Friday, June 24, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 3

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 3

For the past two days the prophet Isaiah has been talking about the current conditions in the nation. Israel and Judah have gone astray and have spurned their God. Jerusalem, once known for the justice of its courts, has become full of oppression and lawlessness. These are severe and sobering words but today Isaiah has words of comfort concerning a far-off vision of the future.

"This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it." (Isaiah 2:1-2) Before the kingdom split, Jerusalem was the capitol of all Israel. In Isaiah's time it was the capitol of Judah. But someday it will be the capitol of the whole world. This is because the Lord Jesus Christ will rule from there on David's throne and everything will center around Him.

"Many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob." (Isaiah 2:3a) Isaiah predicts something that most people of his day found it hard to envision: the calling of the Gentiles into God's kingdom. The ancient Jews had a tendency to think of themselves as the only ones to whom an eternal kingdom was promised. Any of you who have studied the book of Acts will know that at first the Jewish Christians were astonished at the idea that the Lord intended to extend His offer of salvation to the Gentiles and not just to the Jews. The call of the Apostle Paul to Gentile ministry was a surprise to them. Gentiles were allowed to worship at the temple but they had to remain in the outer courtyard. These people were treated like second-class citizens; pious Jews would not even enter the house of a Gentile. This is one of the things for which Jesus was so hotly criticized, because He ate with anyone who invited Him and He taught anyone who wanted to listen. In speaking of the future ingathering of Gentiles to the kingdom of God, Isaiah was ahead of the times.

The people of the last days will say of the Messiah and King, "'He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.' The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord." (Isaiah 2:3b-5) This passage ought to make us shout hallelujah! There will be no more wars!  We will never turn on the morning news to hear that our soldiers in a foreign land have been blown up by a suicide bomber. No parent will have to mourn a son of daughter who died in the line of duty. The main story of the day won't be a terrorist attack or a mass shooting. There will be no more gun debates because in the kingdom of the Messiah nobody will need or want a gun. Violence will end and men and women will live at peace with each other.

The vision above was given during a time of crisis in the land. Assyria had already conquered several of her neighboring nations. The northern kingdom of Israel was about to fall to Sargon II, the king of Assyria. The threat of Assyria to the southern kingdom of Judah was very real. During the reign of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib the successor to Sargon sent his soldiers to stand outside the very gates of Jerusalem to urge the people to surrender before a siege commenced. The idea of a future time when a righteous King would reign and war would be no more must have been like balm on an open wound. It tells the people that their current troubles won't result in the end of them as a people. The vision is for a far-off time, and perhaps doesn't give them much relief in their present circumstances, but it does banish the notion that God has cast them off forever.

In Isaiah's day the Lord was lifting His protective hand off the people because of their sins. He intended to discipline them by other nations. He has, in a sense, temporarily abandoned her to hardship, but He has not abandoned her in his heart. I think this is why the Lord gave Isaiah the vision of the glorious future before He continued the litany of the nation's sins. When Isaiah says the Lord has abandoned His people, he knows it is not a permanent abandonment. "You, Lord have abandoned Your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs. Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasuries. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. So people will be brought low and everyone humbled---do not forgive them." (Isaiah 2:6-9) Isaiah is affirming the Lord's righteousness in bringing His people into judgment. They have abandoned Him for false gods. They trust in their wealth and in their military might. They don't believe they need the mighty Defender of Israel anymore.

Isaiah tells the Lord, "Do not forgive them," and I don't believe he means for the Lord to make an end of them as a people. I don't think he wants the Lord to send their eternal souls to hell either; he's not asking the Lord to deny redemption. I believe he is saying, "Don't let them get away with these crimes. What they have done is an abomination in Your eyes and in the eyes of everyone who is faithful to You." Have you ever prayed for God to judge something? I hear things in the news that make my hair stand on end, things like the abuse of helpless children, of the elderly and handicapped, of innocent animals. I want our righteous Judge to take action against such crimes. I want to say to Him, just as Isaiah did, "Don't let them get away with this!" Do I hope those wicked people come to the Lord and have their lives changed and their eternal souls redeemed? Of course I do. I want the crime punished and, if at all possible, for the penalty to make them see the light. Isaiah is asking the Lord to sentence the people to hard time for their crimes but he hopes the punishment will result in their repentance.

