Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Comfortable Words: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 29

Comfortable Words:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 29

Today's message continues the theme of a future punishment of Assyria and a future return of God's people to the land.

"In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 10:20) Judah is depending on Assyria for help but Assyria will end up being as much of an enemy as those Judah fears. There will come a day when they will not trust in Assyria, (him who struck them down), but will turn back to the Lord.

"A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God." (Isaiah 10:21) We recall that Isaiah has a son named Shear-Jashub which means "a remnant will return", and shear-jashub is the word Isaiah uses here. 

"Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. The Lord, the Lord Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land." (Isaiah 10:22-23) When we did our study of Genesis we found the Lord making an awesome promise to Abraham, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore." (Genesis 22:17a) The Lord has kept His word and has made a multitude of descendants from the once-childless Abraham. But only a remnant of this great nation will return. 

My mother used to listen to a daily Bible study program on the radio called "Thru The Bible" which was taught by J. Vernon McGee. And I remember him saying, "God has never had anything but a remnant of Israel." Or in other words, only a portion of that nation's citizens were ever faithful to Him in the Scriptures. The ones who will return from captivity are the ones who will "rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel." (v 20)

The current population of the world is estimated to be upwards of seven billion and out of that seven billion the Lord still only has a remnant who are faithful to His name. A quick Google search reveals an estimated two billion who claim the name of Christ. Ever since mankind fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, only a remnant of the earth's population has clung to the Lord. This should do away with the claims of false teachers who say everybody is going to heaven. I'm sorry but that simply isn't Scriptural. It's not what Jesus Christ taught. Because of this, we have an urgent commission to get the gospel out to every corner of the world, so that as many as possible become part of the believing remnant.

In our passage today there is a mixture of good and bad news. God has decided to allow destruction to come upon the land, upon the territories of all twelve tribes, but He will limit the power of the mighty Assyrian army. They will not be able to destroy the descendants of Abraham as a people and they will not be able to overthrow Jerusalem. "Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says: 'My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. Very soon My anger against you will end and My wrath will be directed to their destruction.'" (Isaiah 10:24-25) At one time the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, literally beaten with the rod and club, but God brought His people out of that wicked land with many signs and wonders, humbling Pharaoh who dared to boast about himself with the same pride the king of Assyria now boasts about himself. The plagues the Lord brought on Egypt likely affected her agriculture and economy and entire society for quite some time; in fact the great powers of Egypt never fully recovered, and now He promises to humble the Assyrians as powerfully as He humbled Egypt.

Isaiah goes on to give us a vivid description of God's punishment of Assyria, "The Lord Almighty will lash them with a whip, as when He struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb; And He will raise His staff over the waters, as He did in Egypt." (Isaiah 10:26) At the rock of Oreb, God gave Gideon and only three hundred men a great victory over the large Midianite army. The power of Gideon's army was in the Lord, not in strength of numbers. The time will come when Assyria will look like an invincible foe, a nation that will bring God's people down to the grave, but God is the champion of His people. He will preserve their lineage on the earth. The Lord is going to make a way for His people to get through the coming calamities just as He made a way for His people to get through the Red Sea.

"In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat." (Isaiah 10:27) The Lord isn't telling the people they are so heavy they will break their bonds but is saying something like they are "fat with oil" or "prosperous". The Lord their God will make them to multiply during the years of their captivity as He made them multiply in Egypt. Pharaoh once feared the Hebrews would rise up against him because their numbers had grown so large but they didn't escape slavery by forming a large army; they escaped because God brought them out. The Lord will break off the yoke of Assyria just as He broke off the yoke of Egypt. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high." (Leviticus 26:13)

We once were held in bondage to sin, imprisoned by our failures, but Christ came and brought us out of darkness into light. He broke the bars of our yoke and enabled us to walk with our heads held high. In our lost condition, we were just as much slaves as the Hebrews were in Egypt, with our backs bent under the weight of our mistakes. But our Lord took the stripes that heal us. He took the beating we deserved. He embraced the death that was our penalty. "But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him." (Acts 2:24) Death could not keep its hold on Him and it will not be able to keep its hold on those who belong to Him by faith. Christ tasted death for all mankind and He conquered it, removing the sting of sin, snatching away the victory of the grave. I have stood by the bedsides of both my mother and my father, witnessing their deaths. I saw their coffins lowered into the earth. But because they died in Christ, the grave can't hold them! They are absent from the body and present with the Lord. I have the certain promise of seeing them again. 

Christ has taken the sting of death for us and has conquered the grave. Below is a link to a song that praises Him for this victory.

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