Thursday, September 1, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 65

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 65

I promised you some good news after we concluded the chapters about the fall of ancient nations and the days of the Great Tribulation. We ended yesterday with the arrival of the King and now a beautiful song of praise breaks out.

"Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago." (Isaiah 25:1) The believers praise the name of the Lord for keeping His word, for having a plan for the world and carrying it out. Since before God created man, from a time so far back we can't even imagine it, He knew exactly what He would do. Before He ever formed the first cell of man's body, God had a plan of salvation, for we are told that Christ was "chosen before the creation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), and that He was "the Lamb slain from the creation of the world" (Revelation 13:8) 

God also had a plan for those who oppress His faithful ones. With the King on the throne and their enemies vanquished, the citizens of the earth praise Him for setting them free. Since the nation of Israel was founded, she has been overthrown a number of times, taken captive, and persecuted. Christians have likewise been persecuted and even in our own times there are those being imprisoned and even put to death for preaching in the name of Christ. The people now sing of the Lord's deliverance from all enemies, "You have made the city a heap of rubble, the fortified town a ruin, the foreigner's stronghold a city no more; it will never be rebuilt." (Isaiah 25:2) Where now are the nations who took Israel captive in times past? Where is Assyria and Babylon and the Roman Empire? When Christ reigns on the earth, where is the spiritual Babylon of the end times? It is in ruins, never to be rebuilt. The Lord doesn't name a specific city in verse 2 because this is likely a symbol of all the cities of all the ages who scorned the Holy One and oppressed His people. 

"Therefore strong peoples will honor You; cities of ruthless nations will revere You. You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert." (Isaiah 25:3-4) I can say the same thing: God has been a refuge for me when I have been poor and needy. He has been a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. Like King David, I too can say of my Lord, "You shield my head in the day of battle." (Psalm 140:7b)

"You silence the uproar of foreigners; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled." (Isaiah 25:5) In the original language, the word used here for foreigners can also mean "the proud". God has nothing against foreigners and He commanded Israel to love the foreigners in their midst, "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt." (Leviticus 19:34a) "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18) In Biblical times, foreigners could convert to the God of Israel and become part of the family of God. There was a court of the Gentiles at the temple so they could come and worship the Lord. Since Christ ascended to heaven, people of every nation and tongue have come to Him for salvation as the good news of the gospel spreads around the world. God welcomes every person to come to Him. But in verse 5 the people are rejoicing because God has brought down those who have hurt them. A number of nations have persecuted Israel and a number of nations have persecuted Christians. But at the coming of Christ to rule the world, everyone and everything that boasts itself against the Lord is silenced.

"On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine---the best of meats and the finest of wines." (Isaiah 25:6) "This mountain" would be His headquarters at Jerusalem. Christ our Lord has reserved for us a place at His table. True to His character, He only gives the best, and at His table only the finest is served. He spares no expense in celebrating with His redeemed ones because He spared no expense when He went to the cross for us. He gave it all so we could share in His joy. We didn't earn salvation and we didn't earn the blessings of the kingdom, but because Christ loves us He wants us to share in everything that is His. 

This next verse is so beautiful I feel like breaking into a song of praise myself, "On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever." (Isaiah 25:7) Hallelujah! In ancient times, the body of a dead person was enfolded in a shroud. In our day the nurse might pull a sheet up over the body and face of a deceased person. But a day is coming when death shall be no more. When Christ reigns eternally and we reign with Him in immortal bodies like His, as the poet John Donne said, "Death, thou shalt die!" The shroud-makers, coffin-crafters, funeral directors, and headstone carvers will be busy with some other type of duties in the kingdom of Christ because death will cease to exist. The shroud is lifted forever. The fear of death is extinguished. No sad tears will ever fall. "The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people's disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 25:8) When sin came, death came. We have suffered the disgrace of being a fallen creation and we have suffered the disgrace of persecution. But God has spoken and it is as good as done: He will wipe our tears away and we will never cry again. Christ has conquered death for us. He has also conquered our disgrace by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, setting us free of the penalty of our sins when we trust in Him, making us clean and whole. 

"In that day they will say, 'Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." (Isaiah 25:9) We get a foretaste of the kingdom when we rejoice in our salvation here in our earthly lives. But just imagine what rejoicing there will be when death is destroyed! Imagine the shouts of praise when our enemy the devil is cast down forever! Imagine the gladness of hearts that need never fear pain or grief again!

"The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled in their land as straw is trampled down in the manure. They will stretch out their hands in it, as swimmers stretch out their hands to swim. God will bring down their pride despite the cleverness of their hands. He will bring down your high fortified walls and lay them low; He will bring them down to the ground, to the very dust." (Isaiah 25:10-12) The crude and disgusting fate of Moab is a sharp contrast to the fate of the children of God. Moab was an actual nation in Isaiah's day and as we learned earlier in our study, Moab at first sought help from Jerusalem against her enemies. After all, the Moabites were related to Israel because they descended from Lot, Abraham's nephew. Jerusalem appeared willing to help them, but refugees from Moab would be required to live under God's law. Judah had a godly king at the time and worship was taking place in God's temple. It seems clear that the Moabites realized they would have to serve the God of Israel because when talking about their plan to appeal to Jerusalem, the Moabites discussed the need to bring lambs with them. They would be expected to bring offerings to the Lord. Pagan Moab decided to seek help elsewhere, rather than bow the knee to God, thus they were like the "proud ones", the foreigners who scorned the Lord.

Isaiah probably uses Moab in the passage above both literally and figuratively. The spirit of the people of Moab is similar to the spirit of all who say, "Give me anything but Jesus!" He is using Moab as a symbol for all who have preferred to seek help elsewhere. We see here the acute difference between the children of God and those who have rejected Him. Those who trusted in the Lord have found salvation and He has removed their disgrace. He has cleaned them up and made them into new creatures, pure and holy in His sight. But the disgrace of those who have rejected Him remains unchanged. They are like one who has fallen into a cow patty in the barn, covered in shame and filth. They are still in their sins, still filthy, still turning their backs on the living God. 

There are disgraceful things in my past, but because Christ is my Savior, He has removed my disgrace. I didn't deserve His love but He loved me anyway. I didn't earn my salvation; He earned it for me. And thanks be to His holy name, someday I will stand in His presence and sing the song of the redeemed, saying, "Surely this is my God; I trusted in Him, and He saved me. This is the Lord, I trusted in Him; I will rejoice and be glad in His salvation." 

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