In the next passage we once again find Isaiah moving forward in time, from the crimes of the current generation to the crimes of those who will be on the earth in the end times. "Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty! The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day." (Isaiah 2:10-11) Whenever we see the words "in that day" or "the day of the Lord" in prophetic Scripture, this is speaking of the end times, of the days of the Great Tribulation and of God's final judgment. These things will occur after the Lord has rescued His bride, the church, from the coming distress. The Apostle John saw the day of the Lord in the revelation he was given on Patmos, "Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?'" (Revelation 6:15-16)

There is a day reserved to judge all who have refused to bow the knee to God. There is a day when God will pass his verdict on those who preferred darkness over light, wickedness over righteousness. "The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled), for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan, for all the towering mountains and all the high hills, for every lofty tower and every fortified wall, for every trading ship and every stately vessel. The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear." (Isaiah 2:12-18) Salvation is from the Lord. It can't be found in wealth or commerce. It can't be found in the government. It can't be found at the hilltop altars of false gods. In the end, the Lord alone will be exalted and it is foolish to put our confidence in anything else. We can humble ourselves before the Lord or He will humble us. We can't stand before Him unless we have first bowed before Him. In ancient times anyone who wanted an audience with the king would come into the judgment hall and bow before the throne with forehead pressed to the floor. Then the king would tell the person to stand, or in other words, he would "raise them up". If a person dared come into the presence of the king without bowing, he would be forced to his knees. And it's hard to say how long the king would make him stay in that position to teach him a lesson. It might be a great deal of time before he would let the person stand to their feet. We can come humbly to the Lord in the full knowledge of our sinful state, bow in front of His throne, and have Him extend forgiveness and lift us up. Or we can live in our pride and stubbornness and, at the end, be forced to our knees in His presence. The Lord's brother James promised, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:10) The Apostle Peter said, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:6) There is a blessing on the humble spirit but only a dreadful expectation of judgment for the proud spirit.

"People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth. In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:19-21) This dreadful vision is not for the bride of Christ. The day of the Lord will not come "like a thief in the night" to His beloved. As the Apostle Paul assured the believers, "But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness." (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5) As those of you who studied Revelation with me know, I believe the Scriptures support a pre-Tribulation rapture of the church. Christ will whisk His bride away for the wedding before the dreadful day of the Lord falls on the earth. Would Christ allow His bride to hide in a cave, trembling in fear? Would a man treat the woman he loves this way? Christ will come for the bride before the dark days fall. She will never cower in fear at the appearance of her Bridegroom but, like any woman in love, will rush joyfully into His arms.

In the days of Isaiah, Israel and Judah hoped for help from Egypt against Assyria, but Israel will fall to that enemy nation. Judah will later appeal to Egypt for help against Babylon, but Egypt will be ineffective against such a powerful army, and Judah too will fall. "Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?" (Isaiah 2:22) Man is not going to be able to help Israel and Judah. Only the living God, the Redeemer, can help, but they have not humbled themselves before Him.

Our help is in the Lord and in no other. We can't make ourselves righteous and nobody on the face of the earth can make us righteous. We can attend all the self-help seminars we want, read all the self-improvement books we want, but nobody can redeem us but Jesus. Our King is the lifter of our heads, the One who stands us on our feet, the One who makes our sins white as snow like a beautiful bride adorned in a wedding gown. He blesses the soul that humbles itself and He raises up the one who bows before Him. This is why we, as the bride, don't tremble in fear of the coming day of the Lord, but instead we long for the appearance of our Bridegroom, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Below is our worship song link today, a wonderful song about the bride waiting for her Bridegroom. It goes perfectly with our passage today.
Even So Come

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