the north of Israel, Tyre was the leading city of Phoenecia, the great maritime power of the ancient world. Because it was such an important harbor and center for shipping, Tyre was synonymous with commerce and materialism.  They had a business empire larger than anyone would expect from a city of their size and power.  They were a trading partner of Israel’s in some ways, but also provided one of the worst leaders of all time for Israel in Jezebel.

Isaiah makes it clear the destruction will be complete.  “Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor”.  This won’t be a slight blow but total destruction.  Tyre was an important place in that day – “you were the merchant of the nations”.  The world would feel this.  “When the report comes to Egypt, they will be in anguish over the report about Tyre”.  Because of its great success, Tyre had become proud and full of self-glory. But the Lord has decided to judge and humble Tyre, and Isaiah announces it.

So why did it have to happen.  Once again, it was pride.  “The Lord of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth”.  Pride is one of those basic sins that God does not tolerate.  When we put man on the throne of life, it doesn’t end well.  God says it clearly, “You will no more exult”.   God’s plan is to punish them for a long time.  “In that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years”.  70 years is the time appointed by God, and the cost of their pride!

Then what you may ask?  Isaiah paints that picture too.  “At the end of seventy years, the Lord will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. Her merchandise and her wages will be holy to the Lord. It will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who dwell before the Lord”.  A big turnaround as the city not only was restored but became a place where Christianity grew and was very active.  God’s hand changes things, and He demonstrates that in Tyre!

Isaiah 22

Isaiah 22 has the prophet passing God’s judgment on Jerusalem.  The people of God have chosen to behave like the other nations around them, and God is not pleased and is passing judgment on them.  “What do you mean that you have gone up, all of you, to the housetops”.  Back in that day people used to go up on the tops of their homes to mourn or look to heaven and cry for help.  This is a sign that they see the result of God’s hand against them, the “shoutings, tumultuous city, exultant town”.

Your slain are not slain with the sword or dead in battle. All your leaders have fled together; without the bow they were captured. All of you who were found were captured, though they had fled far away”.  When the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, the men of Judah did not die bravely fighting to protect their city.  They died either being starved to death in captivity or fleeing as they ran cowardly from the city.  There were not brave warriors who fought with a sword to protect their city, but men who ran, led by leaders who fled trying to save their own skin.

Isaiah is burdened by what he sees coming.  “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people”.  He’s overwhelmed with the coming judgment and knows God’s people will suffer greatly.  Isaiah knows the enemy is coming, and prophesies the pending attack, but it fall son deaf ears.  God isn’t going to fight this fight for them.  They are on their own.  “He has taken away the covering of Judah”.  While He has an unlimited army that could assist, because of judgment He won’t be fighting for them.

So what was the sin that God is unable to forgive?  His people are guilty of ignoring Him.  They are living life focused on themselves and refuse to humble themselves before God and repent of their sin.  “You did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago”.  God sits on the throne of this universe.  He will not tolerate our ignorance or pride.  The consequences are severe as Isaiah paints the picture.  “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die….Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”.  How we choose to live matters.  We must do it wisely, with God in mind!

Isaiah 21

Isaiah 21 has the prophet talking about what’s coming for Babylon.  Babylon is called the Wilderness of the Sea because the great plain of Babylon was divided with lakes and marshes, so it was referred to as a “sea.”  Elam and Media are the ancient names for the peoples of Persia, modern day Iran.  God has often used one evil nation to punish another, which is what Isaiah is talking about here with Persia conquering Babylon.  The Persians didn’t remain on God’s good side as they were conquered soon after by a long list of other nations.

God tells Isaiah to put a watchman in the tower.  “For thus the Lord said to me: Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees.”  It’s going to be quite a show as the riders come.  The watchman stands there gazing across the horizon.  “Then he who saw cried out: “Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed whole nights”.   He stands in his position day and night watching to see what God would do.  And he isn’t disappointed as God takes action.

And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground….I announce to you”.  Guzik says ‘This dramatic scene was fulfilled when the Medo-Persian Empire conquered Babylon, but it also has a prophetic application. Revelation 18:2 describes the cry of an angel when God judges the world system, both commercial Babylon and spiritual Babylon: And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” The repetition of the phrase is fallen, is fallen connects the two passages.’

