Monday, September 12, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 76

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 76

Chapter 29 is titled in the NIV "Woe To David's City". Isaiah refers to Jerusalem as "Ariel" which means "altar hearth". Considering the temple of the Lord was at Jerusalem, this is an apt description.

"Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David settled! Add year to year and let your cycle of festivals go on." (Isaiah 29:1) I am reminded of what the Lord said in Luke 12:48b, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." The city of Jerusalem had the temple, the priests and prophets, and the book of the law. You would expect this to be the holiest city on earth, yet idolatry was growing. The altar hearth of the Lord was there, yet sin was crouching at the door. (Genesis 4:7) Much is required of a people who are blessed by God, which is why I often say we in American are without excuse, the Bible being available to us at all times. Much was required of Jerusalem because, of all places on earth, the Lord chose that location for His altar hearth. The required festivals were still being observed and the people were going through the motions but as the Lord will say later in Chapter 29, "These people come near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me." Year after year the rituals of religion were being carried out but the hearts of the people weren't in it. 

Despite the Lord's temple being there, "Yet I will besiege Ariel; she will mourn and lament, she will be to Me like an altar hearth." (Isaiah 29:2) Many in Isaiah's day did not believe the Lord would judge Jerusalem because His temple was there. The prophet Jeremiah warned the people not to believe this, "Do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!'" (Jeremiah 7:4) False prophets were rising up and promising the people that God would never allow the city to be taken or His temple to be destroyed. But the true temple the Lord wanted was their hearts. If He could not have their hearts, what use was the temple? God cannot be put into a box, left behind the church doors, and visited only when we feel obligated. He wants to dwell with each one of us. God is a personal God. Because He was not being honored at the altar hearth of their hearts, He was not really being honored at the altar hearth of the temple. Therefore He is going to turn the whole city into an altar hearth.

"I will encamp against you on all sides; I will encircle you with towers and set up My siege works against you." (Isaiah 29:3) This describes the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, but Nebuchadnezzar was simply the instrument of discipline in the Lord's hand, so the Lord takes personal credit for this action. Nebuchadnezzar's siege works are the Lord's siege works. 

"Brought low, you will speak from the ground; your speech will mumble out of the dust. Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper." (Isaiah 29:4) Ground underfoot by the enemy, the city will lie broken, in dust and ashes. But something survives. Jerusalem is not cast down so far she will never rise again. Though brought down to a mere whisper, God's ears are open. At the right time His wrath will turn upon Jerusalem's enemies, "But your many enemies will become like fine dust, the ruthless hordes like blown chaff." (Isaiah 29:5a) Jerusalem may lie like dust on the ground, but her enemies will be like fine dust blown away by the wind. Jerusalem will rise but her enemies will be found no more.

"Suddenly, in an instant, the Lord Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night---as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. So it will be with all the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion." (Isaiah 29:6b-8) Every enemy that Jerusalem ever feared will be rendered powerless, like a bad dream a person has in the night but that vanishes with the dawn. The Lord made an awesome promise to Abraham and his descendants, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:3) Someday Jerusalem will look around her and find no enemies. Those who have cursed her will be no more and the memory of them will be like a fading dream. Her Messiah, whom she will accept at last, will rule in the midst of her. The descendant of Abraham (Christ) through whom all the world is blessed, will be King over all believers both Jew and Gentile. 

One of the commentaries I consulted stated that Jerusalem has been besieged at least twenty-seven times in its history. But a day is coming when the Lord will be the protective wall around her and the light within her. He will dwell in the hearts of the people. Never again will it be said, "These people honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me." The world will be at peace under the leadership of the Prince of Peace. Times of trouble and sorrow will be no more, like a bad dream that vanished with the sunrise. 

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