Monday, June 27, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 6

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 6

Today we will have a welcome and much-needed break from the charges that are being read against the tribes of Israel. Isaiah has been predicting terrible defeats as a result of their sins. The ten northern tribes will fall to Assyria; the two southern tribes will fall to Babylon. Centuries later the nation will fall to Rome. And then on some future date in the end times those who remain in rebellion and godlessness will face the day of the Lord.

In yesterday's passage we found the men living lives of greed and covetousness, perverting justice to gain riches. Their wives were delighted with them, walking around decked out in the finest apparel and jewelry, each of them trying to outdo her neighbor. But Isaiah warned them that the days would come when the beautifully styled hair of the women would be replaced by the baldness of a captive. The jewels and gorgeous clothing would be replaced by the ropes of a slave. The men who have toiled so tirelessly for dishonest gain will fall by the sword. They haven't cared for the plight of the widow and the orphan, so their own families will be widowed and orphaned. 

"In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, 'We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!'" (Isaiah 4:1) This is an example of how decimated the population of eligible men will be following the calamities that fall on the nation several times over the centuries. Women will outnumber men seven to one. They will be spinsters and childless unless they agree among themselves to share the men. Having a husband will also add a small measure of safety to these women's lives, because following war there is a tendency of soldiers with low morals to seize and rape lone women. The man won't even have to provide for his seven wives or any children who come along. The women offer to provide for themselves as long as they can live under the protection of his roof and will not have to die single and childless. They appeal to the man's compassion by saying, "Take away our disgrace!" In the times of Isaiah it was a disgrace for a woman to never be a wife and mother. That was considered the highest goal of a woman's life. Even in peacetime a single woman faced the very real threat of being treated unjustly by the law and by her creditors, ending up begging on a street corner, or worse yet having to turn to prostitution to put bread on the table. In times of war and during the unstable aftermath of war, a single woman living alone faced the threat of being abducted by enemy soldiers and being sexually abused by them. This was a disgrace upon her dignity, upon her very person. So when seven women take hold of one man because of the scarcity of bachelors, they are asking for more than to be able to say no man ever wanted them. They are asking him to restore their sense of safety, to defend their honor, and to protect their virtue.

In the midst of all this misery, Isaiah suddenly delivers a message of hope. Conditions will be so dire in the end times that people will give up if they have no hope to cling to, so Isaiah pours these words out like water for a thirsty soul. "In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and all the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel." (Isaiah 4:2) The Branch is Christ, the King of the royal line of Judah, coming to sit on David's throne. We know the Branch is Christ because in Isaiah 11 we find, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:1) Jesse is the father of King David, and at times it may look like the vine of Israel is cut down so low it will never rise again. But a shoot will come up from the stump of the bloodline of the kings and the title to the throne will be His and He will redeem the nation.

"Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire." (Isaiah 4:4) We will find later in Isaiah that the Lord calls Himself Israel's husband. He is the one who is able to take away her disgrace. Her will clothe her in His righteousness and defend her with His holiness.

Israel's faithful Husband will take her into His home and provide a roof of protection over her head. "Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain." (Isaiah 4:5-6) The word used here for "canopy" is the same as the Bible uses to indicate a bridal canopy in other passages. It's the canopy under which the man and woman stand to pledge their love and faithfulness to each other. 

It's important we keep in mind when in history this will take place. It will be after Lord has taken the church to heaven and after the Great Tribulation has concluded. When the Bible says "those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem", it is speaking of those who have endured by faith. During the darkest days that will ever come upon the earth, there will be both Jews and Gentiles who come to the Lord. This is why these people are dressed in righteousness like a woman dressed in white. This is why they are called holy. Israel was once compared to a vain and prideful woman, a woman who was willing to settle for a loveless marriage. But now she trusts in her King and not in the gods of money or status. Never again will she settle for anything less than true love.

We can take this national example and bring it right down into our own personal lives. Why settle for anything less than the true love of Christ? No amount of money or status will ever fill the empty place in our hearts. No amount of cheap flings or tawdry affairs or pornography websites will satisfy our need for real love. No amount of drugs or alcohol will numb the pain of rejecting the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. But when we make Christ the Lord of our lives and everything revolves around Him, all our other blessings are like the icing on the cake. With Christ at the center of our lives, everything else looks a little bit brighter. We will no longer try to find our security or our identity in anyone or anything else. We will be stable at the core, firm and unmovable, no matter what comes our way. King David was a man who made many mistakes, just as we all have made many mistakes. He was a man who faced the same type of troubles we all face: marital problems, family problems, work problems. Yet because he set his feet on the Lord's path and never stopped loving Him, he was able to confidently write these words about his beloved Redeemer:
"Keep me safe, my God,
for in You I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from You I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup;
You make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will You let Your faithful[b] one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your right hand."
Psalm 16

Below is our worship song link for today.

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