But the terror doesn’t end here.  Isaiah goes on to paint a picture of the coming destruction of Dumah (Edom) and Arabia.  There would be terror and judgment coming their way too.  The freedom and peacefulness from Babylon’s defeat will be short lived.  Isaiah tells them the attack on their nation will come “Within a year”.  It’s not going to be a long respite, but it is certainly welcome in the short term.  God’s in control of all peoples, nations and events.  It’s all in His hands and Isaiah is His messenger of what is to come!

Isaiah 20

Isaiah 20 has the prophet talking about the time when the army of Assyria conquered the Philistine city of Ashdod.  These were enemies of Israel, but when the city falls, it becomes a threat to God’s people who fear they are next.  The Philistines were both neighbors and thorns to Israel, so there was mixed feelings about the Assyrian victory.  God uses Isaiah to deliver a message.  And he does it in a very unique and impactful way.  “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet, and he did so, walking naked and barefoot”.

God tells Isaiah to get naked and start walking.  Before this, Isaiah wore an outer garment of sackcloth – clothes worn when one was mourning. Now, God tells him to remove his outer garment of sackcloth, and to take his sandals off.  This doesn’t mean that Isaiah was nude.  Instead, he only wore the usual inner garment of that day – sort of like wearing only your underwear or a nightshirt.  “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles”.

Under the command of the Lord, Isaiah dressed in this poor and humble way for three years. It was a message God has against Egypt, because the king of Assyria would lead away the Egyptians as prisoners.  This powerhouse of a nation is going to be taken off their worldly place and put into captivity.  And as the Assyrians would took the Egyptians captive, they would humiliate them by stripping them and leading them away as prisoners.  They not only would defeat the Egyptians and make them prisoners, they would also make them ashamed by taking their clothes off.

Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria….how shall we escape”?  God’s people had put some trust in the Egyptians following Isaiah’s prophecy in the last chapter. they might have been tempted to say, “Well, we can trust in Egypt. They are all going to come to the Lord someday anyway!”  That’s what Isaiah prophesied.  But with the dramatic three-year sign of Isaiah walking around in his underwear, he shows Judah how vain it was to make Egypt their expectation or glory.  God alone is worthy of our praise, adoration and glory!

Isaiah 19

Isaiah 19 has the prophet addressing one of the continual issues to God’s people Israe.  Egypt was one of the great powers of the ancient world, and being situated immediately to the south of Israel, it was an empire that Israel constantly had to reckon with.  God doesn’t just sit by idly and watch His people struggle.  “And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, each against another and each against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out”.

He doesn’t require them to do all the fighting on their own.  He has the power to turn them against each other and take this powerful nation and put them on their knees.  “I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master, and a fierce king will rule over them”.  God uses a civil war in Egypt, which was indirectly the hand of God’s judgment against them.  In this time, God not only causes the Egyptians to fall apart and fall under the rule of an enemy, He also takes away their wisdom.

The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel”.  As Egypt comes under the judgment of God, He removea sound counsel and wisdom from their leaders, and they turn to idols instead.  A land that was filled with wise men goes stupid.  God confuses them completely.  “The Lord has mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds”.  God has plenty of tools in His toolbox to cause nations and people to submit to His ways.  We may think we are in control, but we really aren’t.  God is always at the helm.

There will be a massive change after God takes away their power.  Amazing how we get our attitudes in line once we can no longer depend on ourselves.  When God strips us down to the bare bones, we get aligned with Him.  “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border….And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them”.  What a change.  From being a boastful power to now a submissive servant to God.  He is in control – then and now.  We need to learn and heed His call!

Isaiah 18

Isaiah 18 is one of the most difficult of all the prophesies in this book.  In the days of Isaiah, Ethiopia was a major world power, ruling Egypt and was a chief rival to Assyria. Since Judah was caught in the middle of the conflict between these two super powers of their day, it might make sense for Judah to align herself with Ethiopia against Assyria.  The scene pictures some Ethiopian ambassadors who come to make an alliance with Judah and the other nations of the region against Assyria.  They are trying to put together a group of nations to fight Assyria.

The Ethiopians are hopeful Judah will join them in battle.  “Go, you swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide”. The Ethiopian ambassadors invite Judah to rebel against the Assyrians and send swift messengers back to Ethiopia to let them know they have rebelled against Assyria and aligned with Ethiopia and Egypt.  They are looking for an answer and to hear Judah’s decision.

