Sunday, July 17, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 26

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 26

Because the leadership of the nation has broken down and because the spiritual advisers have led the people astray, lawlessness reigns in the land. "Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will He pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly." (Isaiah 9:17a) There are citizens of all ages, of every level of society, both male and female, who are living in rebellion toward God and have lost compassion for their fellow man. They feel no pity for each other and so God will feel no pity for them. 

Doubtless there were godly people in the land. We know there were faithful prophets and that many of them sprang from godly families where they were taught the fear of the Lord. I think there was a remnant of the nation who still clung to the Lord but they were probably pushed somewhat underground by the intense political and societal corruption. There was no temple in the northern kingdom of Israel and the people were discouraged from going down to Jerusalem to worship there. Ever since Israel's first king Jeroboam set up the golden calves in place of God, there was no real support for true worship. Those who remained faithful to God had to bring offerings to lonely altars on hilltops or on their own farmland. There was no large meeting place like the temple where believers could experience a sense of community and unification and fellowship. They were disenfranchised, not having a voice in their government, not getting their cases heard, not being treated fairly by the law.

"Yet for all this, His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised." (Isaiah 9:17b) The woes that have already come upon the northern kingdom are just the beginning. The leaders have not repented and turned back to God. The fallen priests and false prophets are still promising peace and the return of prosperity. 

"Surely wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns, it sets the forest thickets ablaze, so that it rolls upwards like a column of smoke." (Isaiah 9:18) Sin began as a small spark but now it's like a wildfire burning out of control. It keeps spreading outward from its point of origin. It's funny how both righteousness and sin have this effect. Righteousness living pours over into the lives of those around us, but so does wicked living. Nothing we do really affects only ourselves. If we live godly lives, our right decisions make the lives of those around us better. But if we live ungodly lives, our poor decisions make the lives of those around us worse. 

Have you ever lived in a home where a person was entangled in sin or addiction? Didn't it disturb everyone and everything in the home? Didn't the other family members suffer from the actions of one person? That's how the burning wildfire of wickedness got started in the family of Israel. The nation went wrong at its core, in the government and spiritual leadership, and it spread out from there until it troubled every home in the land. 

"By the wrath of the Lord Almighty the land will be scorched and the people will be fuel for the fire; they will not spare one another. On the right they will devour, but still be hungry; on the left they will eat, but not be satisfied. Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring; Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh; together they will turn against Judah." (Isaiah 9:19-21a) Instead of banding together in their time of crisis, the people will turn on each other. They have lost the natural affection people normally feel for their family members and countrymen. They will not join together in solidarity. Instead a man will kill his brother for a piece of bread. Instead of being willing to do without anything so her child can live, a woman will kill her own baby to satisfy her hunger. Barbaric as all this sounds, these are the depths to which mankind can sink when we honor the creature more than the Creator. Without regard for our Maker, we lose regard for lives other than our own. The sanctity of life loses its meaning and we develop the attitude of "every man for himself". Believing there is no righteous God and Judge does not free us. It makes us slaves to the flesh. It reduces us to the most squalid, despicable, and depraved depths a to which a human can possibly sink.

"Yet for all this, His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised." (Isaiah 9:21b) If they had turned back to the Lord during any of their national crises, I believe He would have lowered His hand of discipline. God is not wasteful. Discipline won't endure one second longer than necessary. No good parent administers a spanking any longer than it takes to simply get the child's attention and interrupt the bad behavior. No good parent puts a child in time-out and leaves him or her there for an unreasonable amount of time. And God doesn't do these things either. His hand is still upraised because the calamities that have already fallen have not gotten the people's attention. They have not interrupted the bad behavior.

"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of My people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, His anger is not turned away, His hand is still upraised." (Isaiah 10:1-4) Widows and orphans were usually the poorest among the citizens. So too were foreigners (Gentiles) who lived among the Israelites in cities of refuge. Because the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner had little money or social standing, they tended to be overlooked by those better off and they tended to receive unjust treatment by the courts. This is why the Lord says of Himself, "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:18-19) Asaph, the author of Psalm 82, implored the people to "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:4)

It's a very bad sign of the spiritual condition of a nation when its citizens lose compassion for the weakest among them. It indicates corruption to the very core. The way we treat those who can do nothing for us says everything about us. So we will close with a quote from the One who said it best, "For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.....Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me." (Matthew 25:42-43, 45)

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