But God wants no part of a treaty with Ethiopia.  He doesn’t need their help.  “For thus the Lord said to me: I will quietly look from my dwelling like clear heat in sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest”.  The Lord God rejects the alliance with Ethiopia, because He is more than able to deal with the Assyrians Himself. He can take His rest without any help. If God wanted to present an army against Assyria, He would have raised a banner or sounded a trumpet. He is fully able to do it, and would do it when the time is right.  He wasn’t looking for help from the outside.

In fact, the prophet says that the Ethiopians will someday worship God.  Not only does He not need their help, He’s also going to be worshipped by them.  “At that time tribute will be brought to the Lord of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the Lord of hosts”.  Instead of Israelite messengers bringing news to Ethiopia of an alliance against Assyria, the day will come when Ethiopians will come and worship at Mount Zion.  God has always been in control.  And every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord!

Isaiah 17

Isaiah 17 has the prophet putting it on the line about Damascus and what its future would be.  Damascus was one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world, but the coming Assyrian judgment would reduce it to a heap of ruins.  Isaiah doesn’t mince words – he paints a pretty gloomy picture of what is to come.  At this time, Israel and Syria were closely aligned against Judah. Since they are such close friends, God will announce His judgment against Ephraim, against Israel, at the same time He speaks to Syria!  There is going to be a big change coming from Assyria.

God’s going to get their attention.  “In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel”.  In the midst of such severe judgment, some will respond as they should, with humble respect for God. He’s going to bring them down to earth and wipe the pride from their hearts.  One of God’s purposes in judgment is to turn our focus away from our idols and the things we have trusted in instead of Him.  When things are going our way, we tend to think it’s because of us and what we’ve done.  That’s not true and God will help us figure it out.

He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense”.  What they had believed about their own ability is quickly going to be changed.  God’s purpose here is to drive them back to Himself and away from the idols and fals sacrifices that were being made.  It required some harsh action, and God will orchestrate the loss of the cities the Israelites had taken when they came into the Promised Land.

The root of the problem is pretty clear.  “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge”.  God’s not into us putting our trust and faith in anything but Him.  In one way, this does not seem like a “great” sin. After all, why does God need us to remember Him? Why can’t we just leave Him alone, and He leave us alone? It is a sin to forget the God of your salvation because He created you, and because He is the God of your salvation. If you forget Him, there will be consequences.  He is a jealous God.  He demands our faith be in Him!

Isaiah 16

Isaiah 16 has the prophet giving us insight into what’s going on in Moab under God’s punishment.  ” Like fleeing birds, like a scattered nest, so are the daughters of Moab”.  They are confused, weak, and vulnerable. Their only option is to submit themselves to Jerusalem and its King again. The Moabites once paid tribute to Israel but stopped doing so when King Ahab of Israel died. Isaiah counsels Moab to resume this payment of tribute.  They have to get back under Israel’s authority if they want to survive God’s judgment.

Isaiah pleads for Judah to care for the Moabites under this situation.  “Give counsel; grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts; do not reveal the fugitive; let the outcasts of Moab sojourn among you; be a shelter to them from the destroyer”.  Isaiah pleads with the rulers of Judah to hide the outcasts of Moab. His sympathy is probably due to the connection between Moab and the royal house of David.  He wants Judah to be a place of refuge and protection for the people of Moab.

This is a picture of what the church should be, when people are under the strong hand of the Lord in the world. We should be a place that will hide the outcasts and receive him who escapes, never to betray them.  Instead, unfortunately the church seems to be a place where we shoot the wounded and hand over the outcast to society to destroy.  We miss the purpose of the church, which is to be a place of God’s love and protection for all His people.  It’s time we become the church God designed, rather than a place of execution.

Isaiah calls out the sin of Moab and makes it clear why they are being judged.  “We have heard of the pride of Moab — how proud he is — of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence; in his idle boasting he is not right”.  Moab was a relatively small nation, but they were prideful none the less.  God judges pride.  The people of Moab took pride in their vineyards and God used other nations to destroy those and break down all that Moab had held up.  Whenever pride is not broken by humility, it has to be broken by God’s strong hand.  It will not stand!

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